Apple Cake with Yeast Dough (Apfelkuchen)
Excerpt from THE GERMAN-JEWISH COOKBOOK: Recipes & History of a Cuisine by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman, published by Brandeis University Press.
“Apples, the most popular fruit around the world, are also the most widely used in Germany. Traditionally, most houses had a root cellar with bins to store apples, onions, carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables that would winter over. For that reason, a cake like this could be baked year round. This apple cake is an open-faced tart, with the fruit laid on top of a not-too-sweet, bready yeast dough that is baked on a rectangular baking sheet. The German-Jewish historian Ste- ven Lowenstein told us that his mother baked a similar apple cake for almost every Sunday meal. No fuss, no muss—she simply fed her family a delicious, fruity, home-baked pastry that was not overly sweet. As with so many recipes in this repertoire, there is the option of incorporating lemon zest into the dough for added fragrance and flavor. In the summer, this recipe works equally well with peaches, plums, or apricots. This cake is baked on a 13 x 18-inch baking sheet, also called a half-sheet pan.”
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus ⅓ cup whole or 2% milk, at room temperature, divided
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon plus ⅓ cup sugar, divided
3 large egg yolks
Zest of ½ lemon, preferably organic (optional) Neutral-flavored oil for greasing the bowl
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup white wine
Juice of ½ lemon
4 sweet-tart and firm apples, such as Cortland, Fuji, or Gala
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup raisins or currants
¼ cup slivered or sliced almonds
Making the dough
1. Melt the butter in a small, heavy pot over low heat. Set aside to cool.
2. Pour the flour into a large, shallow bowl or onto a large wooden board. Make a well in the center.
3. Warm ¼ cup of the milk to lukewarm, either in a small heavy-bottomed pot set over low heat for a few minutes or in a microwave for 15 seconds. Check the temperature by dipping in a knuckle—it should feel comfortably warm, not too hot. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to the milk and stir lightly. Let the mixture sit until it starts to bubble, about 5 minutes. Pour the milk and yeast mixture into the well in the flour and let it proof, or bubble, for another 5 minutes.
4. Add the melted butter to the remaining ⅓ cup milk. The mixture should be lukewarm—check the temperature with your knuckle. Add it to the flour mixture, along with the remaining ⅓ cup sugar, the egg yolks, and the lemon zest, if desired.
5. Mix everything together with clean hands. The dough will be very sticky, but keep mixing and removing the bits of dough from your fingers. In a short time, it will begin to come together. When it does, collect all the bits and pieces and knead the dough with your palms on a work surface, such as a wooden board. Continue kneading, rotating the dough a quarter turn and repeating the process. After a few minutes, the dough will become a smooth mass that can
be shaped into a ball. Scrape together any remnants left on the work surface with a scraper or knife and add it to the ball of dough. Your hands will require another washing.
6. Grease a medium-large bowl with the oil, put the ball of dough in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot to rise. You can preheat your oven to its lowest setting (about 175°f), turn off the oven, and then place the dough in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Other options are to put the dough on a warm radiator or even under a table lamp. Let sit until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.
7. When the dough is ready, sprinkle the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Put the dough on the floured work surface and punch it down. Roll out the dough. Shape it into a rectangle and continue rolling and pulling the dough until it will fit a 13 x 18-inch baking sheet. Lay the dough on the baking sheet, stretching it until the edges reach the edge of the sheet. Keep pushing to form a raised ridge.
8. Preheat the oven to 350°f.
Preparing the apples
9. Melt the butter in the same small pot, over low heat, and set aside. Combine the wine and lemon juice in a medium-size bowl. Peel and core the apples, and cut each one into quarters, then each quarter into 3 pieces. As you slice them, drop them into the bowl of wine and lemon juice, tossing them with a spoon to make sure all the pieces are moistened.
10. Pour the melted butter over the apples. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the apples. Toss the apples to make sure they are evenly coated with the butter and cinnamon sugar.
11. Using your hands, lay out the apples in rows on the dough (avoiding the raised edges). Sprinkle the raisins and almonds evenly over the top. If there is liquid left in the bowl the apples were in, sprinkle a few spoonfuls over the top of the cake.
12. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the dough is pale golden. Don’t overbake, to avoid drying out the cake. Let cool on a wire rack, then cut along the rows of apples into rectangular serving pieces.
For parve, use coconut milk and parve margarine instead of butter.