Torta di Mele di Zia Mariolla
This is one of the recipes I brought home with me following my last visit with Zia but its path to this blog is nowhere near as direct as that statement makes it sound.
While having coffee with Zia, I mentioned that I baked a wonderful apple cake two years ago but have since lost the recipe. Try as I might, I can neither find nor duplicate that cake. My story reminded Zia of a slice of cake she was once served at her Daughter-in-Law’s home. She complimented my Cousin and asked for the recipe. Surprisingly, the recipe came from the other side of my family, my beautiful Zia Mariolla, who’s married to my Dad’s youngest Brother, Zio Leo. I’ve no idea how the recipe got to my Cousin’s cookbook but, lucky for us, it found its way into mine.
Perhaps what I like most about this cake is that it isn’t overly sweet and, in that regard, its lack of icing is a big plus. If you or your guests prefer a dessert that’s not too sweet, than serve them a piece of Zia’s cake just as she intended, with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. If, however, someone at the table would prefer something a bit more sweet, then have I got the thing for you, a salted caramel sauce. Within this post, I’ve included the recipe for the sauce and you’ll find it the perfect accompaniment for Zia’s cake. See? With or without the sauce, you really can have your cake and eat it, too.
Now, as for the recipe itself, the original doesn’t specify the kind of apples, raisins, nor nuts to be used. Having just visited the Honey Man in Michigan, I had fresh Cortland apples and black walnuts at my disposal. I used golden raisins simply because I had them on-hand. That’s it. The rest of the ingredients are quite common and you should have little trouble preparing this cake.
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On the road again …
I’m leaving for this year’s last visit with Zia. The Kitchens will be closed while I’m gone and will be re-opened on Wednesday, November 20th.
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Aunt Mary’s Apple Cake Recipe
- 1-3/4 c sugar
- 3/4 c oil
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 or 5 Cortland apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
- 1 cup chopped black walnuts, divided — any nuts may be substituted
- 1 cup golden raisins (pre-soak in warm water for 30 minutes)
- confectioners sugar (optional)
- salted caramel sauce for serving (optional)
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 2 tsp kosher salt (see Notes)
To prepare the cake
- Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C).
- Place all ingredients — except apples, raisins, and nuts — in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a spoon until well-blended. Batter will be stiff.
- Add apples, raisins, and half the nuts to the bowl and stir till evenly distributed.
- Pour batter into a well-greased 9 X 13″ baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining nuts.
- Bake in pre-heated 350˚ oven for 45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into center should be clean upon removal.
- Allow to cool before dusting with confectioners (powdered) sugar and serving.
To prepare the salted caramel sauce
- Pour the sugar into a medium sauce pan (see Notes) over med-high heat.
- Stir the sugar as it begins to melt and continue to do so until it begins to boil. Stop stirring the moment it begins to boil. (see Notes)
- Once boiling, look for it to change to an amber color. If necessary, swirl liquid in the pan but do not stir.
- Once the sugar has turned amber in color, reduce heat to medium, add the butter and whisk vigorously until melted and fully blended.
- Remove from heat, gradually add the cream, whisking all the while. Once blended, add the salt and continue to whisk until fully mixed.
- Set aside to cool for a few minutes before pouring into a sealable container for storage in the fridge, where it will keep for a couple of weeks.
- Warm before serving with your favorite dessert.
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The recipe will prepare salted caramel sauce. If you’re not a fan of salted caramel, reduce the amount of salt used, but do not eliminate all of it. A bit of salt is usually recommended with sweet preparations. I’d suggest using 1/8 or 1/4 tsp instead of the amount listed in the recipe.
Be sure to use a large enough saucepan. The sugar will boil and could boil over if your pan is too small.
You may stir the sugar as it melts but must stop stirring the moment it begins to boil. Failure to do so may result in sugar crystals ruining the texture of the finished sauce. Once almost all the sugar is melted, it’s best to put away the spoon and swirl the pan’s contents until all is melted, boiling, and begins to turn amber-colored.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT catch a dropped spoon that was used to stir the melting sugar. I can tell you from personal experience that the momentary joy you may feel for actually catching something with your left hand will be obliterated by the searing pain that only sugar burns can deliver.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
Last Saturday, All Souls’ Day was observed in a number of Christian churches. In Marche, where the Bartolini are from, it’s traditional to serve snails, lumache, on that day. Although my family never observed that custom, we did, on very rare occasions, prepare and serve lumache. If you’re interested in learning how it’s done, just click HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Green Tomato Relish
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