“Better late than never.
Titus Livius

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie GreenspanI wish I had made the apple cake earlier, but I’m SO GLAD I made it when I did!  It made for the best dessert we’ve had in a while … fresh baked, almost steaming hot, a cake which unbelievingly delivered perfect light as cloud slices. I added a scraped vanilla bean to the batter, and flaked almonds on top. Despite the cake going through 2 LONG power outages, it still came out slam dunk delicious!  That was the first time I made it. I decided to make it again a few days ago, this time as petit fours in individual dessert rings {from my little shop in Old Delhi}, pictured above.Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan bookGuess what? Yes, power outage again!! Felt like I was on a mission to test this particular cake to its limits. I do bake a lot, an understatement maybe, and rarely face power outages these days. Not this instance though. The cake won the ‘battle of power outage’ again. Everything about Marie Helen’s Apple Cake is wonderful & well balanced – the fruit, the texture, the sweetness, the lightness; above all the power to satisfy. It’s a designated winner in my book; one which I will make over and over again.

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan book I’m pretty sure most of you have baked it in the last few months. If like me, you haven’t, the time is now. Do yourself a favour. Been reading about it on just about every blog under the sun since Dorie’s new book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours’ hit the stands. Saw a zillion folk bake it for the  French Fridays with Dorie group, and most came out with a wonderful review. I wonder what kept me from baking it sooner?Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan bookThen Pamela mentioned it over lunch at the French Pastry Festivals Le Cordon Blue workshop, singing praises of it. I had it on my mind ever since. Dreamt of it that night, yes I have ‘sweet dreams’. I  knew it was what I wanted to make for dessert the afternoon as my nephew was coming over for lunch. Life isn’t that easy, and my menu was based on bakes… Chicken, Mushroom & Roasted Pepper Juliene, Buttermilk Cluster Bread and an apple cake. I managed to do all of this at breakneck speed as the power was horribly erratic. Each time I popped the cake in, blink, power cut. It baked in 3 20 minute intervals, with gaps of an hour in between, still came out fabulous. By the time lunch was served, it had baked for the 3rd time … resulting  in a nice warm cake for dessert. I let it sit for 10 minutes in the tin, before slicing it.

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan bookWhat a charmer the cake is. Elegant, fuss free, light, delicately flavoured … in one word PERFECT! Very simple to make too. I did read some reviews on Epicurious about increasing flour because of pooling butter etc, but that didn’t happen with me. It was well set and firm after an hour of intermittent baking, and even though I used a 9″ tin instead of an 8″ one, it still looked quite good. I think flaked almonds added a nice touch to the top, and yes, the scraped vanilla bean added beautiful flavour throughout. Vanilla bean is now my favourite baking ingredient and I am so glad India grows some of the finest vanilla beans now. I have had the pleasure of receiving a box of Ecopsice Bourbon vanilla beans from Mia, and they are excellent.

Marie-Hélène’s Apple CakeMarie-Hélène’s Apple Cake
Minimally adapted from Epicurious
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples {if you can, choose 4 different kinds}
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 vanilla bean,scraped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
100gms unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan book
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 180C. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan, or 12 individual dessert rings bottoms lined/sealed with aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put the springform/ or dessert rings on it.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks {cut them slightly smaller for individual bakes}.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and scarped vanilla bean.
Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan/rings and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish. Sprinkle the top with slivered almonds.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes. {Individual dessert rings baked for about 30 minutes}.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. {Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.}
Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature.
If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, Dorie Greenspan bookServing: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination. {The cake reheats very well too in the microwave}
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I want to thank all my readers for taking the time to vote for me at the Blog of the Year contest on Blog Revue. Blog Revue Winner 2010-2011I am really happy that I won.

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“Life is a great big canvas,
and you should throw all the paint on it you can.”

Danny Kaye

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteWhen we were very young, we received  a Danny Kaye for Children LP as a gift. We spent HOURS listening to “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat”, “Tubby the Tuba Song”, “Popo the Puppet”, “Laugh it Off Upsey Daisy” … and so many more.  Can’t not mention “I’m Late” from Alice in Wonderland. Did you listen to Danny Kaye when you were little {alright, I’m like talking the 70’s!}? Life was carefree, full of hide & seek moments, climbing trees – a laugh-riot all the time with simple and fun comfort zones everywhere!

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteI often miss those ‘no TV, no computer, no i-this, that and the other‘ days. Days when you could count the minutes pass, catch butterflies and grasshoppers, and languish mindlessly in the mid day sun. Can still feel my shaky little hands gently lifting the needle of the record player to place it on the LP … blissful! I often feel bad that my kids will never know simple joys of playing and listening to an LP … their comfort zone existing in plug-ins and downloads!

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteThis dessert was a result of one of my recent carefree adventures,  one of those things that happened. I seldom follow a plan for desserts I serve at home as this is my playing ground; my experimental comfort zone. I know that if my culinary escapades turn out good or even just OK, my sweet guinea pigs will lap them up. They’ll let me know whether it’s a ‘HIGH FIVE’ or just ‘Hmmmm OK‘, but they won’t let it go waste! I count my blessings…

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteThese verrines were lapped up joyfully. I had a vanilla bean genoise sponge ready, one that I wanted to make into a strawberry kiwi cake for someone, but that day strawberries played truant in the market. {Yes, the strawberry season in North India has just begun again}. I came back rather disappointed, and baked a coffee genoise instead, but had this basic sponge on hand. The daughter declared that she wanted to frost it on Sunday…but as I knew would happen. With her exams on, and rather lost as always, she forgot about it! It still played on my mind …Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteAll of a sudden, another frosted cake seemed a boring proposition. I looked around and saw a sachet of lebkuchen spice that spicy Meeta had got for me a while ago. YES… that was definitely part of my dessert,  maybe in cream. The mind began wandering. What next? I saw these coffee mugs, and thought ‘layered dessert’. One thing led to another, and soon I was whizzing chunks of the cake in the food processor to get a breadcrumb like mix. What followed was layers of vanilla genoise crumbs, lebkuchen cream, and more crumbs. Scrabbled through the larder. What would go with warm, spicy Christmas flavours that the lebkuchen spice threw up so enticingly? It’s a seductive spice blend, one which calls your name! Apple compote sounded like an idea, maybe with craisins or raisins. Some orange zest too? I was on the track.Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteMake sure you leave the cream whipped to soft peaks so it mingles gently with the cake crumbs, moistening it as you allow it to stand in the fridge for a couple of hours. It permeates the layers and infuses the lebkuchen spice aroma right through. This is a light dessert, yet quite satisfying. I do love verrines for their appealing looks. Play around with layers if you like. The space within is your canvas. I think verrines are a wonderful playground of colours and textures.Make the holiday season fun. Grab any transparent glasses, coffee mugs, goblets, shot glasses, ice cream bowls you have, doesn’t matter if they are mismatched. Begin the layering. Add a red cranberry compote layer to tie the colours in nicely, and top the glasses with a sprig of mint. Red and green ribbons swathed around tie it all together nicely. I love dressing up my food, and I’m having fun as you can see. {Thank you Mia for the vanilla beans that I spiced my genoise up with, and the ribbons! Love them!!}

Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteLebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin Compote
6-8 servings { depending on size of glass}
Prep: 30 mins | Cooking: 25 mins | Assembling: 10 minutes
2/3 of a 3 egg vanilla genoise sponge
300ml low fat cream {25% Amul, chilled}
3-4 tbsps powdered sugar
1 tsp lebkuchen spice
Whip all ingredients till the cream holds soft peaks.
Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteApple Craisin Compote
3 medium apples, peeld,cored, chopped
1/2 tsp lebkuchen spice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 cup water
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup craisins/raisins
Zest of 1 orange
Place all ingredients in heavy bottom pan. Simmer, covered till aples are soft and liquid almost evaporated. Stir from time time. Taste and adjust lime and sugar {and lebkuchen} if required.
Genoise cake cubes for topping:
18-24 tiny cake cubes, like croutons
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
Place sugar and butter in a frying pan on simmer. Once the butter and sugar melt, before the sugar turns brown, add the cake cubes, and toss them around to coat all sides.
Keep an eye on them, and take off once the sides begin to get caramelised. Cool and store in an airtight container until use
Assembling the verrines:
Run genoise slices in food processor for a minute or two till you get a fine breadcrumb like mixture. Spoon 2-3 tbsp per glass.
Add 2 tbsp of lebkuchen spice cream over the crumb layer,and add some more cake crumbs. Divide any remaining cream over the second layers. Poke a thin cake tester through the centre to gently ease some cream through to the bottom layer.
Spoon the warm apple-craisin compote over the second layer of cream, and chill until time to serve.
Lebkuchen Cream & Genoise Verrines with Apple Craisin CompoteTop with crisp sautéed genoise cake cubes!
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Chocolate Chip & Strawberry Shortbread Streusel BarsDo check out these Chocolate Chip & Strawberry Streusel Bars I made for the Holiday Cookie Exchange @ Lovefeasts Table

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The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Oprah Winfrey

Quark & Apple Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Quark & Apple Crostata

A crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. It is traditionally prepared by folding the edges of the dough over the top of the jam/marmalade filling, creating a more “rough” look, rather than a uniform, circular shape. The jams that are traditionally used as a filling are cherries, peaches, apricots, berries. The crostata can also be filled with pieces of fresh fruit and pastry cream (crema pasticcera), but then it is called torta di frutta. A typical central Italian variety replaces jam with ricotta mixed with sugar, cocoa or pieces of chocolate and anisetta; this is called crostata di ricotta.

Quark & Apple Crostata I got to baking my crostata pretty early this month, and only because of the pressure of my home made quark which was nearing expiry. I didn’t think it would last another day, so I hit fast track and decided it was time for pie! I followed the pastry recipe that Simona provided, meandering from it characteristically as I was in a hurry, and used granular vanilla sugar instead of powdered sugar. Also added a scraped vanilla bean as I am wary of eggy flavours in pastry. I have a good stash of vanilla beans on hand, and love to use them where possible.

Quark & Apple CrostataFor the filling we had the option to go creative…pastry creme, baked fruit, fresh fruit, jam…whatever caught our fancy! My fancy? You guessed it … my crostrata would have quark! I had some quark that I had made yet again for a cake I wanted to try, but then along came this challenge. I decided to try my luck here. I also had on hand some apple mix left over from some Apple Walnut Cinnamon Parcels I had made a couple of days ago. The crostata was already a quark-tata, and would be a ‘fall tart’ I think I made a crostrata de quarka!

Quark & Apple Crostata The filling was to be sweet, full of fall flavour, topping the experimental quark filling. I considered adding cream to the quark, but once beaten it looked quick thick and delicious, so I skipped the cream. Added some eggs and a spoon of flour to help set it, and thought if it wouldn’t set, we would just scoop it into our mouths! By the time it was baked, and beautifully puffy, I gave it a tiny poke on top to see if it was jiggly, and I was thrilled to see it was set. I think I love experiments, especially ones that work out well…LOL!

Quark & Apple Crostata This is what I love about being a Daring Baker …the creative part. They give you a recipe, a basic which you need to follow, and then open it out for you to stamp it your own little way! This one was fun fun fun! I used a loose bottomed tart pan that my sis had got from the US, and a pastry cutter that she recently sent. I was dying to do the lattice, but figured that lattice on a hot pie might not work. I didn’t take into account the apple layer which was cold, but stuck the edges in a hurry. Next time, will try to weave a proper lattice. For this time, I was quite happy!

Petit Fours...cookies with whipped lemon curd cream I used the left over pastry to make sugar cookies as suggested by Simona, and have hung on to them for too many days. The weather being cold, they have been sitting happily in an air tight box. I found them 2 days ago, and almost gave them to the kids to chomp. Then in a burst of creativity, decided to top them with some whipped home made lemon curd cream, left over from my Mum’s birthday cake, a Lavendar Chiffon with Lemon Curd Whipped Cream, yet to be posted!

Lavender Chiffon CakeHere’s what I made last night…

Petit Fours...cookies with whipped lemon curd creamPetit fours … biscuits topped with home made lemon curd whipped cream, topped with strawberry cream, topped with fruit and biscuit bits. Ooooh this was good too, and definitely delicious!

Thank you Simona for the exciting challenge, and thank you as always Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for hosting this fab kitchen!!

Quark & Apple Crostata Quark and Apple Crostata
Pasta Frolla {pastry/tart shell}
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl with 1/2 a vanilla bean, scraped

Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
Empty food processor’s bowl onto your work surface.
Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball. {I needed a tbsp of chilled water to bind my dough}. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
Lightly butter/grease the tart pan.
Roll out the pastry and line the pan. {I used about 2/3 pastry only}. Chill in freezer, while the oven is preheating at 190C
Bake blind for 20-25 minutes using pie weights, or as I did, a heavy metal plate {or metal bowl placed over baking paper}
Cool base in pan once done.
Pie Filling
200g quark, well drained {homemade recipe here}
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean scraped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tbsp flour
Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and beat till smooth, 1-2 minutes. Turn into baked and cooled pie shell, and bake at 180C for 15 minutes.
While it’s baking, prepare the topping.
Quark & Apple Crostata MakingTopping:
2 apples, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1tsp flour
Apple filling:
Toss together all ingredients till apples are well coated. Take pie out after 15 minutes, and add topping, and lattice on top. Brush the lattice with egg white, and sprinkle over with vanilla sugar. Bake for another 45 minutes till nice and puffy. {Cover loosely with foil if the pastry is getting too brown.}. If you touch it gently, you will see that the filling is set and not jiggly. Allow to stand for at least an hour before slicing. Serve with unsweetened low fat cream!
Quark & Apple Crostata

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