Fresh Apple Coffee Cake

4 Jun

I know, I know, the summer is here and I should be cranking out recipes with berries and cherries and rhubarb and the beginnings of stone fruit. Trust me, I’m working on it. I found the most luscious and sweet and plump strawberries the other day. I have been intending to make something with them-sorbet, a strawberry rhubarb crumble, a cake…but alas, I have been too tempted to just eat them as is because they are irresistibly sweet.

This past week I have been filtering through all of the goods that I left at my parent’s house over the years to sit in the dust. I have clothes from when I was a young girl, food magazines galore, old school papers, books, CDs, a boom box… As I sat down with my pile of old recipes from various magazines, online sites, and old cooking classes, I stumbled upon a recipe that I treasure and hold very dearly.

I made this recipe for Fresh Apple Coffee Cake at a “grandmother workshop” cooking class about three and a half years ago. It was taught by Pastry Chef Siew Chinn-Chin from Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Below is a short article I wrote about the class and my time spent working in the kitchens of Chez Panisse. I wrote this for the Bay Area Dietetic Association Newsletter the summer after my freshman year of college. This is really when I began to delve into the restaurant world…:

My Delicious Summer

        Three dollars?! I could not believe it! These classes are usually seventy–five dollars, at least! Just as I was preparing to take my finals before summer break, I had the opportunity to attend a quickbread workshop taught by Chez Panisse pastry cook Siew-Chinn Chin. After explaining my interest in good, nutritious food to the chefs and instructors, I wrote down contact information and was able to join the rest of the Chez Panisse pastry staff the following week to stage. I could not wait to stage, except I was not entirely clear what “stage” meant. After checking with my sources (google, to be exact), I found out that the word “stage” is in fact pronounced “stAHj” and refers to an apprenticeship whereby one goes into the restaurant kitchen to expose him/herself to the way things run.

        On the day of my stage I came prepared with my non-skid shoes, black pants, pen, sharpie, and notebook in hand, not to mention a series of nervous yet excited butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. From the moment I walked in and put on a chef coat and apron, I was busy, busy, busy. After a morning of baking and counting “ossi dei morti” and “langues de chat” cookies, slicing and sorting fresh cherries, hulling strawberries with a “bird peak” knife, and washing and trimming fig leaves, it was time for tasters! Yes, around eleven fifteen a.m. I stood, spoons in hand, with the pastry chef, sous chef, pastry cook, and intern, ready to taste every single dessert before serving it to the café. We took tiny tastes of bittersweet chocolate pave with a hazelnut cream, rhubarb tart, meyer lemon ice cream and sorbet, and pavlova, scrutinizing every detail and noting the quick changes that needed to take place before serving. Then, around twelve thirty, I had the most gourmet lunch I had eaten in ages, consisting of whatever leftovers were lying around. Did I mention that I packed a lunch? Silly me, I should have known that I would be feasting on Chez Panisse ravioli, salad, fish, white bean soup, and crème fraiche ice cream while having causal conversation with the staff.

        After lunch, a man brought in freshly picked roses from his garden, and since they were grown without pesticides, the cooks and I whipped up an egg white wash to brush onto the petals and then we dipped them in sugar to serve with a meringue. I could go on and on about my day there, but there is one more aspect that I really want to applaud Chez Panisse for: using fresh ingredients and trying to reduce waste. So many restaurants have microwaves lining the kitchen and huge units for storing frozen foods. At Chez Panisse, however, it is unthinkable to throw away an orange peel. Instead, it would be sliced thinly and candied. Delicioso! I have been told that restaurant kitchens are brutal war zones and that I am too “beautiful” to work in a kitchen. I have been told that I should go on television and tell people that broccoli is good for them, and I have been told that I will not make a lot of money as a chef and/or dietitian. Nonetheless, my summer of staging and taking cooking classes confirmed that I do want to work in the industry even more than I did before, and that I want to live and breathe food and the culture around it.

Wow. This makes me feel so nostalgic. Next week I move to New York City to embark on a new journey of restaurant-ing and cooking and surrounding myself with lovely food people. Looking back, I see how much I have grown and how much more I have to learn. From that summer on, I have not stopped making food and restaurant cooking a huge part of my life. I remember how ecstatic I was to be working at this famous restaurant, even though I spent most of the day prepping fruit. Just being in an environment like that was out of this world.

I made this Fresh Apple Coffee Cake at the grandmother quickbread workshop. It is totally rustic and will make you fall in love. The apples bake up sweet and almost caramelize in the pan. The nuts add a rich comforting flavor. And the cinnamon and nutmeg make the whole cake pop. This recipe is meant for everyone, for novice cooks and for experienced cooks and for non-cooks who just like to eat well. It is quite straightforward. And I love the method of cracking an egg over the apples and then adding the sugar and butter and finally the dried ingredients. The method just adds to the easy rustic vibe of the cake.

Fresh Apple Coffee Cake (9 servings)

recipe from Siew Chinn

Flour                1 C

Salt                   1 t

Baking Soda   1 t

Cinnamon       1 t

Nutmeg           1 t

Apple               2 C (peeled, cored, and diced)

Egg                   1

Butter              1/4 C (melted)

Sugar              1 C

Nut                  1/2 C (chopped and lightly toasted-walnut, pecan etc)

Line an 8 inch baking pan and set oven at 350 F (NOTE: If you are using a glass baking pan, raise the temperature by 25 degrees. If you are using a black bottom pan, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees).

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. Place apple in a medium bowl, break egg over apples, add melted butter, sugar, and nuts and mix thoroughly. Stir dry mixture into apple mixture just until flour is moist. Spread in the greased pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack.


4 Responses to “Fresh Apple Coffee Cake”

  1. Tina @ vanillandspice June 4, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Great recipe. I can see why you made it again after three years!
    Good luck in New York 😀


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    […] muffins baked up to look and taste quite similar to the fresh apple coffee cake that I made a few months […]

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    […] Fresh Apple Coffee Cake […]

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