The theme of apples and sweetness continues through the coming weeks, as we move from the Jewish Holy Days, on through the holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot (or Succos), translates as “Feast of Tabernacles”, and commemorates the Jewish people’s 40 years of wandering in the desert between being released from bondage in Egypt to finally being permitted to enter Israel, their new permanent home. We are supposed to build a kind of impermanent dwelling outdoors, with a roof made of branches or palm leaves (depending on what’s available in your area), so you can still see the sky through it, and eat all of our meals during that week there.
This rustic Eastern European Apple Cake was always baked by my mother for the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), and for Sukkot. Two layers of sweet sugar cookie dough sandwich a layer of cinnamon-spiced shredded apples. I guess you could think of it as the less-sweet Jewish equivalent of a deep-dish apple pie. Except that it’s not pie. It’s cake. And it makes a delicious ending to dinner or your Yom Kippur break fast, a tasty snack with a cup of tea or coffee, or even your regular breakfast in a pinch. I won’t tell.
This post is about three years overdue. If it were a library book, I’d own it by now.
Eastern European Apple Cake
(Makes 8 – 12 servings)
For the dough:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 3 large apples (your choice)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbs. cane sugar
- Pinch of salt
- About 1 Tbs. additional sugar for sprinkling over the top.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease (either a thin coat of oil applied with paper towel, or cooking spray) an oven-safe 8″ x 12″ rectangular baking dish (I prefer clear glass, but you can use a metal baking pan), set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the egg, sugar, oil, juice, and vanilla extract to the well. Stir together, drawing the flour mixture in a little at a time as you stir, then switch to using your hand to combine thoroughly into a firm dough.
Divide the dough into 2 halves, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Roll one dough half into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick to fit into the bottom of the baking dish. Trim any excess dough and use it to patch any holes in the bottom crust.
Peel and core the apples, then shred them using either the large holes on a box grater or the shredding disc of your food processor. You should get about 4 cups of shredded apple. Mix the shredded apples with the cinnamon, sugar, and salt. When thoroughly combined, spread the filling evenly over the bottom crust.
Roll the second dough half into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick, as before. Lay the second crust over the top of the filling, tucking in around the edges. Trim off any excess and patch any holes.
Lightly score the top crust with a knife into 8 or 12 portions (see photo), and sprinkle the additional sugar evenly over the top.
Bake on the bottom oven rack for 55 – 60 minutes, or until both the top and bottom crusts are golden brown.
Don’t prepare the filling until the bottom crust is in place in the baking pan/dish. If left to sit too long, the apples will start juicing prematurely. You can drain off the juices, but that will result in a drier filling, and if you stir them back in, you could wind up with a soggy bottom crust.