Friday, November 05, 2010

Torta di Mele, Italy's favorite Apple Cake


This time of the year when the mountains are decked out with the autumnal color change of the trees, we are in the thick of apple season. I imagine that most of you in the northern hemisphere are as well.   Not a bad time of the year at all. The colors on our hills are really going all out now that the larch have kicked in for the upping of the yellow ante.
I've been making a wide variety of apple delights with our apple abundance and thought I must share an apple recipe as I haven't posted any type of recipe in awhile.  This weekend nearby the commune of Cavour kicks off it's 10 day apple festival. Piedmont has 52 varieties according to our friend Dario of Frutto Permesso, (the permitted fruit), the organic growers not so far from us that produce some delicious pear and apple juices.  To get into the spirit I thought I would share one of Italy's favorite recipes, Torta di Mela. This much loved cake has a number of vatiations as I have seen and tasted over the years. I grew up in apple country in southern Illinois and we had our fair share of apple festivals, apple cakes and of course the al time favorite apple pie. My mother use to made a simple apple snacking cake that was similar to the more simple versions of this Italian apple cake. Today, I'm sharing a slighty more sophisticated version, but it does come together quite easily enough, especially if you don't bother with the decorative sweep of the thinly sliced apples. It will taste just great and look more rustic.

Torta di Mele

6-8 servings -- 26cm/10" cake round

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, room temperature for more volume
150g (5 oz / 3/4c) sugar
185g (6.5 oz / 1 7/8c) flour, sifted
120ml (4fl oz / 1/2c) milk
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
50g (3.5T) butter
23g (3T) bread crumbs, plain and stale, not too fine
1kg (2.2lb)** apples, peeled and thinly sliced, medium to sweet apples for a soft, sweet cake*
24g (2T) coarse brown  or white sugar

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180*C (350*F) and prepare you cake pan.
Prepare your pan. I use a spring form pan as I find it helpful for easy removal. You might consider lining your cake pan with parchment paper if using a regular round cake tin, to ensure your cake removes easily. I your spring form pan ring doesn't fit tight around the bottom pan, you might line it with paper.

Lightly butter your 26 cm (10 inch) pan with some of the measured butter. Cut up the remainder into small pieces and set aside.
Dust your tin with your bread crumbs and tip any excess amount out for use at some other time. 
Set aside.
Usually I peel, quarter and thinly slice my apples at this point. I try to keep the quarters intact as I thinly slice them on the cutting board, to make it easy to fan the slices out decoratively.

Beat your eggs with a mixer until frothy and light colored. 
Gradually begin to add the sugar to the eggs.
Add half of you milk to the egg and sugar mix.
Then I hand whisk in the flour, zest and baking powder.
Add the rest of the milk, handling as little as possible, yet fully incorporating the dry ingredients. 
Your mixture will be fairly runny.
Pour your batter into the pan.
Arrange your thin apple slices  around the perimeter of the pan, filling the center in as needed.
Sprinkle the coarse 2T sugar on top of the apples and dot the butter around the top.
Becasue my oven runs hot, I cover my cake with aluminum foil for the first 20- 25 minutes to keep the apple from getting too brown.
I uncover and finish baking the cake until the cake is set and golden brown, about 55 minutes, depending on your oven. 
Cool completely before removing from your pan. The spring form does allow you to be able to remove it while it is slight warm. 
I dust with a bit of confectioner sugar for a finishing touch.  
Serve at room temperature and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Cooks notes: I found this online about fuji apples 
"Three medium-sized Fuji apples weigh approximately one pound.
One pound of apples, cored and sliced, measures about 4 1/2 cups."
**Update: I find that I use a lot less apples now so that the cake and apples bakes through more evenly.
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