Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple Spelt Cake

I can’t handle alcohol. Not only do I lack the enzyme to break it down (alcohol dehydrogenase, in case you were wondering), the stuff discolours my face to a bright red, not unlike that of a tomato. My neck and legs morph into blotchy map of continents and oceans. I know I know, I exhibit Asian glow at its finest.

On an empty stomach, alcohol gives me a severe bout nausea, impaired hearing, dizziness and several trips to the bathroom. I don’t touch it unless I have food in my belly, so the alcohol has something to soak up. 

I learned the hard way how careful I have to be when alcohol is nearby. A few years ago, I was about to board a 12 hour flight from Toronto to Shanghai and I had not eaten in several hours, because I refused to given in to the tasteless sandwiches and overpriced fast food at the airport. My carry-on bag was heavy with snacks to carry me through the arduous flight. While my neighbours unfurled the foil-wrapped chicken and rice that smelled nothing like chicken and rice, I was digging into my carrot salad, dressed with just a touch of lemon and cumin. As they stabbed rubbery gray pieces of lifeless meat with plastic forks, I was feasting on homemade granola, infused with shredded coconut and roasted almonds. 

I don’t like the stuffiness and foreignness of airports. I don’t like flying since I usually fly alone and it gets dreadfully lonely. I especially despise the unflattering lights of the airplane washrooms (Is that me in the mirror? When did I look so splotchy? Where did that pimple come from?). So to amuse myself 30,000ft above the ground, I bring homemade snacks, it’s the only thing I look forward to when I fly economy.

Don’t go thinking that the free flow of liquor makes flying bearable. It ain’t so fun when you get up to use the bathroom, faint and bang your head smack dab on the door, the impact reverberating the plane’s cabin and you tumble to the carpet for two seconds, wake up, crawl back to your seat in style (on all fours, no less) and pretend nothing happened even though all eyes are on you, staring with the same wonderment, “WTF?!”

It turns out that chugging down that gin and tonic was a baaad idea (I thought it would be nice to sleep through the flight). I had to endure a nagging, sickening feeling of nausea for the remaining 10 friggin’ hours of my trip. Apparently, the high altitude and cabin pressure heightens the effect of alcohol. Liquor: 1 Girl with Pathetically Low Alcohol Tolerance : 0

So, moral of the story, I try to be cautious with alcohol. I don’t touch gin and tonics anymore, the drink is ruined for me. I do however bake with it. In fact, this cake has 3 (!!) tablespoons of rum. Captain Morgan evaporates in the oven and leaves behind a rich and subtlety dark flavour to the cake, something you wouldn’t expect from a name simply called Apple Cake.

It’s not exactly a pretty cake, definitely not a cake you would ask out on a date. It’s kind of rough around the edges, a little imperfect, but the more you coax her, the more charming she is. Apple pieces are wedged into a buttery batter, making the cake extra moist. I switched out the all-purpose flour with spelt and whole wheat flour to add nuttiness to the cake and it worked beautifully, each squidgy biteful a little nibbly and grainy and bursting with crisp apple flavour.

You ought to try this cake too, it makes a good breakfast especially with a dollop of plain yogurt. I promise no fainting, no raucous behaviour, just save the rum for the cake.

Apple Spelt Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake

The only tinkering I did was use whole grain flours instead of all-purpose flour. I didn’t want the cake to be too delicate so I used part spelt flour and part whole wheat, the latter giving the cake extra gluten to hold up.
David suggests serving the cake with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream and notes that since the cake is quite moist, it is best kept under a cake dome or an overturned bowl for 3 days at room temperature.

½ cup spelt flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (preferably a mix of varieties, I only used Empire apples)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. 

3. Peel and core the apples, then chop into 1-inch (3cm) pieces. 

4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter 

5. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining butter. 

6. Fold in the apple pieces until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula. 

7. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

Recipe here!

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