Apple Cake Tartlets and My Trip to Germany, Part 1

 

What is it about a trip to Germany that beings out the apple cake in all of us?  I don’t know but on my first day in Heidelberg I was on the hunt for a good cup of coffee to help shake off the jet lag from the eleven hour non-stop flight from San Francisco.  I ended up enjoying a pastry break, the first of many on the trip, with a giant slice of apple cake along side my strong cup of coffee.  So I guess I was a little bit hungry.  Apple cake and coffee – just what I needed to make it till sundown before falling into my hotel bed on the first day of my European adventure.

My travel adventure to both Germany and the Alsace region of France started with a favorite food blog and an announcement from Kirsten at My Kitchen in the Rockies.  Kirsten, along with her friend and another Colorado food blogger, Michele at Cooking with Michele were organizing a food and wine trip.  The trip would be starting in Heidelberg, Germany;  they would be going down the wine route that travels through the Palatinate wine region, with stops in Baden-Baden, including a cooking school experience in the Black Forest and ending in Strasbourg, France.  A food and wine trip in Germany and France…Where do I sign up?

The timing of this trip worked out perfectly in my schedule with the added bonus of Lufthansa flying non-stop from San Francisco to Frankfurt where the train to Heidelberg leaves directly from the airport..ok..double sign me up and I’m so glad I did.  Another added bonus to the wonderful itinerary of the trip – the small group of fellow food and wine travelers were a delight to meet.  In addition to myself, Kirsten and Michele, the lovely, Lea Ann at Cooking…On The Ranch, another Colorado food blogger, joined the trip.  Our group of inspired food, wine and cooking devotees showed up in Heidelberg ready to learn and have a good time.

Just like the company, the cooking schools were all fun.  The menus were always delicious, we made our own dinners together under the direction of a chef, twice in Germany and once in Strasbourg, France.  I came home with so many recipes that I’m going to be trying and sharing here over the next few weeks.  I picked the title My Trip to Germany Part 1 because I know there will be more than one post on my trip…  I couldn’t help thinking how many of the recipes I picked up would be perfect for holiday entertaining this year.

The night before we left Heidelberg, we attended our first cooking school at Kochschule Eppelheim, that is where I’m going to leave you for now.  I have a few recipes from that night I want to share, so I’m  going to have to spend some time on that project next week.

Please enjoy a few photos and an apple cake tartlet recipe inspired by my trip to Heidelberg.

One day into Heidelberg and we found ourselves on a guided tour headed up the hill to the Old Heidelberg Castle.  Lucky us, we had gorgeous views of the  Neckar River, Old Stone Bridge and Old Heidelberg as far as the eye could see from the Castle.
Not so mini ancient castle homes dot the hills surrounding Heidelberg castle..  the views that go on forever are one of the rewards after a long steep walk to the top. We took the funicular to the top, so I had to imagine that difficult hike up the hill.
We saw so many layers of history in Heidelberg Castle, from Gothic to Renaissance and everything in between.  At one point in the castle’s history, after being in ruins for many years, it was used as a quarry with stones being taken to build new homes in Heidelberg.  Up here at the top overlooking Heidelberg, there is construction going on everywhere-talk about upkeep on your thousand year old home.  Honey, the moat’s dry and the walls are falling down, time to move to Florida.
Sometimes really old castles just fall down, especially when they’ve been ravaged by the French during the war of succession of the Electorate of the Palatinate, as we learned on our guided tour of Heidelberg.
The second day I was in Heidelberg I discovered a memorial for a synagogue destroyed by the Nazis on Kristallnacht in 1938 directly across the street from my room at the Hotel Villa Marstall.  The outline of the walls of the synagogue were set  in white paving stones with 12 cubes with lights, representing the 12 tribes of Israel marking the location of the pews.
I imagine that the best time to explore the cobblestone streets of Old Heidelberg is on a crisp fall day.  The light was beautiful and I noticed fallen leaves collected around the bicycles parked on the streets.  I was really out looking for another slice of apple cake.
I found the picturesque old houses with little modern cars parked in front perfectly wonderful, when can I move in? Notice the tiles, flowers and the shutters, sweet!
Kirsten ordered our special welcome dinner for the first night of our trip at the Gasthaus Backmulde in Heidelberg.  We started with the most flavorful tomato mousse (Tomaten Mousse mit Parmashinken and Rucola), a pork roast plated with house made spatzle, chantrelle mushrooms and spinach, delicious local wines, followed by a slice of apple strudel with a rich vanilla sauce.  This meal was the beginning of some serious wining and dining.
Working up a good appetite for a special dinner is easy to do after a day of exploring Heidelberg. which brings me back to another (closer) look at my apple cake tartlets, followed by the recipe.  Please stay tuned for my trip to Germany part 2 with recipes and photos from my cooking school adventures.

Apple Cake Tartlets and My Trip to Germany Part 1

Yield: 6 apple cake tartlets

Adapted from a recipe for 'Old World Apple Cake' by my mother-in-law Raynee Price's friend Hanne Schatz.

Ingredients

  • for the apples
  • 3 lbs (7-8 apples) Granny Smith Apples
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 lemon slices, plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to sprinkle on sliced apples
  • for the pastry
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/4 cups sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • for tops of tartlets
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, mix the cinnamon and sugar together
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. to make the apples
  2. Peel and slice the apples, sprinkle with tablespoon of lemon juice. Simmer the apple slices in the water with sugar and lemon slices. Cook until just tender, don't overcook as apple slices will become mushy.
  3. Drain off any leftover liquid, cool and remove lemon slices.
  4. preheat the oven to 350F and spray 6 4" tartlet pans with baking spray, place on parchment lined baking sheet
  5. to make the pastry
  6. Mix together flour, sugar and baking powder.
  7. Cut in the 10 tablespoons of butter with pastry blender or hands, until the mixture is crumbly.
  8. Mix in the egg yolks.
  9. Reserve 1 cup of the pastry mixture for the crumb topping.
  10. to put together the apple cake tartlets
  11. Divide up the remaining pastry mixture, evenly press into the bottoms and up the sides of the tartlet pans.
  12. Fill each tartlet with apple slices and top with the reserved pastry (crumb topping) mixture.
  13. Dot each tartlet with butter and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
  14. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. Cool on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
  16. Remove the side rings and continue cooling until cool enough to remove the tartlet pan bottoms, continue to cool.
  17. Serve slightly warm, vanilla ice cream would be a good thing.
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Endives, Apples, Grapes and Rosemary with Orecchiette

I always have fun with the recipes from Around My French Table that I make for French Fridays with Dorie.  Dorie Greenspan’s basic recipes are very well tested and work remarkably well, I can especially count on all her baking recipes.  I’m usually inspired to play around with the suggested ingredients or techniques in the recipes as I think was Dorie’s intention when she compiled these recipes collected from her years of living in France.  Around My French Table has been a culinary playground for me over the past year and a half since I joined the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group.  I’ve enjoyed following all the contributors who cook along with the weekly schedule of Dorie’s recipes.  This Friday’s recipe caught my eye and once again sparked my imagination.  I thought of the endives, apples and grapes caramelized in salted butter flavored with rosemary served in a pasta dish for dinner with either a piece of chicken of a green salad served along side.  I was particularly struck by the sweet apple and grape flavors contrasted with the bitter flavor of the endives in this dish as well as the beauty of the caramelized ingredients. I used a sliced Fuji apple which didn’t want to cook as fast as the endives and grapes so I ended up removing everything from the pan except the apple slices which I continued to cook for several minutes longer or until they softened up and turned golden.  I cooked about half a pound of pasta in boiling water, drained and tossed it into the hot pan with the apples.  Then I added the endives and grapes back into the pan, checked the seasoning and served 2 generous portions, I think enough for dinner! Here is the recipe for Endives, Apples and Grapes from Dorie herself.

Fresh Cocoa Apple Cake

 


I planted 2 apple trees in my garden about 10 years ago that are thankfully producing a fair amount of apples.  However, I could have made a few more fresh apple cakes this week if I didn’t have to share my apples with the birds, it’s kind of sad to reach for a beautiful red colored apple in the tree only to realize that the half you can’t see  from the ground has been chewed off.  I also found 2 strawberries hiding in the garden that for some reason the birds didn’t eat, maybe they felt bad and wanted to share with us(?)  Anyway, I put the strawberries in a fruit smoothie that I made for breakfast this morning and made this fresh cocoa apple cake with my share of the apples.  I’ve made many simple apple cakes over the years, I like the ones with good sized chunks of apples and coarsely chopped walnuts stirred into  a thick batter.  I also like adding a healthy dose of fragrant spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom to my apple cakes.  For the first time I decided to take a traditional apple cake recipe and make it chocolatey by adding cocoa powder to the dry ingredients.  It received rave review from one of my ‘littles’ who rolled his eyes back when he took a bite and said, ‘This is really good’!  My husband also gave it the thumbs up, so I think this adapted fresh apple cake recipe is a keeper.


Fresh Cocoa Apple Cake

Yield: 12 pieces of cake

Adapted from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste
  • 1 & 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 1 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, I used King Arthurs all purpose baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, I used Penzeys
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith Apples, I used slightly tart apples from my own apple tree
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan with baking spray.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer on medium speed beat together the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and oil until smooth.
  4. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
  5. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture.
  6. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl, stir in the apples and walnuts with a wooden spoon.
  7. Turn the thick apple filled batter into the prepared pan, using your wooden spoon and a spatula to scrape the mixing bowl.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes away with a few crumbs.
  9. Cool on a metal rack, the middle will sink slightly as it cools.
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I’m linking my fresh cocoa apple cake to the Chocolate Party Page.

Curried Chicken Nuggets and Fennel Apple Slaw with A Cinnamon Maple Vinaigrette

I’m feeling a cooking and blogging break coming on as our vacation is only a couple of weeks away, but I still hope to bake something with pumpkin before heading out.  For many reasons Fall is my favorite time of year, there is just something wonderful about the gentle cooling of the air after the heat of Summer.  The acorns have begun falling from the oak trees with the leaves blowing around and covering the yard.  This has absolutely nothing to do with chicken nuggets with a bite of fennel apple slaw or I don’t know? maybe it does.  I rarely eat fried anything but I’m more likely to fry chicken when the outside temperature is cooler.  We normally take a vacation at the end of October when the weather starts to change here and we’ve made many golf trips to the desert in the Fall where it’s still warm.  This year we’re flying to Amsterdam and taking the train with a few stops(Brussels, Paris, Zurich) ending in Rome the second week in November.  I’m thinking about taking a month off with cooking for the holidays to lure me back to my regular schedule of posting when I return.

I feel like I’m showing off because I actually fried something, maybe there’s a doughnut post me.  Why is fried chicken so good?  Apologies to MacDonald operators but homemade chicken nuggets made with skinless boneless chicken breasts from Whole Foods rock and are an entirely different bird than I’ve previously previously tasted after robbing my children’s and grand children’s Happy Meals over the years! Served with the chicken nuggets is another delicious recipe from Two Dudes One Pan, I just love the bites of fresh red grapes in the slaw and will serve this salad in the future with perhaps a more conservative baked chicken dish.



Ingredients And Directions For Curried Chicken Nuggets And Fennel Apple Slaw With A Cinnamon Maple Vinaigrette


For The Curried Chicken Nuggets


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup panko bread crumbs, quick whirl in the food processor to give a finer crumb
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon Maharajah curry powder, Penzeys Spices
1 tablespoon Garam Masala, Penzeys Spices
1/2 teaspoons cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Sea salt
vegetable oil for frying
2 eggs

Whisk the flour and spices together in a medium bowl.  Place the panko in a separate bowl.  Then put the eggs in another bowl and whisk with a little water.  Cut the chicken into chunks.  Toss the chicken in the seasoned flour, shake off the excess.  Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, make sure they’re well coated.  Then roll the chicken in the finer ground panko.  Pour vegetable oil 1 inch deep in a heavy pan, I used my dutch oven.  Heat the oil until medium hot and fry the chicken nuggets in two batches until brown on one side, flipping once half way to finish cooking, about a minute and a half on each side. Transfer to a plate and season to taste with sea salt.  You can hold the chicken nuggets on a baking sheet in a low 250F oven while you make the slaw.

Fennel Apple Slaw with Red Flame Grapes and A Cinnamon Maple Vinaigrette


For The Slaw
2 Medium fennel bulbs
2 Apples, like Pink Lady, Honey Crisp or Braeburn
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1/2 Cup halved Red Flame grapes
3 Tablespoons toasted almonds
2 Teaspoons chopped chives, extra for garnish
1 2-Ounce chunk Pecorino cheese, shaved with vegetable peeler

For The Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons grape seed oil, or canola oil
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Shallot, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 Teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

Halve, core and trim the fennel bulbs.  Peel and core the apples.  Slice the fennel into very thin slices and then into bite size pieces.  Slice the apples very thin and cut into matchstick size pieces.  If you are making the salad ahead of time sprinkle on the lemon juice to prevent browning and set aside.  Whisk the champagne vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt together in a large bowl.  Add the shallots and drizzle in the oil while whisking.  Add the fennel, apples, grapes, almonds and chives, toss to combine.
Serve on individual plates topped with cheese and chives for garnish. Don’t forget  to serve the warm Curried Chicken Nuggets along side.

I am honored to be featured in an interview on my friend Nancy/Spicie Foodie’s beautiful blog in her ‘Favorite Foodie Series’ this week.  If you haven’t paid Nancy a visit at Spicie Foodie please treat yourself to a visit!
Nancy is a young Mexican expat living in Europe who brings us along on  her extraordinary culinary adventure that spans several continents and features spicy dishes from all over the world.  I have been a regular follower of Spicie Foodie for going on a few years now and I don’t like to miss a post.  Since I can’t get enough of her blog I also picked up her cookbook, An Epiphany of the Senses which is available through her site at Amazon.com.