It’s the first week of June and I actually tried to light a fire in the woodstove this morning. It didn’t take. I’m all out of kindling and fatwood and the few pieces of newspaper just didn’t do it. I could have gone out and gathered some branches from the woods, but they’d still be wet from the overnight rain. I gave up. And instead, let the thought of apple cake take firm hold as my energy shifted to the kitchen. Just like that. There’s no rationalizing these urges. A warm oven to bake a warm cake, while channeling the warmth that is coming to feed the now bulging apple blossoms that will yield an abundance of apples for me to make a new stock of spiced apple slices with. This was all there in that thought. I actually looked up my own blog post to find the last recipe I documented for said apple cake. I decided to make the same cake, gluten free. It’s been on my mind, this thing with wheat, not wanting to eat too much of it, my middle aged body beginning to sensitively register the effects of a lifetime of possibly too much, so many people in my life now who have discovered their own sensitivity to the modified gluten of modified wheat that is contained in so much of our processed food. The recipe would have to be modified further to use up the rest of the whole milk plain yogurt instead of heavy cream, some honey instead of maple syrup, (I didn’t have any cream or syrup) and the very last quart of spiced apple slices from the harvest here almost two years ago.
Combining and whipping together the butter, sugar and honey with a wooden spoon in a large metal bowl, produced a satisfying, thick cream. I beat in the eggs completely before adding the yogurt. All the dry ingredients were added to a smaller bowl to be whisked together before adding to, and mixing with the wet.
I learned from a master chef at a birthday party last year, that the secret to making a moist and successful gluten free cake is to add chia seeds. She explained that they do the job that the gluten in flour normally does by absorbing and holding liquid in the batter. The apples are then folded into the well mixed batter.
Once everything was mixed, and while preparing the pan, I let the batter sit for five minutes or so to give time to this alchemy between liquid and seed.
This journey with apple cake seems to be going on longer than I expected. There is a pattern forming but like a blueprint, it is only a guide at best. So much can happen in the making, flexibility becomes desirable. It is like making a series of quilts. There is a theme. Apples have been part of my life in a primal way for my whole life. Apple pie, candied apples, and apple turnovers are still objects of desire. But I always come back to the simplicity of the single beautiful fresh apple. One of my enduring memories is of trips to a farm in the fall with my family to get apples and pumpkins. My father would put the chosen bushel of apples, on occasion two bushels, out on the porch, usually red delicious, covered with a blanket, for keep all winter. I would go to retrieve one of those apples in the afternoon when I got home from school, cut it into slices, put it on a plate with a few pieces of cheddar cheese, sink into the couch, and eat slowly. I remember each sensation as if eating it right now, the sharp creamy cheese offsetting the crisp sweetness of the apple. The theme of comfort is as enduring as the memory. It’s time to read Ruth Reichl’s book “Comfort Me with Apples.’ Why have I waited so long? It is one of my daughter’s favorite books, I think shes actually read it twice. I find my copy on the bookshelf now, pages still crisp and untouched, a first edition sent to me in the year it was published, 2001, with an inscription from my mother, referencing the two apple trees I had just planted next to the ancient one in my front yard. My very first blog post here almost six years ago was inspired by the apples from those trees. And so it goes. Each version of apple cake becomes an evolved version of the last. A series could go on for a short time, producing just a few pieces, or it could go on for a lifetime to create a defining body of work.
I made the mistake of licking the spatuala after scraping all the batter into the pan. It was a shocking disappointment. A truly awful taste. My taste buds are so conditioned to the taste of wheat flour in batter and I wasn’t fully prepared for the difference. And for the time of baking I held onto the sinking feeling that this cake would be a disaster, truly afraid it might not be as delicious as the last and that I would have wasted my time and my precious last jar of apples. The journey doesn’t give us all wonderful easy places to rest along the way. When in one of those tough places, the only thing I can do is reach for a feeling good place. Only when the aroma filled the house with characteristic apple cake smell did I relax. It emerged from the oven with the golden glow that signaled all good. I had to wait about half an hour for the cake to cool enough to cut into.
It was a beautiful sight, layers of apples nestled comfortably and competently in the moist cake. The first bite filled me with a joy of both recognition and delight, of a core need met, of the discovery of something new. This cake was perfect in every way. No one would ever know it was ‘gluten free’.
Gluten Free Apple Cake with Honey
Cream 8 Tablespoons softened butter (1 stick) with
1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey
Add 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
Add 1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt
Whisk together in another bowl and add to wet ingredients until just mixed
2 cups gluten free flour (of choice)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Drain (1) quart spiced apple slices and fold into batter
Pour into 12″ round cake pan prepared with butter & (gluten free) flour
350 degrees for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.