Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD - Blueberry (and Candied Apple, and Chocolate Chip) Crumb Cakes




Yes, you read that right. This was the day I lost my mind.

First of all, I promise this won't be a marathon TWD post like last week's Yogurt Cake. Because, truly, I'm exhausted from this week's assignment. Oh, it's an easy cake to put together and all that. But when you're crazy like I am, and the voices in your head refuse to be silenced, it can get a little out of control. Especially when you decide to make all three versions you've been considering. On the same morning. On a weekday. Before work. Let's just say that even if I round down, I was still half an hour late for work.

My three ideas were Dorie's original blueberry, a vanilla bean version with chocolate chips, and one that I'm calling candy apple. I did almost all the prep work the night before, including making a triple batch of the crumb topping. I left the apple prep and making 3 batches of the batter for the morning. My plan was to caramelize the apples in a saute pan with butter and sugar. I have used this technique for apple pies since I read about it in the New York Times several years ago, and I love how the deeply browned apples absorb the cinnamon that is stirred in at the end. Pink Stripes had the same idea and offered it up in the P&Q.





I did the blueberry version first, and it looked like Smurf cake when I put it in the oven. I used frozen berries since fresh really aren't in season yet, and they colored the batter a lot. Mentally, I figured it was good I was making two other cakes since purple isn't the most appetizing color for a crumb cake. Then I sliced and sauteed the apples with butter and sugar and set them aside to cool. For the chocolate chip version, I added the contents of 1/2 a vanilla bean to the batter. I tossed the crumb topping on there and put it in the oven. Lastly, I added the cooled caramelized apples to the batter and put that in a pan, throwing all the remaining crumb mixture on top, smoothing it some and putting it in the oven.



During all of this, the crumb topping mix was sitting out on the counter.

The first cake baked uneventfully for 65 minutes before it tested done. It puffed up uniformly and the crumb topping browned beautifully. Success! When I was fetching it from the oven, I noticed the other two had butter slicks of varying sizes. Uh oh.

It took FOREVER for the chocolate chip version (which had been the second cake to go in the oven) to test done, and by that time, it was overdone. This was distressing, not just because I was late for work, but because the knife kept coming out with wet goo on it when I tested it. I realized that the crumb topping had somehow separated and the butter slick made it seem like the cake wasn't done even though it was. It was the butter slick that wasn't testing done.

We discussed the pool of butter problem on the P&Q, and we're still in the dark about why it happened. I thought leaving the crumb mixture out on the counter meant it wasn't cold enough to set properly, but Barbara took hers out of the fridge and put it on her cake and into the oven immediately, and she had a small pool of butter. So it's a mystery for all you food scientists out there.

After all the drama (less than last week, but still not uneventful), all three cakes were a hit. The chocolate chip version was in the oven for about 85 minutes, so its bottom was a little too brown, but it still got raves (I couldn't really taste the vanilla, so maybe I need to add more). The blueberry was the first to disappear, and the purple color didn't show in the finished product (magic!). The apple was amazing, the caramelization adding both sweetness and bite to the meltingly tender apples. If you'd like to try this version, here's how you do the apples (they're also great on top of vanilla ice cream):

Caramelized apples (adapted from the New York Times)

5 Gala apples, cored, peeled, sliced lengthwise into 6 pieces, each piece sliced crosswise 1/4" thick
4 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large skillet (not non-stick) over medium heat, then add the apples. Overcrowding the apples will keep them from browning properly. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir to distribute. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until the apples have taken on a deep caramel color. As the apples brown more, they require more attention. If they get a little sticky or the pan seems unusually hot, add a pat of butter. Once the apples are well-browned and tender, remove pan from the heat. Stir in cinnamon. Set aside to cool before adding to the batter.

To use these apples in Dorie's recipe, eliminate the extra 2 teaspoons of flour, the blueberries and the lemon zest. The cinnamon for the apples is in addition to what is called for in the cake.

We have Sihan of Fundamentally-Flawed to thank for this versatile and delicious recipe. Check out what the other TWD bakers did here. I can't wait to see how they interpreted Dorie's recipe!

28 comments:

Marthe said...

Your version with the caramelet apples sounds absolutely wonderful: I must try that sometime!

Cakelaw said...

The apple one particular in looks gorgeous - must try that.

Cristine said...

WOW! You are awesome making 3 different versions! I will definately be trying the apple version SOON!

Jessica said...

All three versions sound really good to me, I'm having a hard time deciding which one I think sounds best. At any rate, I'm super impressed with your dedication to the crumb cake. The chocolate and vanilla is inspired and the caramelized apples just sound so good!! I'm glad that they all worked out.

myfamousrecipe said...

My frozen blueberries turned the batter purple/blue, too, but the finished product came out fine. Magic disappearing colors!

Thanks for sharing the caramelized apples recipe. I've got to try that one!

Cathy said...

Phew, reading your post makes me feel that "clock is ticking, pressure is on" feeling like it's happening to me! But what great results in the end! All three look wonderful, but you know I'd try a piece of the chocolate chip first! My blueberry cake batter was Smurflike as well, but it didn't really Smurf up on me until I couldn't leave well enough alone and had to go back and try to add in a forgotten ingredient. It was sort of magical how that color baked out, though! Your cakes look amazing!!!

chocolatechic said...

Vanilla and chocolate chip!!!

Your my hero!!!

Snooky doodle said...

looks delicious! yum yum

n.o.e said...

OK, I think blogger at my comment!? Anyway, please save me a piece of that apple version, OK? Great job.
Nancy

Gabe's Girl said...

I loved all the flavor combos you tried! Very creative energy. I really love the posts where people just put it all at there, cause that is how we grow as foodies. It can't always be perfect!

My theory is that batter left out too long especially with a dry crumb topping WILL absorb surrounding moisture from the air. It will also do this in a freezer and fridge if not covered properly.
Anyway, your cakes look delicious!

Emily Rose said...

wow this is very impressive! The chocolate chip idea sounds amazing!

pinkstripes said...

Too bad about all the drama, but it was worth it.

I'm glad to know the apple version was fabulous. I can't wait to try it. :)

Megan said...

Dang, now I need to go and make one with the apples. What a great idea...

SUGAR B said...

I want all of them!

85 minutes of baking time?! That is crazy!

I love your dedication and baking spirit.

May the Crumb Cake Gods be with you!

Thanks for the TWD visit!

hannahkinley said...

Apples and Chocolate chips... Great Adaptation I love it. Good Job!

Di said...

I'm impressed. I've baked stuff in the morning to take into work, but never three cakes in one (early) morning! Your apple version sounds delicious--I'm going to keep that in mind the next time I make coffeecake.

vibi said...

Oh! Ho! Deadly, divine... with caramelized apples! What a great idea!

Very nicely done, Leslie!

Sweet as Coco said...

Wow, you crack me up! I can't believe anyone would attempt ALL this before going to work! You are my hero! Great job! Apple sounds tasty....

The Food Librarian said...

Oh my gosh! What an overachiever you are!!! :) I love the caramelized apples. That sounds sooo delicious!

kittymama said...

Wow, you were ambitious! The apple version sounds great. I had the butter pool too and kept my crumb topping chilled. Next time, freezer maybe but I also think perhaps less butter in the mix would help.

leanne said...

Three cakes. Impressive. They all sound wonderful but the apples sound amazing.

Pamela said...

Well, I'm certainly impressed by the versions you've created here. I must say that the apple sounds incredible! Well done!

Karen said...

WOW!! All three versions sounds absolutely delicious! Bummer about the butter slick. I wonder how that could be fixed. Otherwise looks like these all turned out great!

natalia said...

Wow ! You are a hero !! I really would like to try the apple one !!

Flourchild said...

Wonderful cake! Apple is a great choice. This recipe was so good!

TeaLady said...

Wow!! I am impressed. How on earth do you find the time in the morning. You must get up with the chickens. I am up, make lunch, go to work.

I like the choco chip the best, but that apple looks wonderful too. Guess I will just have to try both. The look delicious.

Jacque said...

Oh my goodness, they all sound wonderful. I'm afraid I would have had to try one of each.

Way to go!

farah said...

Wow, you have been busy :)
These sound wonderful! Mine did not turn out at all. So glad yours were a hit!