Sorry to have been gone so long, but Sally and I have had a lot of catching up to do. It's very different for both of us with her here, on the outside, but it's also pretty great. My parents left Tuesday, which was both nice and scary, and the three of us are slowly settling into a routine. Mostly this involves nursing and reading and trying to sleep and doing laundry and walking, and while that might not sound like a lot, it keeps us very busy.
We've also managed to start cooking again—nothing very complicated—a salad for lunch, a pot of ham and beans for supper. But mostly, we've been relying on the kitchens of family and friends. Luckily we have good friends, friends who bring things like Torta di Mele, a moist, crackly apple cake that reminds me of my host mother in Spain. Lourdes made the best apple cake—it was moist and custardy and sweet, and I've tried but never been able to recreate it. Until Teresa brought one over, complete with a print out of the recipe. It's nearly gone now, so I don't have a proper picture for you, but believe me this is a cake you want to make. It is simple and elegant and in a very homey way quite pretty, and perfect this time of year.
We'll see you soon, friends, and until then, I hope we all find time to bake.
TORTA DI MELE
In English, this apparently is called "Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue." Whatever you want to call it, it comes from both Italy and Spain, and this version in particular comes from Lynn Rosetto Kasper's The Italian Country Table. Teresa's baked up beautifully—crackly and wispy on top and moist in the center.
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
shredded zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 large (about 1 pound) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg white
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
In a large bowl, work together the 2 cups of flour, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, the salt, and the butter with your fingers until crumbly. Take 1 cup of this mixture and press it over the bottom of the pan and about 1/2 inch up the sides to make a crust.
Make a well in the remaining crumb mixture. Add the milk, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, remaining flour, and baking powder. Blend these liquid ingredients in the well as best you can without mixing in the crumbs. Then stir in the crumbs until well blended but still a little lumpy. Fold in the apples and scrape the batter into the pan over the crust.
Beat the egg white until foamy in a small bowl. Beat in the remaining sugar until the mixture forms peaks. Spread this over the batter.
Bake for an hour to 75 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a straw comes out clean. Cool and serve at room temperature. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream make a nice accompaniment, but the cake is so moist that they aren't essential.