Living in England we are so lucky to be able to enjoy a regular harvest of apples in a vast array of different varieties. The abundant apple trees at the allotment first deliver a delicate beauty in spring, when festooned with fragrant blossom. Then in the autumn months we can happily enjoy a bountiful harvest of sweet, juicy apples.
Although I have tried to select my apple varieties to ensure they store well it’s inevitable that I will have to freeze some to use in the coming months. At home we have a production line going to core, peel and slice the apples, soak them in lemon water and freeze them, thereby keeping them fresh and delicious.
One of the reasons we do this religiously is because I have discovered an amazing apple cake recipe which, once the freezer is full of apples, we can enjoy until supplies run out.
This is an old French recipe for apple biscuit, don’t be fooled by the name, it’s actually a cake. Biscuit was originally a dough cooked twice, (bis for twice, cuit for cooked). The biscuit was very hard so it would keep for months, a staple food for sailors. The original ‘biscuit’ then developed into meaning ‘a light cake’, a staple for baking. Today it means a soft as well as a dry cake. This apple biscuit is soft and light and showcases the apples to perfection.
The recipe is from a very old cookbook I have called The Heritage of French Cooking by The Scotto Sisters and Annie Hubert Bare (Limited Editions Booktitles).
4 large apples, I use dessert apples.
A knob of butter
2 tablespoons of brandy (calvados is great but any brandy will do)
6 1/2 oz / 200g plain flour
3 tablespoons of cornflour
6oz/ 185g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsps baking powder
3fl oz / 90mls orange juice
5fl oz / 155mls groundnut oil
45g of flaked almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 350f / 180C/ gas 4. Grease a 20cms cake mound.
2. Peel, core and chop the apples into thin slices. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the apples. (I add mine straight from the freezer if using pre-frozen apples). Fry for 2 mins on each side or until the liquid has evaporated and the apples are golden but dry looking. If using brandy pour the brandy over the apples and flambé. Shake the pan till the flambé dies down. Put the apples onto a plate to cool down.
2. In a bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla essence, baking powder, orange juice, oil and eggs. Mix to a smooth batter.
3. Pour one third of the batter into the cake mould. Arrange half the apples on top to completely cover the batter. Cover the apples with half of the remaining batter. Arrange the remaining apples* on top and finally cover with the left over batter.
4. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake and bake in the oven for 55mins. Once cooked let the cake cool for 5mins then unmold and serve warm, or at room temperature, on its own or with fresh cream.
*for an alternative version I substitute the top layer of apples for a layer of blackberries which is equally as delicious. If using frozen blackberries these should be de-frosted before use and the excess liquid drained off to prevent the cake becoming too wet.