A lovely, not-too-sweet, naturally flourless/gluten-free caramelized apple cake that’s perfect for the season.
It’s been raining here lately, which I admit I love though when it negatively affects part of the country I’d much rather have sun and dry weather. We have actually turned on some of our heaters, which haven’t been used since last winter. For someone who only used her San Francisco heat in the final months of living in her apartment – not because it wasn’t chilly, because it was, but because I didn’t mind adding an extra sweater and am slightly weird I guess – it’s a new and rather welcome thing. A lot of the houses in Casablanca (and probably the rest of Morocco) are built out of concrete and lined with beautiful tile floors that work wonderfully in the summer to keep heat at bay. But it can get quite, quite brisk indoors during the cooler months and I am grateful for the opportunity to warm up when possible. Of course another way to cozy up a house or an apartment is to turn on the oven and bake something and lord knows I rarely need an excuse to do that. It is starting to feel decidedly wintry here, and thus wintry baking things must start happening as well. In the midst of last week’s flurry of Thanksgiving baking I decided to also make a gluten-free apple cake for, I don’t know, morning snacking? Just because? For experimental purposes? Probably all of those.
We’re going to California for the holidays and as luck has it my brother and Emily will cross paths with us for a few days in Sebastopol. O, joy! This means that I am compiling a bunch of gluten-free/naturally flourless recipes to make when we are together. As is my usual wont I want these to be desserts and dishes that we can all enjoy, not just those among us who keep gluten-free. I have my pumpkin pie sorted, an apple-pear galette, a persimmon cake I can’t stop nibbling on, and this apple cake. I’m kind of really into this idea of blending a few gluten-free flours to create a flavor profile that is geared specifically toward the particular dessert I’m working on. Meaning, I’m not using a general all-purpose gluten-free blend across the board but trying to be very thoughtful about what naturally gluten-free flours taste the best with each other and what fruit or chocolate or or or is highlighted.
This cake, which I came across on the Bojon Gourmet blog, immediately caught my eye. 1. It’s beautiful, and if I had quince I might make it exactly as-is. 2. I have a small stockpile of naturally gluten-free flours with which I’ve been experimenting and I liked the use of three flours here to make up a total of 1 1/2 cups flour. 3. Almost as important as the rest: no gums are called for.
It’s that last one that I’m a bit of a stickler about. I can’t obtain those here (I don’t think) but more than that I try to keep to a pretty simple and ‘whole food’ diet as much as I possibly can. I also don’t know if gums are absolutely essential to gluten-free baking; flax or chia seeds seem to be a fine substitute and sometimes you don’t need any sort of ‘binder’ at all depending on the flours you use. Sweet rice flour is one that is inherently starchy and helps create that finer crumb we’re accustomed to in baked goods made with wheat flour.
I know that baking with a myriad of flours can seem intimidating but I encourage you to try it out if you are keeping gluten-free; an initial investment in the flours can turn out to be more than worth it. I also hope that a clear, fairly simple and well-thought-out recipe will temper some of that intimidation.
This apple cake is dense and not-too-sweet and not at all boring. The apples are laced with maple syrup (a sprinkling of ground cardamom or cinnamon would not go amiss either) and cooked down in a bit of butter until they are soft and caramelized. Buckwheat adds a deeper note to the lighter sweet rice and millet flours and the yogurt keeps things from getting too dry. I always like to mention in a caveat that even though I don’t necessarily keep gluten-free myself when I bake naturally flourless goodies my standards are prettttty high; I know this cake is one I’ll be making in a few weeks when we’re Stateside and maybe even before then.
I tweaked this lovely-looking cake recipe a bit, using apples in place of quince and subbing buckwheat flour for the oat. I think it was a perfect complement to the apple taste, but if you are looking for something a bit more subtle definitely try 1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour in place of the buckwheat. Note: If you don’t need to keep gluten-free, you may substitute 1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour for the g-f flours.
Makes 8-10 servings.
For the apples:
3 large apples of choice (I used Gala), peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger (optional)
For the cake:
1 stick (4 ounces / 115 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature plus more for greasing pan
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2.75 ounces / 80 grams) sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) buckwheat flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) millet flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) full-fat plain yogurt
Make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350º F. Place a piece of parchment in an 8-inch cake pan, leaving about an inch of parchment to go up the pan. Generously butter the parchment and side of cake pan.
Make the apples: in a cast iron skillet or large frying pan melt the butter and maple syrup over medium heat. Sprinkle with the spices if using. Add the apples and reduce heat to low, stirring them frequently until slices are soft and slightly caramelized, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Arrange the apple slices in the pan in concentric circles, having them slightly overlap each other if you can. Make sure to drizzle any remaining liquid from the pan over the apples.
Make the cake batter:
In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweet rice, buckwheat, and millet flours with the baking powder and salt.
With the mixer on low, stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in the yogurt until just combined, then the rest of the flour, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Spread the batter evenly over the apples in the pan.
Bake the cake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, or a with a few moist crumbs, 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cake cool completely in pan on a rack, then invert onto a serving platter and peel away the parchment. Serve the cake at room temperature.