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Not just for Passover 

Damp Apple and Almond Cake

By the time you read this column, the Jewish holiday of Passover will officially be under way. It's an eight-day-long commemoration of the exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt, and in the kitchen, that means eight days (until April 20) of doing the unleavened thing.

By Day Two, matzo -- that crackery, game board-esque stuff that you're expected to use for sandwiches -- is already getting old. I'm not Jewish, but if I had to eat matzo, matzo, matzo for eight days straight, the last thing I'd want at dessert is more of the M-word.

I haven't been to a Seder since I was a kid, but friends tell me that it's difficult to find a Passover dessert that doesn't have a mouth feel of sand or mortar.

I set out to prove them wrong and uncover a Passover-suitable sweet that would bring a change of heart.

I got lucky on the first try, and the key to my discovery is an ingredient I've long wanted to play with: almond meal. Available commercially, almond meal, which is made from pulverizing almonds, resembles and acts like flour in a batter (plays nicely with eggs for binding and lightening) but differs (delightfully so) with its fruity aroma and buttery-rich flavor. In fact, this cake is free of butter, but you would never know it.

The other secret is the use of apple puree, otherwise known as applesauce. Clever bakers know that applesauce is a foolproof, fat-free substitute for oil in cakes; in this case, the apples do their fat-free magic as well as lend subtle fruit notes at tasting.

With such a moist, tender crumb, this cake would be appropriate at any time of the year, says this Irish girl.

What's more, those of us who live with celiac sprue (1 in 133 Americans) -- an inherited, debilitating intolerance to wheat -- will want to give this gluten-free treat a whirl.

Damp Apple and Almond Cake

From Feast by Nigella Lawson

3 tart apples, such as Braeburn, Granny Smith or Jonathan

2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

2 teaspoons sugar

Canola oil or spray to grease pan

8 eggs

3 1/4 cups ground almonds (may be sold as almond meal)

1 3/4 cups superfine sugar (also known as caster sugar)

1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

• Peel, core and roughly chop apples. Place in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until you can mash apple into a rough puree with a wooden spoon or fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

• Preheat oven to 350. Grease 10-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

• In the bowl of a food processor, add eggs, ground almonds, superfine sugar, cooled apple mixture and remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and whiz until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with almonds and bake for about 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes and test doneness with a toothpick inserted in center (should be nearly clean).

• Cool for 10 minutes then remove sides of pan. Serve slightly warm. Keeps for about 1 week.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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