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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

[The long awaited] Apple Cake Recipe / Story

Over a recent breakfast at Jerusalem's Waffle Bar with a couple of friends, the lively and wide ranging conversation somehow turned to tax law; specifically how one can inadvertently run afoul of the law if certain steps are not carried out in the correct order.

Even if the financial end result is exactly the same, if one changes the order, or leaves out an intermediate step... the Martha Stewart wing of the Alderson Federal Prison Camp might end up welcoming a new resident.

So it is sometimes with Halacha (Jewish law). 

Most people with even a passing relationship with Judaism are aware that Jewish law prohibits the consumption of meat and milk together.  This comes from the Biblical prohibition against 'boiling a calf in its mother's milk'

Over the centuries, Jewish sages have 'built walls' around this particular prohibition, to include poultry in what is considered 'meat', and have created a wide range of varied and confusing rules on how long to wait between eating one kind of food and another. 

But even when you think something is fairly straightforward, you find that nothing is really simple in Judaism. 

Even the concept of 'eating together' is the subject of discussion and argument among generations of Jewish scholars, with the result that few outside the observant community are well versed in the nitty gritty of the kosher dietary laws (and no, I am not about to try to educate anyone here).

A few years ago I related the story of a memorable family Thanksgiving feast which I had to miss due to work obligations, and Zahava had to miss due to being ill.  This left our daughter Ariella, who was a toddler at the time, to join the rest of my family for the big meal.

Even though Zahava and I had told my family that they needn't go to the extra trouble of cooking with the carefully hoarded (for our benefit) kosher utensils, pots and pans (since we would not be there, and Ariella was almost certainly not going to eat anything), they went ahead and made an entirely kosher thanksgiving dinner on the off chance that our finicky little toddler might want a taste of something.

From that day to this I have made it a point to be very respectful of my family's efforts to procure and prepare kosher food for us.  But this has required walking a bit of a tightrope.

On the one hand, I don't want to ask too many questions and come off sounding like I think they're ignorant (bad), or that I don't trust them (worse).

But on the other hand, one has to be concerned about the fact that someone who doesn't concern him/herself on a daily basis with the Halachic issues surrounding the preparation and consumption of kosher food, can sometimes mess up.

When my little sister found out I was going to be staying with her for a long weekend, she was delighted and immediately set about planning a kosher menu for my visit.  Luckily several of her neighbors in her upper west side apartment building keep kosher, and they agreed to let her prepare things in their kitchens using their pots, pans and utensils.

The original plan was for Friday night's meal to be meat (see yesterday's Fried Chicken recipe) and for Shabbat lunch to be dairy.  My little sis is an excellent cook and gracious hostess... and by the time I'd arrived, she'd assembled main dishes and side courses for the two big Shabbat meals. 

However, in her mind, the dessert she had prepared for the weekend (the apple cake whose recipe you'll find below) was to make an appearance at both meals. 

In theory, having one dessert serve double duty during a shabbat or holiday is perfectly ok, and is a practice we follow in our own home as well.  But in practice, if even one of the meals with which the dessert is to be served contains meat, it is essential that the dessert be Parve (i.e. contain neither milk nor meat).

It wasn't until she was writing down the recipe for me this past week that my little sister realized with horror that she'd inadvertently served me a perfectly kosher dairy cake at the end of a perfectly kosher meat (chicken) meal... rendering the whole thing traif (not kosher).

Referring back to the tax law discussion from above, suffice it say that in among the minutea of the Jewish dietary laws, the order in which various kinds of foods are consumed is often of great importance.

Along with the promised apple cake recipe, my sister emailed a beautifully worded and sincere apology.   Reading her heartfelt words, I privately wished I was as remorseful when I accidentally treif up something in our kitchen... or absent-mindedly ate something dairy after having tasted a simmering stew. 

One might assume that the mistake of serving me a dairy apple cake after chicken would make me more suspicious of the meals my sister might prepare for my in the future.  But quite the opposite is the case. 

Yes, I'll probably try to offer helpful suggestions about kosher menu planning... but seeing the purity of her intentions and the sincerity of her contrition, I can't help but feel lucky to have an extended family that completely respects the religious choices I've made, despite their own personal choices being quite different.

Without further ado... the recipe for a sinfully good dessert:

Apple Cake with Toffee Crust
[This recipe by Lara Atkins is from 'Food & WIne']

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable/canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 large Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 stick unsalted butter (113.4 grams)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Toffee Sauce Ingredients
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform tube pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour with salt and baking soda.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the granulated sugar. Then, whisk the eggs in one at a time.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth. (This mixture is, let me warn you, just unbelievable thick and sticky and that is ok. It will seem strange or wrong and will challenge the strength of your whisk and arm, but rest assured, this is how it should be.)

5. Fold in diced apples using a spatula (and your strength to move this heavy batter), making sure apples are fully distributed through the batter.

6. Scrape batter into prepared baking pan (and it will look like lumps to be distributed around the ring, which it is) and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. And, yes, it really takes that long!  I always check after 1 hour and, because I have a convection oven, it is usually ready then. It is done when a toothpick emerges clean.

7. Let cake cool slightly while you take a medium saucepan, in which you combine the butter, cream, and brown sugar and bring to a boil over moderate heat, all the while stirring. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from the heat, mix in the vanilla.

8. Place the still warm cake (still in its pan) on a rimmed baking dish (so glaze won't run all over the table). Pour the hot glaze you've just made over the cake, evenly, and entirely, allowing it to seep into the cake, poking the cake lightly with a toothpick to encourage the seepage.

9. Let the cake cool completely - at least two hours. Invert the cake onto a plate, and invert again onto another plate in order to get it right side up.

Enjoy! The great thing about this cake is if you keep it covered (I believe a layer of plastic wrap which is then covered with a layer of aluminum foil provides the best coverage), it can be enjoyed and snacked from for nearly a week.

The first time I [my sister] had it, it was brought to a dinner party with the express intention of it being a breakfast treat for the hosts. I thought about it for almost five years before I finally got the recipe and made it myself.

Posted by David Bogner on March 16, 2011 | Permalink


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What a bracha to have such a respectful family. Too many of us "newly religious" have to hear things like, "that's stupid, I'm not doing that" or "I don't know what *you're* going to eat..." and be accused of making up rules just to annoy our non-observant relatives.

Truly a blessing you have there, and a blessing that you are so aware and appreciative!

Posted by: Alissa | Mar 16, 2011 3:19:46 PM

Not only what Alissa said, but what kudos to your attitude to the 'accident'.

Too often frumness is associated with intolerance.

Posted by: chairwoman | Mar 16, 2011 3:36:13 PM

I could make it for Purim breakfast- love that idea, sounds YUM!! as did the chicken dish you posted yesterday
I know, I know I will not serve them together :)

Posted by: Daniela | Mar 16, 2011 5:16:25 PM

The recipe looks great. Er, but for those of us who aren't American, please could you translate the weight for a "stick of butter". Thank you!

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Mar 16, 2011 7:24:45 PM

What is a "rimmed baking" in #8?

Posted by: HDS | Mar 16, 2011 8:18:03 PM

I was going to ask the same question as Kiwi Noa.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Mar 16, 2011 9:30:27 PM

KiwiNoa - According to the stick of butter in my kitchen, it is 4 oz/113.4g. As a fellow antipodean now living in the US I feel your pain with recipe conversions!

Posted by: eloise | Mar 16, 2011 9:44:04 PM

You should be thoroughly ashamed... not because of anything having to do with kashrut, but because you have posted what appears to be a completely irresistible yummy dessert... which I need like a hole in the head.

Kol ha-kavod!

Posted by: Elisson | Mar 16, 2011 9:55:51 PM

As you note, sequence is everything. I remember going to a Superbowl party in your very town a number of years ago. I was charged with bringing buckets of chicken from KFC (since I was coming from Jerusalem and had rented a car). When I arrived (still during the pregame period), the chevra was pummeling quite a large number of pizza pies. Shortly thereafter, after nary a slice was left, they began on the fried chicken with equal enthusiasm. By the end of the first quarter, nothing was left.

Posted by: MoC | Mar 16, 2011 11:54:20 PM

Just two comments:
1. Always wait a while for dessert - and claim you're Dutch. Only on hour, remember? One tiny little hour.
2. Separate tables. Per a machlokes I read somewhere, that automatically qualifies the two things as separate meals.

In any case, it is healthier to wait till later in the evening before eating an entire cake. The chance of anybody else who might want a piece having fallen asleep by that time is also much greater.

Posted by: At The back of the Hill | Mar 17, 2011 12:05:55 AM

@eloise. Thank you for the conversion! The things I will do to eat apple cake.......!

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Mar 17, 2011 8:49:39 AM

What a lovely story. If anything, I'd trust your sister even more after that.

If it's any comfort, you didn't break any huge rule by having the cake after the meal, provided you didn't have any meat stuck in your teeth. Waiting between meat and milk isn't even a d'rabbanan, only having them at the same time (e.g., drinking a glass of milk while eating a burger). Any waiting time- of any length, even a minute- is a custom, albeit a very strong one. If you think it will make your sister feel better, you can forward that to her.

Posted by: Nachum | Mar 17, 2011 9:17:48 AM

I can't even read that recipe or I will need to jump in the car and go to the French bakery this morning. I've been doing WW to lose weight since last August. (Love it, BTW.) It has made me realize how important it is to be conscious of every meal, almost every bite, we eat. To me it's about economics; eating too much is like spending too much, both of which eventually catch up with you. The truth will always catch up with us. Of course you have a much greater motivation for taking such care.

Your family loves you! Thanks for the dose of positive news and have a great weekend.

Posted by: Alice | Mar 17, 2011 2:28:39 PM

Is there NO way to make this pareve? Is the cream that crucial? That seems to be the only offending ingredient. And a stick of butter is 8 tablespoons, if that helps.

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Mar 18, 2011 1:55:37 AM

Marsha - tablespoons are not a great thing to convert to since in most countries they are 15ml, while in some they are 20ml... you learn something every day, right?!

Posted by: eloise | Mar 18, 2011 1:41:18 PM

In the book of Genesis (18:8), Abraham serves butter, milk, and a "calf tender and good" to the three men sent by G-d. "...and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." Could it be that it is ok to eat these together, as long as they are not cooked together? Just wondering.

Posted by: Dina | Mar 22, 2011 12:58:16 AM

Dina... That was before the Torah was given.

Posted by: Treppenwitz | Mar 22, 2011 6:05:22 AM

"Seething (boiling) a kid in its mother's milk" is very different from eating. Just curious as to who added the extra rules and regulations.

Posted by: Dina | Mar 23, 2011 6:15:07 AM

Dina... Rabbis study the laws of milk and meat for years in order to be ordained. I am a poor choice of a teacher on this topic. That said, the wikipedia link I provided above is a good starting place. And I'm sure the OU, Aish and Chabad have excellent sources on their sites as well.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 23, 2011 7:48:18 AM

Thank you for the information. Have a great day!

Posted by: Dina | Mar 23, 2011 8:30:43 AM

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