Reader Deb asks if it’s necessary to sift the flour for an upside-down cake, or whether a vigorous whisking will suffice. I advise a full sift myself, for cakes especially, but everywhere lightness counts: biscuits, sponges, pancakes, tea breads, the list goes on.
It’s true that some modern bakers consider sifting to be little more than a ritual, and an outdated one at that. I disagree, though I will admit that sifting isn’t nearly as critical for the home baker as it once was.
Reader Caitlin wants to know why, when she makes tarte Tatin with tart apples like Granny Smiths, they seem to melt away with heat.
That’s a great question, for as much as I love Granny Smith apples (my grandfather loved to eat them with sharp cheddar cheese) I never recommend them for baking. When it comes to exposing apples to heat you want hard, sweet-tasting apples. Tart apples are better for things like apple sauce.
It all has to do with the behavior of starch molecules, which are abundant in apples. Starches, as you’ll recall from other posts on the subject, are long molecules — chains of sugars — that plants use for structural purposes.
That’s not easy to say, since upside down tarts and cakes have been made since at least the day of the great Antoine Carême. Indeed Carême published recipes for several glazed gâteaux renversés, as he called them, in his Royal Parisian Pastry Chef cookbook, which is dated to the 1830’s.
So the idea is not very new and indeed probably came to prominence in the 1880’s with the rise of tarte Tatin, the famous upside-down apple tart made from sliced apples, caramel and puff pastry. The dish was “invented” at the Tatin Hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron, but its fame soon spread and was being made everywhere in Paris by the turn of the century.
Reader Marianna from Rio de Janeiro writes:
Hang on a second Joe, this is almost identical to a famous Brazilian cake called Bolo de Banana. The small difference is that we add cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the topping. Did Mr. Colicchio rip us off here?
As far as I know Marianna, no. But I sure like the idea of adding spices to the topping. I’m going to put that into the recipe. Thanks!
Though you can make this cake with pretty much any fruit, bananas are my go-to, mostly because they’re always in season and they caramelize so nicely. Also you don’t see too terribly many banana upside-down cakes. But they’re delicious. This one is adapted from an early Craft restaurant cookbook, from back before Tom Colicchio was a caricature. It’s a great oh-no-I-forgot-we’re-having-company-tonight cake. A low-investment knockout. You’ll need:
For the Topping
3 medium bananas (or equivalent of peaches, apricots, pineapple, cherries, apples or pears)
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
For the Cake
7.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2.5 ounces (1/3 cup) melted butter
2 eggs, room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
I have yet to add one of these to the blog, and I think it’s time, especially now that we’re getting into prime baking fruit season. Apples, pears…there are even a few Michigan and California peaches around still. Why not?
I had many, many — and still another many — comments waiting for me at summer’s end. I did a lousy job of keeping up with them, despite my promise that I would. When the upgrade happened I lost about 300 comments on various subjects, or at any rate lost the tags on them that […]
I made this for the 4th of July (hence the stars) and brought it to a pot luck. Two small slivers disappeared in the first half hour, but a few minutes later I noticed guests with pieces that were fully 1/4 of the pie. I took it as a compliment. Start by assembling your ingredients and preparing the crust according to directions. When the crust has rested, combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl like so:
This is a classic I couldn’t resist making, even on my summer off. It definitely belonged in the catalog. You’ll need:
One pie crust recipe for a double crust pie
Six cups fresh or frozen blueberries
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 ounces (4 tablespoons) tapioca flour (instant tapioca)
Hello all and hope you had a terrific summer and/or winter depending on your relative position on the globe. Things were delightful here in Kentucky. The summer started cool and wet and ended dry and hot. Along the way the Pastry clan got in lots of R&R, camped, spent time on the farm, and saw both a meteor shower and a moonbow (a rainbow by the light of the moon). I didn’t bake but I played the bass a fair amount, once at farm a wedding, then again on big boat, getting tossed about on Lake Michigan. I poisoned my lawn, grew it back again, and took a lot of naps.
Meanwhile, my trusty tech team was busy designing and building Joe Pastry version 3.0. I think you’ll agree that this is the simplest and sleekest Joe version yet. Designer extraordinaire Jason spent many an hour fiddling with fonts and streamlining…