Short, a little stout, apron permanently affixed. My days will be filled with putzing around in the kitchen making an obscene number of delicious goodies for family and friends while mumbling in incoherent Italian. And naturally, this will all take place in a beautiful villa overlooking pristine vineyards.
This my dream. Yes, I know I’m not technically Italian nor a grandmother, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so. My blood may be a cocktail of Irish and French Canadian, but the Italian state of mind IS IN ME. Life isn’t about work, it’s about living. Living to eat, living to see, living to do, living to enjoy. I will need to work on being less punctual, but that is doable.
I just adore that so much of their culture is connected to food. GREAT food. Lately, I’ve been particularly fascinated by the latest masterpiece from Canal House called La Dolce Vita focused on Italian cuisine. Christopher and Melissa rented a villa in Tuscany (seriously) so they could completely immerse in Italian culture and local ingredients while testing recipes for their cookbook. Best. Job. Ever.
Just thumbing through the pages to gawk at the beautiful photos is enticing. Ricotta gnocchi. Squid and potatoes.
Peppers in agrodolce.
But the recipe for Apple Cake drew my wandering eye first. A thick batter of butter, vanilla and lemon bakes up and encases fresh green apple slices. Breaking through the sugary cage-like crust and reaching the lemony soft cake and tender baked apples is an erotic experience. But I’m pretty sure that’s what the Italians (and Canal House) intended.
Italian Apple Cake Recipe
6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c (175g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped)
2 lemons, zested
1 1/2 c (240g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2 c (110g) whole milk
2-3 granny smith or golden delicious apples
powdered sugar (optional)
See more pics from this recipeon the Facebook page
Notes for your perusal:
- Vanilla – I had vanilla beans hanging out in my fridge so I used the innards of 1/2 a vanilla bean
instead of extract. If you want a more subtle vanilla flavor, go with the liquid.
- Lemons – I added the zest during the sugar/butter creaming step. The crystals of the sugar help break
down the zest, upping the strength of the lemon flavor.
- Milk – The rule when baking with milk is to use whole milk. I used 2% because that is what I had on
hand and the cake was still rather delightful. I’d shy away from using skim or fat free. Since there is not fat
content, the cake will be rather dry.
- Apples – The recipe calls for golden delicious. I’m partial to granny smith for the tartness. Either
will work just fine. It’s just important to use an apple that won’t break down during baking. I also sliced the
apples a wee bit too thick. I’d go for a 1/2″ slice next time.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Coat a 9″ springform pan with butter. Then dust the pan with a few spoonfuls of flour.
Shake out the excess. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment to ensure easy cake removal.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Beat until just barely combined. Add half of the milk. Mix until combined. Add another 1/3 of flour, then the 1/2 of milk. Finish with remaining 1/3 of flour. Mix until combined. In between additions, you want to mix as little as possible. The more you mix, the tougher the cake will be. Scoop batter into springform pan. Using your spatula, gently spread the batter to cover the entire pan.
Peel and core the apples. Slice them into 1/2″ slices and arrange them on the cake. There should be little space between each apple. Start by circling the side of the pan, then finish by placing apples in the center. Bake for 50-60m until toothpick inserted in cake (not apples) comes out clean. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar or vanilla ice cream, if you’d like.