A thick layer of apples between two sheets of shortcrust pastry, some roasted hazelnuts in between… rustic and utterly delicious.
Although this is not necessarily a Romanian recipe, the apple cake reminds me very much of the typical Romanian apple cake that my great-grandmother or her daughters (all of them except my own grandma, who was not much into baking) used to bake. The main difference is in the base, the Romanian version features a thick, dryish sponge base, while this cake is made with shortcrust pastry, so it is more like a pie. And so, although the taste of the cakes is indeed very similar, eating this particular pie-like version makes it an even more enjoyable experience.
I’ve always liked the taste of the Romanian apple cake, but I was never keen on eating more than one small piece, it was just too dry, but this cake, I could eat a lot of it (which might not be such a good thing altogether), the fact that it consists primarily of apples makes it just wonderful.
I’ve made this for the first time last week and especially for the blog. My mother-in-law was here and another friend came by with her daughter. I had taken a few pictures of the whole pie before they came, but it was raining outside and the kitchen was dark, so I thought it’s just not worth it taking any pictures in the dark anymore. I intended to take some photographs of the slices the next morning when I would have better light.
Well, I had to fight to save two small last pieces… My husband came home in the afternoon and wanted to have some cake as well and I had to tell him he had to wait until the next day after I am finished taking pictures… He did wait but quite in vain: he managed to snitch a mini-piece of the leftovers, all the rest was eaten by the kids.
A few words about the recipe. You will have to peel and grate quite a lot of apples, it is not hard work, but it takes a while, I think I needed about 20 minutes just for that. The amount of apples used makes this pie perfect for using up a larger amount of those apples you might get from your generous neighbors this time of the year.
The shortcrust pastry is not so beautifully rolled as one might think, but that is not a problem either. Divide the pastry in two equal pieces and roll as good as you manage. The pastry will probably break when you transfer it to the casserole dish, just press it with your fingers to make it whole again. That is very easily done on the bottom of the dish and it works as well for the upper sheet of pastry. The whole thing doesn’t have to look perfect, the charm of this pie is its being so rustic… 🙂 Sprinkle the pie with a nice layer of icing sugar just after baking it and it will look just great.
I used a glass casserole dish to bake the pie. You don’t have to use a glass dish if you don’t have one, any kind of casserole dish or a deeper pie dish would do, but a glass thing does help you see better when the pie is finally baked. Just lift the dish carefully above your head (don’t drop it) and have a look at the bottom layer of the pastry, it should have a flaky look and it shouldn’t look wet anymore.
- 300 g/ 10.5 oz/ 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ½ cup granulated sugar
- 200 g/ 7 oz butter, cold and cubed
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ½ kg/ 3.3 lbs apples
- 3 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts
- icing sugar
- Place the flour and sugar in the food processor. Pulse shortly to mix. Add the cold and cubed butter and the egg yolks and process shortly until you obtain some big crumbs of dough. Turn the mixture on the working surface, knead lightly to form a ball, wrap this in plastic foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until you prepare the rest.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a casserole form, 30x20 cm/ 12x8 inches.
- Roast the hazelnuts in a large pan without any fat until they become fragrant and a shade darker. Keep an eye on them all the time and shake the pan often. Transfer to a plate and let cool until you prepare the rest.
- Peel and roughly grate the apples. Mix them with the vanilla sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon.
- Divide the pastry into two equal parts. Press one part into a rough rectangle. Roll it as good as you can on a floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Run a knife under the pastry sheet to help it come off the surface and place it carefully in the casserole dish. If it breaks, push it back in form with your fingers, everything will stick together again perfectly. Prick with a fork all over the place.
- Sprinkle the pastry with ½ of the roasted hazelnuts.
- Take one handful of the apples and squeeze it to remove the excess liquid (you could reserve the juice to drink it, if you wish). Continue this way with the remaining grated apples. Spread the apples on top of the pastry and level. Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top.
- Roll the rest of the pastry like you did the first time. Place the pastry on top of the apples and press with the fingers to repair the broken parts, it works even if there are apples underneath. Prick the pastry with the fork again.
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the pastry is really golden. If you use a glass casserole dish, lift it and look underneath to check the bottom, if the bottom pastry layer doesn't look wet anymore, the pie is done. Sprinkle the hot pie with the icing sugar.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. I can imagine a dollop of ice cream or some whipped cream would be great on top of the pie.
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