My daughter Anna turns two today! And we have been celebrating her birthday month with lots of apples! This past month Thomas, Anna and I have gone several times to the small playground near our house where there stands an overly abundant apple tree between the sandy play area and a large grassy field. There are other smaller plum trees lining this field whose plums have all been used up by now but many of the apples on this plentiful tree are still intact, ripe and ready to be picked.
Kids from our neighborhood come to play here in the afternoons and to eat the apples from this tree, regularly it seems… and we with the help of an apple picker and Thomas’ long reach, have reaped plenty of bountiful harvests from its branches as well!
On one of our apple picking adventures we saw kids with homemade bows and arrows trying to “shoot down” the good apples from the top of the tree. Luckily with the help of our 10 euro apple picker from the local garden supply store across the street, which the kids were more than eager to use upon our arrival at the site, we had a small band of happy archers munching on apples all afternoon and trying to reach just one more apple that had eluded the reach of their bows and arrows just moments before.
Anna, too, was happy to snack the afternoon away on bites of apple while we picked and she played in the sand or in the little wooden house on the hill that overlooks the heavily laden branches of this well-loved apple tree.
There are two great draft horses grazing in a nearby field that are enormous but sweet that we see whenever we go walking through the fields on our way to the apple tree. Upon Anna’s firm
request demand we must always give up some of our spoils from the tree on our short journey home past these large, grey workhorses because she knows that horses love apples and therefore won’t let us pass without having us share some of our apple harvest with them.
The horses are grateful and always bow their heads to let us stroke their mane after they’ve eaten the tasty apples from this tree.
Now, whenever Anna sees the horses (or any horses for that matter) she always says “horsh, appbye!” which is Anna-speak for “The horses need to have their apples!”
Anna and I even brought some of our apples with us to her morning playgroup that we attend once a week and the kids made German apple cakes there. The teacher who leads the group used a very simple dough recipe and gave us all a copy to take home. I have been playing around with the recipe at home since then, altering it to make different variations of this traditional and ever popular German apple dessert, Apfelkuchen.
Upon reflection, October has been a lovely month for us here (in Germany) filled with birthdays, lots of long afternoon walks with Thomas and Anna in the golden rays of the setting sun, through the fields, picking apples, feeding the horses and of course making plenty of apple pies and cakes.
The Original Apple Cake(s)
German Apfelkuchen (German Apple Cake)
Adapted slightly from Elke’s recipe
For the Dough
250 grams of Quark (or 1 cup of Greek yogurt*)
6 tablespoons of Oil
100 grams (about 1/2 a cup) Sugar
1 pinch of Salt
300 grams (about 2 cups) Flour
1 package (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Baking Powder
1 package Vanilla Sugar (or 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract)
For the rest of the cake
About 4 Apples cored and sliced
2 tablespoons of Cinnamon
Powdered Sugar (also optional)
*Quark is a common milk product found here in Germany that is similar to sour cream but not as sour. Since this is very hard to find in the U.S. I replaced this with equal amounts of thickened yogurt and it comes out just as good. You can buy thick yogurt or Greek yogurt at the store or you can put plain yogurt, two to two and a half times the amount that you will need, in a cheesecloth or paper towel lined colander over a bowl and leave it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or over night. This will strain and thicken the yogurt to the consistency of quark.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl then stir in all the wet ingredients until the dough is will mixed. Form into a ball and press into a flat circle on a greased and floured baking sheet or on baking sheet covered with baking paper. Cover the dough with Apple slices, raisins (optional) and cinnamon, you can turn the edges up around the sides if you like or leave it flat, and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Alternately you can make 3 or 4 individual little apple cakes by splitting the dough up and making smaller portions.
This recipe is very easy and quick to make and fun for kids if you have them help you roll the dough out and put the apple slices on!
Whole Grain Version of the Apple Cake
Same as above only use half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. Cut the sugar down to 1/3 of a cup of demerara sugar or “sugar in the raw” and add 1 egg to the dough.
Another Apple Cake
For the Dough
1 cup Quark or thick Yogurt (see recipe above)
1 cup White Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup finely chopped Sweet Almonds (optional)
1/2 cup Applesauce (I used unsweetened)
4-6 tablespoons Rum (optional)
80 grams (about 1/3 of a cup) of Demerara Sugar or Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or 1 package Vanilla Sugar
2 free range Eggs
For the Topping
4-6 Apples cored, peeled and sliced
2 cups Sour Cream
4-5 teaspoons Cinnamon
4-5 tablespoons Sugar
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and applesauce and half the rum (if using) and heat over medium-high heat until the sugar is melted and well incorporated. Off the heat stir in the rest of the rum and the vanilla extract and when it is cool enough add the eggs and blend well. Then stir in all the wet ingredients plus the quark/yogurt into the dry ingredients until the dough is will mixed. Press the dough into a greased and floured large rectangular baking dish (the larger your dish the thinner the cake layer will be and the more apples you will need to cover the surface). Mix together the sour cream, cinnamon and sugar in a separate bowl. Cover the dough with half of the sour cream mixture then cover with apple slices and the rest of the sour cream. Bake for one hour until firm in the center when you shake the pan and the apples are soft. Serve warm and keep the leftovers refrigerated, warm slightly when reserving. Guten Appetit!