I don’t think of myself as a baker. I would call myself a cook who likes to bake. I suppose what is hard for me to accept is that when baking I have to follow a recipe, unless I’ve made it countless times. I realize that over the past few years I’ve been baking more and more and feel the need to have some sort of home baked good on hand all the time. Usually it’s cookies (and I do have my favorites) but when it’s not going to be a cookie, I find myself drawn to new recipes.
I kept hearing about Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi featuring dessert recipes of French home cooks and when my friend L. (a wonderful baker and former owner of a famous San Diego bakery) sent me an article about the book, I knew it was time to get a copy and start baking.
I love the book and can’t wait to try countless recipes. For my first attempt I tried this wonderfully simple recipe for Custardy Apple Squares that L. and her husband B.(the other half of this famous baking team) recommended. Following my quest for quick and easy dishes for entertaining, this dessert fit the bill. In addition to its simplicity I would call it foolproof and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to try it.
I made it earlier in the afternoon, reheated and topped it with vanilla ice cream. Whipped cream would be a delicious topping as well.
Custardy Apple Squares
3 medium juicy, sweet apples, such as Gala or Fuji, peeled
1/2 cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 28 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Slice the apples using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, turning the fruit as you reach the core. The slices should be about 1/16 th inch thick– elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. Discard the cores.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until the sugar just about dissolves and, more important, the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the apples, switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter, turning everything around until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can–it will be bumpy; that’s its nature.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown, uniformly puffed– make sure the middle of the cake has risen–and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Using a long knife, cut the cake into 8 squares (or as many rectangles as you’d like) in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan), or unmold the cake onto a rack, flip it onto a plate and cut into squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.