Apples seemed mundane when I grew up with mangos, lychees, papayas, coconuts, and dragon fruit. In Hong Kong, apples are usually included in fruit basket for their color—not their flavor.
So, why now do I love apples.
M persuaded me to fall in love with apples . . . and him.
M’s love for apples stems from his childhood—and specifically—from homemade apple pies and applesauce but all forms would draw his attention. Early on in our relationship, I would snicker at his choice of dessert while there were more bold flavor choices on the menu, but his persistence made me start to appreciate the subtlety of apples and frankly, the joy of simple things in life.
When we go upstate for the weekend, we visit our favorite farm stand to buy different varieties of heirloom apples. (In the 19th century, there were thousands more varieties than we typically see today.)
It’s hard to resist the bushels of fresh apples and their sweet aroma. And off to the side, are heavenly light apple cider donuts.
Now, I make apple pies and apple desserts—and guess what he requested for his upcoming birthday? Yes, an apple pie in lieu of a cake. Though I will honor his request, I’m still going to use our weekend haul for other form of desserts. For example, this Salted Caramel Apple Charlotte has the fresh essence of apples in the forefront and just enough salted caramel for intrigue.
1. Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, lift pan and swirl occasionally, until melted and acquire an amber-color. Be careful not to burn.
2. Add butter, salt and stir into the caramel until combined, about 2 minutes. Slowly, drizzle in heavy cream while stirring. (be careful, mixture will rapidly bubble and splatter), continue to cook caramel until smooth and shiny, 1-2 minute. Remove from heat, pour into a heat-proof glass container/bowl and cool for at least 20 minutes before using.
Note: Salted Caramel Sauce can be store in an air tight container and refrigerate for at least one month.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle-low position and heat oven to 325℉ convection (preferred) or 350℉. Greased and flour a 18-by-12-inch 1/2-sheet baking pan lined with parchment, set aside. In a medium bowl, sift flour, cornstarch and cinnamon together; set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar, beating constantly, until mixture is stiff and glossy but not dry. Add whipped egg whites to a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Add yolks and remaining 4 tablespoons sugar to the now empty mixing bowl (no need to clean bowl and whisk attachment), beat on medium-high speed until thick and light in color, stopping machine to scrape down bowl once or twice as needed. Add vanilla and continue to beat until yolks form a flat ribbon that falls back on itself when beaters are lifted, 2-3 minutes.
4. Fold 1/3 of whites into yolk mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 of dry ingredients over batter; fold in gently. Repeat with egg whites and dry ingredients; finally, fold in remaining whites to form a light, smooth batter. Turn batter into prepared pan and evenly distribute batter w an off-set spatula. Bake until top feels springy to the touch and edges begin to pull away from pan, 8-10 minutes for convection and 12-15 minutes regular baking. (Do not overbake or cake will be dry.)
5. While cake is in oven, sift confectioners’ sugar over a tea towel measuring at least 18-by-12-inches. Immediately invert baked cake onto sugar-covered towel and peel away paper. Trim all four sides of crisp edges, fold one end of the sugared tea towel over long end of the cake and roll cake to form a log. Set cake on rack to cool, about 20 minutes) seam side down.
6. Unroll cooled cake and evenly spread a layer of salted caramel sauce over the entire top. Reroll cake and set cake seam side down. With a serrated knife, cut cake into 1/3-inch thick slices, cleaning knife after each cut to keep preserves from smearing cake. Line a 1-1/2-quart (8 inch diameter) bowl in plastic wrap with overhang. Line bowl with cake slices decoratively and cover with plastic wrap. Wrap remaining cake slice s in plastic wrap and refrigerate cake lined bowl and cake slices until ready to use.
1. Melt butter and sugar in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add diced apples, increase heat to high, and stir to coat apples with butter mixture. Cook apples until softened but still hold their shape. Add Calvados and stir until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and spread apples on a baking sheet to cool.
1. Add Calvados in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top, let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Whisk sugar, egg yolks and salt in a bowl until combined, set aside.
3. Heat apple cider to a simmer in a medium saucepan, remove from heat and slowly, while whisking, add cider to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to saucepan.
4. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 5-6 minutes. Add gelatin and continue to simmer until full incorporated. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside, cool to room temperature.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Stop mixer.
2. Bring sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan, stir to make sure sugar has dissolved. Restart stand mixer on medium speed and pour hot syrup into whipped egg whites in a steady stream. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk until meringue is silky and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Adde meringue to a medium bowl.
3. In the now empty bowl, add heavy cream and whisk on medium-high speed to stiff peak, about 2 minutes. remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in cooled apple custard. Add sautéed apples and meringue and continue to fold until combined.
4. Remove prepared cake from refrigerator, peel back plastic wrap and spoon apple filling into the cavity of the cake (you might have a small amount of leftover), smooth top with small off-set spatula. Cover top with remaining cake slices (cut slices into smaller pieces to fill gaps if necessary). Bring draped plastic wrap over cake to cover completely. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.
5. Remove cake from refrigerator, peel back plastic wrap, place cake stand or serving platter on top and invert. Remove plastic gently, decorate with dried apples (if use) and serve.