Today I woke up and it was horrible weather. Rain was lashing against my window, the sky was a dark grey and the tree outside was swaying in the wind. So much for that short period of lovely sunny weather.
On top of the weather, today has been an essay-writing day. I particularly hate having to write essays on Sundays - I find it so hard to concentrate when the library is shut and my kitchen is at hand.
After a flick through a few recipe books, I decided to make a lovely comforting yeasty apple cake with the Granny Smiths that have been lingering in our fruit bowl. It turns out I cannot pronounce Kuchen very well - German isn't my strongpoint. My fluent flatmate tried to teach me to say it properly, but the more I try, the worse it gets. So now we've settled for the completely wrong Apple Cush-na (I have no idea where the -a ending came from...).
I adore working with dough, though I don't often seem to get around to it. Kneading is such a pleasure when the dough is as lovely as this - scented, springy, smooth. It feels a bit like meditation - kneading definitely calms your mind.
I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly due to what I had in the cupboard - I didn't have flaked almonds or allspice. I also don't really like plain icings, so I made a lemon one instead, which worked well.
I love the way the gypsophila looks all fluffy like cotton wool in this photo below. My fluent-in-German flatmate loves it just as it is in a vase, not as a filler - at first I wasn't sure, but now I'm a convert - it's so fresh and delicate and lasts for ages.
I have a fancy new cake plate, see below and top. Isn't the pattern pretty - I kind of wanted a plain one as usually I prefer having a plain background, but this one was just so delicate and lovely.
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess)
For the dough:
400g strong white flour
50g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp easy blend yeast or 7g fresh
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp ground nutmeg, freshly ground
125 ml milk, warm
50g unsalted butter
Put the flour into a bowl with the salt, sugar and yeast and mix together. Beat the eggs, vanilla, zest and nutmeg together and then add to the dry ingredients and combine to make a sticky medium-soft dough. Work in the butter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes or half the time by machine. The dough should be smoother and springier when done. Put into a big bowl and leave to double somewhere warm for 1 - 1 and a half hours, or in a cold place overnight. When ready, punch down and stretch out to fit a 20 x 30 cm tin. Leave to prove for 15 minutes.
For the topping:
1 smallish egg
1 tbsp cream
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
25g ground almonds
3 small Granny Smith apples or similar
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel, core and chop the apples finely, putting them in a bowl with some water and a slice of lemon to stop then browning. Beat the egg and cream together and brush over the proved dough, then sprinkle on the ground almonds and nutmeg. Drain the apple bits and spread them over the top. Mix the sugars, cinnamon and ginger together then sprinkle over the top. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
For the icing:
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp hot water
Sieve the icing sugar then mix all the ingredients together into a runny paste. Dribble over the cake. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so then dig in. It's best warm - I pop a piece in the microwave for a tiny bit to warm a slice up on a single basis.
Makes about 20 slices.