I have high hopes for this week, people. High hopes!
I’m reporting to you live from that blessed window of time in which my lovely husband takes the toddler (who will be two next month–!!) along for the walk to school with our big girl. It’s during this window that I normally caffeinate and sort of stare at the wall and scroll Facebook, bracing for the day ahead. But not today.
No, today I’m taking a different approach. We’re starting fresh this week, hallelujah! And I think I might have these glorious apple squares to thank for that. The past two weeks have been an insane Trial by Flu Fire, with an epic virus ripping through our household, taking us all down one by one, and then circulating again. My turn was pretty much like Contagion meets The Walking Dead, delirious spans of time spent motionless in bed with my husband playing single parent, during which time I had no idea what had been done with the children.
I felt a complete fool during my urgent care trip, wherein I had to admit that with the flurry of finishing the cookbook, I’d completely forgotten to get a flu shot this year. After one of those god-awful flu tests where they basically jam a footlong Q-tip up your nose into your cerebral cortex, it was revealed that the kind of flu I had was “the really bad one you don’t want to get this year” (O RLY?) and the one that has been dodging the vaccine altogether. It relieved the guilt and stupidity, and although I was still days off from being fit for public consumption, at least I scored a bottle of Robitussin with codeine out of the deal. Sizzurp, anyone?
Anyway, after I’d come to, one more child had her turn with the nasty bug, and as of this past Saturday, it seems that we’re now all, at looong last, relatively healthy. I decided to celebrate with a big dinner, an awesome slow-cooked Sunday gravy, and easing back into baking with a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for months.
From Dorie Greenspan, these simple apple squares have a texture and flavor that belies their simplicity. It’s the kind of recipe that you’ll always want to keep in mind, because you can use so many different fruits, and the batter is really just a handful of pantry staples (think crepe batter). Warm from the oven with whipped cream, these are completely dinner party worthy. At room temp or chilled, you’ve got coffee break (or even treat-yo-self breakfast) of the highest order. This is the kind of thing that you can quickly pull together to make a regular weeknight a little more fabulous. Or if you’re a finally-healthy toddler who’s starting to get an appetite back, you somehow grab one from the counter, find a quiet corner, and start jamming the whole thing in your mouth at once between bath and bedtime. (Nice work, son.)
I hope you all are feeling happy and healthy out there–now let’s go nail this week.
Custardy Apple Squares
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi
Like so many instances in the kitchen, I opted to use my food processor for this recipe. I peeled, halved, and cored the apples, and then used the slicing disk to slice the apples. I then dumped out the apples, and made the batter in the food processor instead of by hand, making sure to blend the eggs and sugar until light, and just pulsing a few times to incorporate the flour.
Makes 8 to 10 squares
3 medium juicy, sweet apples (such as Honeycrisp or Fuji), peeled
1/2 cup (2 3/8 ounces/ 65 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces/ 65 grams) granulated sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray, and line the pan with an 8-inch wide strip of parchment paper, long enough to come up two opposite sides of the pan.
Using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, or with the slicing blade of a food processor, slice the apples into 1/16-inch thick slices. (Dump the apple slices into a large bowl if you’ve used a processor.)
Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until mixture is pale in color and the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. (Alternatively, if you used a food processor to slice the apples, make the batter in the processor as well–blend the eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes until light in color, then blend in the vanilla, milk, and melted butter. Pulse in the flour mixture just until the batter is smooth.)
Combine the apples and the batter. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter until each thin slice is completely coated in batter. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can–I used my fingers to help spread things evenly.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown and uniformly puffed (the center of the cake should rise), and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a thin knife. Use the two parchment “handles” to carefully transfer the cake from the pan to a cutting board. Cut the cake into squares. (The cooler the cake, the cleaner it will slice.) Dust the squares with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.
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