The One Recipe: How to Make Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

The perfect back-pocket dessert, this sweet cake takes just minutes to throw together and is as well suited to a dinner party as to an after-school snack.
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©food network 2014

©food network 2014

In the Kitchen with Dorie Greenspan

"I guess I'm a baking nerd," says Greenspan with a sly smile. The award-winning cookbook author is standing in the middle of Food Network Kitchen, whisk in hand and talking about her latest book, Baking Chez Moi. "I've come to think of myself as a baking evangelist. I want people to have the satisfaction of making something themselves. So when I write, I try to imagine I'm talking to a newbie." Dedicated to the home cooking she delights in during the four months a year she spends in Paris, Greenspan's newest book is friendly and approachable, straddling both the high (Bubble Eclairs) and humble (Granola Cake). Her Custardy Apple Squares are an ideal mix of the two, and Greenspan happily demonstrated how to whip them up during her visit. "I love this recipe," she says. "It's so easy, so unfussy, so French." Here's how she did it.

 

From Food Network Kitchen

Prep Your Apples

"I have a friend who wrote me that she still gets excited when she makes an apple peel come off in one piece," says Dorie, who's no slouch in the peeling department herself. Although juicy apples, like Gala or Fiji, are ideal for her Custardy Apple Squares, "I wouldn't not make it if all I had were Granny Smiths in the house," she says. Greenspan slices the fruit thin on a mandoline, giving each apple a quarter turn when she reaches the core. "I get great satisfaction ending up with a cubed core at the end."

Go Unplugged

As soon as Greenspan adds the sugar to her eggs, she starts beating them together, "otherwise a film will form on the yolk," she says. "It's called burning the egg." Greenspan eschews an electric mixer whenever possible. "Whisking is very meditative," she says. "Anytime I can make a recipe by hand instead of with a machine, I do it. It gives one a chance to say, 'It's mine.'" Her exception: pie dough, which she makes in a food processor. 

A Steady Stream

Greenspan adds the milk slowly, whisking throughout. Avoid using milk straight from the fridge, she says. "You don't want it to be too cold or it will cause the butter to congeal."

Don't Overmix

The batter is ready when all the ingredients are incorporated and smooth. "It's not thickened," says Greenspan. "It's kind of like crepe batter. When you draw a whisk through it, you should see traces that disappear quickly."

Add the Apples

After you whisk together the batter, gently fold in the apples. In her book, Greenspan suggests doing this with a rubber spatula. "But my temptation is to reach in with my hands and just stir," she confesses, pushing up her sleeves and plunging her hands in the mix. "As Julia said, 'You are alone in the kitchen!'" After the fruit is coated, she spreads it in the bottom of a prepared cake pan and pops it in the oven.

Color = Flavor

"Bake things until they have color," Greenspan declares. "You want to bring out the flavor of the fruit and sugar. One of my pet peeves is pale pie dough." The Custardy Apple Squares are done when golden and uniformly puffed. "I always give visual clues in recipes," says Greenspan. "Everybody's oven is different. If it needs a couple of more minutes, do it." Before inverting the cake onto a rack, she runs a table knife around the edge. "Don't use a sharp knife," she warns. "You don't want to scratch your pan or food will stick to it."

The Perfect Slice

The finished cake is delicious served warm from the oven with a scoop of whipped cream or ice cream, but it also makes a tasty snack at room temperature the next day. "I love that the apples go into the pan in a mishmash and come out in perfect layers like they were planned," says Greenspan.

 

Recipe image by Alan Richardson; all other photos by Heather Ramsdell

Get the Recipe: Custardy Apple Squares

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Comforting Desserts