Surgery keeps me happy without doubt; there is nothing I love more than being in the midst of bloody operating fields and clean, shiny instruments. The spontaneous adrenaline rush as I scrub to assist a case must also be triggering a release of endorphins. My passion for the surgical field has forever been encouraged by my surgical Sp who has always made me feel at home in the unit.

So this one is for the whole of my beloved surgical team, the wonderful spirit of camaraderie that binds us together and the ever-present joie de vivre it brings to me even in my worst moments of depression. I think of you with lots of tendresse and a twinge of nostalgie. While not being a multilayered, intricately iced fancy-looking cake, the French Apple Cake remains one of my favourites. Few basic ingredients, a plain 8″ cake pan and a strong wire whisk are all you need to reproduce this divine dessert, taken from David Lebovitz‘s blog, in your own kitchen.

FRENCH APPLE CAKE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (110g) flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

4 large apples (a mix of varieties)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup (150g) sugar

3 tablespoons dark rum

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons (115g) butter

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.
  • Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  • Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch (3cm) pieces.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla.
  • Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

  • Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.
  • Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared pan.
  • Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

  • Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan.
  • Serve wedges of the cake just by itself, or with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
  • The cake will keep for up to three days covered under a cake dome or overturned bowl.

Another elegant gâteau inspired from France is the Brittany Cake or gâteau breton, a golden butter cake with a wonderfully dense texture similar to shortbread. It can be served plain or topped with a fruit coulis but the cake’s flavour itself can be enhanced with the addition of nuts or spirit though it would then no longer be an authentic gâteau breton. As it bakes into a beautiful golden hued crust, the centre of the cake remains moist giving it the unique ‘outer crisp, inner soft’ combination of textures in a single bite. Recipe from AlmostBourdain.

GATEAU BRETON

Ingredients:

225g plain flour

250g caster sugar

250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

6 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 tsp egg yolk, from above

1 tbs water

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Butter and flour a 25cm springform pan.
  • Combine 1 tsp yolk and water for the glaze. Place flour in a bowl, stir in sugar and add butter and yolks.

  • With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, slowly whirr till you’ve got a smooth golden dough.
  • Scoop this dough into the tin, and smooth the top with a floured hand, expect it to be very sticky.

  • Brush gateau with the glaze, and mark a lattice pattern design on top with the prongs of a fork.
  • Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 180 C/gas mark 4 for 15 min.

  • Then give it another 25 minutes or so until it’s golden at the top and firm to the touch.
  • Let it cool completely in the tin before unmoulding it. Serves 8-10.

La cerise sur le gâteau!

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