Here is this month's plated dessert (hopefully I'll be able to make one more before the month is through). I was feeling pumped after my Maya Gold, but I didn't want to make another chocolate dessert, so I headed to the bookstores for some ideas. My definite inspiration for making this is the book Grand Finales: A Neoclassic View of Plated Desserts by Tish Boyle and Tim Moriarty. It all came from the apple chip on one of the desserts, which is one of the most deceptively simple garnishes you can make at home, plus it tastes great, unlike pulled sugar or plain puff pastry. Unfortunately, I can't afford the book as it costs P3000 ($75), so I had to think up my own components for my dessert. Thankfully I still had those damn magazines I bought on sale, one of which was a Pastry Art and Design, which had a recipe for Honey Spice cake, which I present here with a less intimidating approach. Pastry and baking are precise sciences, but not dauntingly so. Only the cake here is measured out; the rest of the components I just banged together on the stove, and guess what: this dessert is so incredibly delicious that I finished mine, apple chip and all, in a minute. I named it Temptation Tower from the apples I used to make it. Though some people say Eve offered Adam a quince at the Garden of Eden, I haven't tasted one before, so it's out of the question.
The thing is, I didn't have a mandoline that would create the very thin (think less than 1/16 inch) slices of apples I needed. I managed to buy a cheap Japanese one which was multifunctional to boot, for only P88 ($2.20). Granted, it'll probably dull after a few uses and that peeler is probably no good, but it's a lot better than shelling out thousands for a professional mandoline (maybe I ought to look into the Home Shopping Network). What I couldn't buy, though, is an extensive set of circular cutters, so I had to make do with my 2.5", 2.75", and 3" biscuit cutters. If I had smaller cutters, I would cut out the centers and make more dramatic compositions:
Ready? Let's make a Temptation Tower! (er... The dessert kind.)
Honey Spice Cake (adapted from a recipe from Finale, a Boston dessertery)
I was disappointed at first when I ate this cake fresh from the oven, since I found it to be chewy. However, after freezing it for storage and thawing it, it became very tender, and I quite liked it. Make sure to use good honey when making the cake.
Grease, line with parchment snugly, and grease again a half-sheetpan (12"x16"x1", but you can use a 10"x15"x1/2" pan as I did with no problems). Preheat the oven to 177°C (350°F). Place the allspice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, all-purpose flour, and salt in a sifter and sift together onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and honey at high speed until thick, pale, and no longer grainy when rubbed between the fingers, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture onto the batter and mix at low speed for 10 seconds just to combine (alternatively you can just fold it in by hand), making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Fold in half of the orange juice until combined. Repeat with another third of the flour, the rest of the orange juice, and the last bit of flour. Pour into the prepared pan and even it out with a large spatula. Bake for 14-19 minutes (it took me 17 minutes, but if you have a bigger pan, it will be closer to 14 minutes), or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging. Slip out of the pan onto a cooling rack and let cool completely for an hour. This cake may be frozen, wrapped twice in cling film then in foil, for a month.
For every 2 individual servings, you'll need:
Peel, core, and cut the apple into 16 wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar until well-combined. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the apple wedges. Keep tossing the apples in the butter (the juice will be released from the apples, then thicken) for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender. This can be chilled in the refrigerator for a few days; just reheat before use.
I could have bake this on top of the cake, but I didn't want to mess up the baking time, so I decided to keep it separate and heat it up later.
Place the butter cubes in a large bowl and sift the flour and cinnamon over them. Add the sugars and work with a pastry blender or your fingers until crumbly. Chill until needed. You may also freeze it for a month, covered airtight.
This cream is slightly sour, and achieves a great balance with the apples and streusel. If you don't like the taste of yogurt, simply substitute vanilla or caramel ice cream.
In a small microwave-proof bowl, place 2 tablespoons of the yogurt and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let sit for a minute, then microwave on LOW for 10 seconds, then stir to dissolve the gelatin completely. Transfer to a large bowl and fold the rest of the yogurt in and set aside at room temperature. In a large chilled bowl, place the cream and whip, adding the sugar gradually, until firm peaks are formed. Fold in the yogurt and set aside in the refrigerator.
I made a mistake the first time and forgot to use parchment paper. The chips stuck to my nonstick pan, and I had to discard them. I'm pretty sure these would keep well in temperate climates in an airtight tin for a day, but to be safe, I prepared them the same day. They're really quite easy. Make sure there's no peel on the apples when you slice them, as they dehydrate at a faster rate, causing wrinkling. However, the peel makes it easier to slice apples on a mandolin, so you may want to follow my recommended procedure here.
Line the bottom of a sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 94°C (200°F). Using a mandoline, slice the apples blossom side-down at the most 1/16" thick; you should be able to see through the slices. Using a set of circular cutters, cut out individual circles of apple slices, in the process removing the peel. Use a second smaller cutter to remove the core of the apple. Using a sifter, sprinkle the prepared pan with confectioner's sugar, then arrange the apples slices in various fashions, overlapping them for each individual garnish. Dust the tops of the slices evenly with more icing sugar (you do not have to use up all of the sugar; just return it when done). Dry in the oven for 40 minutes. If you've made wider rings as I have, you may need to dry them for longer. When done, peel the chips of the parchment and they should not bend.
Assembly: (makes about 12 servings)
Using a 3" cutter, cut out circles of the cake. Sprinkle the top with streusel (you may use the cutter as a guide so it doesn't go over the edge). You may place them all in a sheet pan and under the broiler for a few minutes to warm the streusel through, or just do as I did and place each individual serving on a microwavable plate and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. Arrange the sautéed apples on top slightly overlapping in a rose-petal formation. Top with a scoop of the yogurt cream and stand an apple chip on top like a tower or resting on the side as in the diagram I drew, on the right (use your imagination). Serve immediately as the cream will soften the apple chip and make it wilt in a few minutes.