Friday, September 18, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

It’s not really officially fall until you bake with apples.  Even though I have apples on my table every day of the year, they really symbolize the fall season for me. This was especially true when I worked in professional pastry kitchens.  The first delivery of cases of apples was the moment we knew we were turning a corner and would be peeling and coring and slicing for quite a while.  But I never tire of them and I think we'd all agree that it’s important to have the aroma of apples and spice emanating from your oven and floating throughout your home to truly experience September.  So get out your peeler and let's make some apple pastries.

My first fall baking project is this Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake.  It's loaded with oats for texture and taste; lots of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg for intoxicating depth; and, of course, a couple of lovely apples to inaugurate the season.  It’s an oil cake, which means it gets mixed quickly in a bowl, has an open tender crumb and is full of moisture.  I let the oats soften in apple juice for just a few minutes to make sure the cake isn’t too chewy and I’ve added an oat streusel to top it off.  Like all spice cakes, it tastes even better the next day.

This is the sort of cake that is perfect for brunch, afternoon snack with friends or as a gift to anyone you love.  I think finding a small slice in your lunchbox would take the edge off of any day.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of brandied and cinnamon laced whipped cream and it will do quite well for dessert as the cold drifts in and the heater kicks on.

It usually takes me a while to get into the hang of the transition between seasons.  I guess I don’t want to let go of all the bounty of spring and summer, the light moments and cool breezes and grabbing an outdoor table for a lazy lunch.  But fall has its own magic.  There are so many delicious varieties of apples and pears and then pumpkin, cranberries and pomegranates make their bright appearance.  And, yes, there’s always nuts and chocolate.  So let's get in the swing.  ‘Tis the season for the comfort of apples.

Bench notes:
- I used Gala apples.  Fujis would also be great.
- Although there are a few bowls involved, this cake goes quickly if you prepare your mise en place (all your ingredients measured or weighed out and ready to assemble).
- Dice the apples into smallish chunks, somewhere in between 1/4” and 1/2”, to ensure they soften in the time the cake bakes.
- I use old-fashioned oats, not the quick variety. The oats and apple juice should only be combined for about 5 minutes.  You want them to be moistened but not mushy so there’s still some chew to them.
- The cake takes more than the usual amount of salt because of the oats.  Otherwise the flavor will be flat.
- The batter is thin but once the apples are added, the streusel distributes nicely over the top.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake
Serves 9

1/3 cup (1 5/8 oz) flour
1/3 cup (1 oz) old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch allspice
2 oz (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) molasses

2 medium (about 13 oz) apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch nutmeg
1 cup (3 oz) old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup (6 oz) apple juice
1/2 cup (4 oz) canola oil
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk @ room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9” square cake pan and line with parchment, leaving a short overhang on two sides.

To prepare the streusel, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar and spices.  Cut the cold butter into 1/4” pieces and add.  Toss until coated with the dry ingredients and drizzle the molasses.  Using your fingers or a fork, press the butter pieces until they break off into smaller pieces and the mixture clumps together and is crumbly with large and small chunks. Chill until ready to use.

Peel, core and cut the apples into small cubes.  You should have about 2 cups.  Toss the apples with lemon juice to prevent browning.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.  Set aside.

Combine the oats and apple juice and set aside for about 5 minutes. 

In another bowl, whisk the oil, both sugars and eggs until thoroughly blended. Add in the vanilla and oat and apple juice mixture.  Mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the milk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until there are no dry streaks of flour.  Fold in the chopped apples.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer.  Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the batter.  

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 34 - 36 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake.  Gently lift it out of the pan using the parchment overhang to assist.  Using a platter, flip the cake over and peel off the parchment.  Use another plate or platter to flip the cake right side up. 


SallyBR said...

Pinning this one without blinking.... that could be a nice saying, actually "Pinning without Blinking" ;-)

depending on how my weekend goes, I might bake a batch for our department to brighten up the dreadful Monday morning

love all flavors in this beauty!

pastry studio said...

Hey Sally, I'm honored that you pinned without blinking! This is an easy cake and the payoff is big. Your department will be happy to have this to take the edge off of Monday. Thanks!

SallyBR said...

It's baking as I type this!

batter was indeed pretty liquid, but it' looking good as it bakes - the smell is AMAZING!

pastry studio said...

I know, right? Happy fall season to you and your colleagues!