The two branches of my personal family tree have some striking similarities, particularly considering their surface differences. One side, my father's family, were jews from Lodz, in Poland who emigrated to the US in the late 1800's. My mother's family were originally londoners from the East End. My mother was a WWII war bride, who came to Pittsburgh on the QE I, with a boatload of other war brides, at the ripe old age of 21. It always made us laugh to hear my parents referred to as a "mixed" marriage. Of course there were lots of cultural differences, but so many of their basic standards and attitudes, and those of their families, were so very alike.
What has always amused me, though, are the weird little coincidental oddities which were inexplicably similar, or even identical in the two families. One great grandfather on each side was a shoemaker, for example. Then there was the sad fact that everyone was always fleeing. My mother's family included french hugenots, who fled to protestant England to escape persecution. My father's family purportedly fled Spain or Portugal to eastern europe during the Inquistion..not to mention the polish pogroms my grandparents fled.
An especially nonsensical similarity which I find amusing is this: Both of my grandmothers, when they felt their daughters were being la-di-da and pretentious, would say, "Oh, look at you, Lady Moon." Lady Moon. Where on earth (sorry, sorry), did that come from? As you can imagine, my mother has passed this gentle put-down along to me.
And what, you may well ask, does all of this have to do with the topic at hand? Not, perhaps , alot. But when I was mulling (har) over the possibilities for the green windfall apples left over from part one of my "pectin broth" plan, memories of two apple cakes emerged simultaneously from the muddle which is my subconscious. Each is a standard from one side of my family. They are both "plain", but rich, not very sweet, keep well, and are meant to be enjoyed with tea or coffee, more than as a dessert. They are also quite different.
I can see that if I'm going to make both cakes, I am going to have to present them, in a friendly manner, to other folks who can be counted on to consume the lion's share of each. Naturally, I will attempt to pick recipients who will offer me a taste of their cake gift. This will save me from the awkwardness involved in offering them cakes with missing slices.
I am going to make my Uncle Ted's Dorset Apple Cake first, because it is less elaborate, and easier to fix than Bubie's Apple Cake. My Uncle Ted lived with my Auntie Louie , her husband ( "Uncle Charles") and my grandmother ("Nanny" or "Big Nanny".) This was not a situation where the elderly parent moved in with her adult children. Rather, Louise and Ted, two of Nanny and Grandad's eight children, had simply never left home. By the time I knew them well, they were all retired, and had moved to a large pretty house with a beautiful big garden, in Eastbourne, on the south coast.
Uncle Ted, who retired rather young because he was having periodic "blackouts" or "spells", had been the head of all the catering for the Port of London Authority, responsible for both the ordinary meals, and galas for dignitaries and fancy types. Not a chef himself, he had always worked with professional cooks and chefs of many sorts, and paid close attention to their doings. On retirement, he became the chief cook of the household, specializing in very good "plain" cooking, often including the homegrown vegetables which Uncle Charles produced in the garden. Several times when we visited, Uncle Ted made a "Dorset Apple Cake", using the Bramley apples from the semi-dwarf apple trees in the garden. I thought it was particularly nice.
The internet and my English cookbooks are replete with recipes having the same name. Many of them are similar to this one, which I chose to try,after adapting it for american measurements and ordinary flour, because it seemed most like what I remembered. This version apparently comes, in its original form, from an odd (to me) magazine called Country Life, which seems to be aimed at people who like to imagine that they are rural gentry, and that WWII has not yet occured. This is how you make the cake:
2 cups flour
1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz sugar(use more, at your discretion, if using truly green, unripe apples)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
grated rind of one lemon or lime
1/2 pound apples, skinned, cored and diced
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 375 F. Thoroughly butter an 8" cake pan. Put flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and whisk to mix. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, until it has the texture of dry breadcrumbs. Work in the sugar. Add the apples and peel, mixing well, preferably with a light hand. Finally, add the egg and mix in until the dough clumps. Spoon into your pan, and smooth surface in an approximate way. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden.
This is a moist, puddingy cake, and hence more forgiving than the sponge/genoise sort. You can adjust the amount of sugar, depending on the sugar in your apples. I actually like mine pretty tart. This cake is good with tea or coffee, or for breakfast if you are a bit decadent.Uncle Ted used to serve it with runny custard, which ups the richness ante. Bubie's apple cake, which I plan to do next, should use up the remaining green apples. That one, while also coffee cake-ish, is a bit fancier and slightly sweeter. Maybe I will offer to bring it for dessert for Friday night dinner. The Dorset Apple Cake may be coming to work with me.