Our Ottolenghi Cooking Club met online for dinner over the weekend. This mode of meeting is suboptimal in one important way - we can't share each other's foods and therefore try six or more dishes! It was still such a pleasure to chat to everyone, and to marvel at the chocoflan that our host spent all afternoon preparing.
For our part, we cooked our dishes a day early and ate them as reheated leftovers. For the main course, Michael revisited the over-the-top lasagne with four kinds of mushroom and five kinds of cheese. For dessert, I decided upon this Sweet recipe. It's a tall, warm gingerbread cake served with apples and crème fraîche.
The cake is simply put together, and doesn't require an electric beater. It's intended to include pieces of stem ginger, which is a new ingredient to me. I didn't have the energy to make my own, and substituted uncrystallised ginger instead - it sank to the bottom of the cake, but provided the right boost of flavour. In the apple recipe, I traded dark rum for the intended brandy to use what we had on hand. The apples ended up tasting more strongly of lemon juice than liquor anyway, so I've performed a substitute on their name too.
This recipe is just as filling and comforting as I'd hoped, and looks a little special without being excessive. The cake would also make for a fine unpretentious afternoon tea without all the trimmings.
Gingerbread with lemony apples & crème fraîche
(very slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's Sweet)
300g treacle or molasses
100g brown sugar
120g caster sugar
220g butter, melted and cooled slightly
zest of 1 orange
400g plain flour
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
300mL boiling water
100g stem ginger (I used 100g uncrystallised ginger), roughly chopped into 1/2 cm pieces
5 golden delicious or pink lady apples
120g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
50mL brandy or dark rum
50mL lemon juice
pinch of salt
400g crème fraîche
Preheat an oven to 180°C. Choose a cake tin - options include a 20cm square or round springform tin, or a 23cm bundt tin. Grease/flour a bundt; line a springform tin with paper, going up beyond the height of the sides, and grease it too.
In a large bowl, whisk together the treacle/molasses, brown sugar, caster sugar, and melted butter. Check that it's not too warm from the butter, then whisk in the eggs and orange zest. Sift over the flour, bicarb soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt, and stir to combine. Pour over the just-boiled water and whisk thoroughly to combine. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, until the cake passes the skewer test. (I think I baked mine for 60 minutes.) Allow the cake to cool for at least 10 minutes before it is transferred to a serving plate.
During the second half of the baking or while the cake is cooling, peel and core the apples and cut them into 1-1.5 cm slices. Set a large frypan over high heat and add the apples. Cook them, tossing them around every couple minutes, until they're golden. Transfer the apples to a bowl and return the frypan to the heat, turning it down to medium. Melt the butter in the frypan, then add the sugar, vanilla and lemon zest, stirring well. Add the apples back into the pan, stirring to coat them in the sugar mixture. Add the brandy/rum, lemon juice and salt, and cook until the sauce is thick.
Serve the cake in warm slices with spoonfuls of apple and crème fraîche on the side.