While I was driving home, I was thinking what to make with them since I always think about how I can turn anything and everything into a sweet treat. Suddenly I had a flash back to May of 2003 when I did a food tasting as part of my job interview. I had to make two plated desserts and a birthday cake in 3 hours. One of the desserts had to be fruit and the other chocolate. I made a beautiful chocolate pot de creme and a layered nectarine and mascarpone crumble. So while I was driving home I thought, “why not tweak that dessert you made five years ago?”. That was my plan.
We ate lunch, I put my son down for his nap and planned on starting to make the different components for the dessert. I had some crumble in the freezer and I used some of the leftover cake that I baked for the Daring Bakers challenge. That’s how I function. I bake and freeze, bake and freeze.
So I baked the pistachio crumble, cut the cake, whipped the mascarpone cream and when I went to cut the nectarines… Well, you guessed it… they were rotten! Brown, grainy and sandy nectarines. I knew it! It happens every time I try to break the seasonality rules. I deserve the punishment.
So I looked in my fruit basket, saw that I had some golden delicious apples and decided to use them instead. My executive pastry chef and friend Sebastien Thieffine won best plated dessert title at the 2004 Bread and Pastry Championship with a lovely apple and almond dessert. His dessert had a hazelnut streusel bottom, poached apples, citrus pain de genes, champagne sabayon, creme brulee and green apple ice cream. It was magnificent to say the least. I really loved his technique to poach the apples so I decided to go ahead and use it here.
100 grams sugar
200 grams water
1/2 lemon juice
1 Tbs calvados
2 Granny Smith apples, medium dice
Make a syrup with the sugar and the water by bringing them to a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool in the saucepan. In the meantime, peel and cut the apples into medium size pieces. Mix them with the lemon juice so they do not oxidize. When the syrup is cool, add the calvados and the apples to the saucepan. Cover the pot entirely with plastic wrap. Wrap another piece of plastic lightly around the pan. We are trying to create a vacuum.
Place the pan on the stove over medium to high heat. The plastic will start to rise forming a balloon. We want this. Keep it on the heat until it looks like the plastic it’s going to pop. Remove from heat and the plastic will immediately start to shrink down forming a vacuum inside the pan.
I don’t really know what the science is behind this. The tight plastic creates almost like a pressure cooker and cooks the apples rapidly so they don’t lose their color, they just become a little translucent. It’s brilliant! But it’s very important that the plastic is very tight around the pan otherwise, the steam will scape.
Another way of doing this is to place the apples with the syrup in a plastic bag and vacuum seal it, or sous-vide it. Then place the bag in boiling water for a couple of minutes until the apples are soft and shock it in ice water to stop the cooking process. This works but not everyone has a vacuum sealer at home.
Store the apples in the syrup in the refrigerator until ready to use. When we are ready to plate the dessert, then drain them on top of a paper towel to eliminate excess moisture.
100 grams unsalted butter
100 grams sugar
100 grams flour
125 grams pistachios, chopped
pinch of salt
Cream all ingredients together in an electric mixer. It will be crumbly. Place on a cookie sheet or in an air tight container and refrigerate over night. I normally make a large batch and freeze it and then I bake what I need.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until it is golden brown. When cool, break into small pieces.
Spiced Mascarpone Cream
60 grams organic heavy cream
60 grams mascarpone cheese
15 grams sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of mace
Whip all ingredients together to semi stiff peak, just like whipped cream.
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Divide the batter into 3 6-inch pans and bake at 350 degrees. To check if they are done, insert a toothpick in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, it is done.
Let the cake cool and with a cookie cutter the same size as your ring mold, cut cake circles. Then cut these circles horizontally into three.
Assemble the Dessert
Place a metal ring on top of the dessert plate. Press the crumble into the bottom of the metal ring. We want an even, thin layer. Spoon the drained apples on top and apply some pressure on top with a small spoon. Keep even layers. Lift up the metal ring carefully so we have the crumble and the apples on the plate in a circle.
Place a disk of buttermilk cake on top. Dust powdered sugar on top and finish with some mascarpone cream. As decoration, I rolled a dried vanilla been in granulated sugar.