Tradition. It's what keeps us going, right?! Well, today is all about tradition around here. First off, tonight marks the start of the tradition of Passover--woo-hoo, bring on the matzah! Secondly, my Famous Friday honoree of this week, is a man who not only honors the traditions of the past but keeps on making new ones himself with his continual contribution to the food world. Today I'm so excited to celebrate The Food Maven, aka Arthur Schwartz, a veritable culinary guru and one of the original foodies himself! For 18 years Arthur was the restaurant critic and executive food editor of the NY Daily News. He's also hosted a wildly successful radio food show and is the author of some 6 award-winning cookbooks to date. In addition, he's devoted much time and attention to preserving the history of food in America, with a heavy focus on the traditional foods of NYC and their origins. So in keeping with the theme of the day, I'm sharing Arthur's very traditional and very wonderful recipe for Passover Apple Cake. (And count yourself lucky that sound doesn't carry through the screen, as I was belting out the Fiddler theme song in sporadic outbursts as I wrote this!)
I first became acquainted with Arthur when my oldest was a newborn (he just turned 21-yikes!!) and was a difficult sleeper. In those early months, I spent many hours driving him around to get him to sleep and listening to the radio. One day I was fiddling around with the dials and heard Arthur's charming Brooklyn-accented voice, telling some interesting food story and I was hooked! Suddenly I started looking forward to those drives! He's got a great sense of humor combined with a no nonsense delivery and a true love of good food and the stories that surround that food, which is of course, right up my alley!
Since Passover starts tonight it was a no brainer to share one of Arthur's Jewish recipes, and though I'm generally not a fan of baked goods using matzo cake meal, this cinnamon apple walnut concoction, really is a winner. It's dense but moist and full of sweet apple goodness. Areal crowd pleaser!!
And I know I'm sharing this on the day that Passover starts and you probably want to kill me for not doing it earlier in the week--sorry, but it's truly easy to make so if you're still undecided about what to serve or bring to someone's house, don't shy away from this. I promise it'll be worth the effort. Takes just about 20 minutes to put together and then the rest of the time you just leave it alone as it bakes.
And yes, it's little messy, but then again, Passover is kind of a messy holiday--think of all those matzah crumbs and besides this is a cake you serve to your family and friends--so what if it doesn't exactly look perfect?!!
Anyway, for those of you who celebrate, have a great seder tonight and to all of you, a wonderful weekend, full of good food, family and friends. Pick up a copy of one of Arthur's books or visit his website The Food Maven and start some traditions of your own!
Arthur Schwartz's Passover Apple Cake-Famous Fridays
Serves 8-10 people (more if you have other desserts, as this is kind of heavy and dense and can be served in small pieces)
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes; Bake Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
For the Topping
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the Cake
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup matzo cake meal
- 5 medium-sized apples ( I used Golden Delicious) peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 1/3 cup raisins (I used yellow and this is optional)
1. Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Lightly spray an 8-inch square glass baking dish with non-stick vegetable spray or coat lightly with oil. Set aside.
2. To make the Topping: Place the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix together. Set aside.
3. To make the Cake: Use an electric mixer to beat the eggs together on medium-high speed until they're well mixed. Slowly, add in the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time and beat until the mixture is thick and foamy. In a steady stream, beat in the oil. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then use that spatula to stir in the cake meal and make sure that the mixture is well combined.
4. Pour about half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the topping evenly over the batter. Top with half the apple slices and all of the raisins (if using). Pour the remaining batter over the top and spread it out to cover the apples. Place the rest of the apples on top and sprinkle the remaining topping evenly over it all.
5. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the topping is caramelized and the cake seems like it's pulling away from the sides of the dish a bit. You can't really use a tester to judge because the cake is so moist and even if it's done, the tester won't come out clean. Let the cake sit on a rack to cool completely. If you try to cut it too soon, it'll fall apart. When cool, cut into chunks and serve.
6. This can definitely be made the day before and kept covered tightly with plastic wrap, at room temperature. It actually improves with age and the topping becomes almost candy-like.
Note: Recipe adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking.