I probably shouldn’t, but I’m just going to say it. I am not a baker. I can fake it, but it isn’t my thing. Okay, I said it. I feel better.
My mom, known as Oma to the girls, came over this week to start teaching us her time honored yeast cakes, tarts, and strudels. We’ve been meaning to pick her brain for a few years and I kid her all the time when I say we need to get these recipes on paper before she gets too old. I can say this because my mom at 78 is totally youthful and awesome, and has all her marbles. Lucky girl.
Gabrielle has been dying to learn Oma’s chocolate yeast cake, an absolute must every Easter and Christmas morning at our house. She labored for several hours and of course it was perfect. Gabrielle, you might guess, loves to bake. She was smiling from ear to ear with when her creation came out of the oven. [Edit from Gabrielle – it was, in fact, perfect. Read post here!] I decided to make another venerable favorite – a German cake made with tart dough, but baked in a rectangular form. The dough recipe was in German so that meant translating the directions and measurements, which Oma faithfully did. We were doubling a basic recipe and adding new ingredients that have been added over the years. I unfortunately did the conversions from grams. Big mistake. It seemed like it was going well until I took the dough out of the fridge after the compulsory “resting” phase, and tried to roll it out. It seemed very moist, which it was because I forget to double the flour! You can’t do that baking. If a savory recipe calls for 4 cloves of garlic and you only add two, oh well. If you don’t double the flour in a cake, it’s a disaster. Lesson learned, new bakers, you can’t really add 2 more cups of flour after the “resting” phase.
And that is why I like to cook so much more. I can make mistakes and no one will know. In fact, mistakes often make dishes better, but more on that another day. My mother refused to give up on the dough. We DO NOT waste ingredients, she said. So she worked her magic and somehow added the missing flour to the finished dough. I don’t know how she did it, but the cake was very good and it didn’t get all weird and gluten-y, which is supposed to happen when you overwork dough. So here is the Correct recipe and the final product, a delicious cake, with almost perfect texture (firm but a bit crumbly) and the just the right amount of cinnamon and sugar. Mutti, you’re a genius.
Below you’ll find my mothers perfect recipe, free from my silly mistakes! Let us know if you decide to make it! And do you have any time honored family traditions? Tell us about them below!
Oma’s German Apple Cake
- 4 cups (250 grams) flour
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250) grams unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs lightly whisked
- Pinch salt
- 4 Granny Smith apples cored and peeled
- Scant ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
- 3-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
- Place the butter in the freezer for a least one hour before.
- Cut the butter in one-inch slices.
- Place flour in a large bowl. Add butter and sugar.
- Using a pastry blender or food processor, blend until mixture is crumbly and much of the dough is in pea size pieces.
- Add the vanilla, eggs and a pinch of salt. Mix until just well blended.
- Divide the dough in half and roll each into a ball. Flatten the ball to create a disc and wrap them each in wax paper or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Slice the apples 1/8 inch thick, preferably using a mandolin so all the pieces are the same size. Set aside.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out both halves to fit a 13 X 9 pan, preferably with a one-inch rim.
- Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the apples, being sure to evenly distribute them on the bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle 3 or 4 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar evenly over the apples.
- Take the second rolled out dough and carefully place it on top of the apples. Tuck in the dough on all the sides so an even crust will form.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown. Let cool in pan and cut into squares.
- Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.