When I was little, there was a period when I spent all my Saturday mornings visiting Bubie Bella and Zeide Max, my paternal grandparents, at their little row house in Squirrel Hill, near where we lived at the time. Bubie and I had a schedule of Saturday morning tv viewing which was sacrosanct and unvaried. I'm not sure how we arrived at it, but we both enjoyed certain programs in particular: Sky King, Rin Tin Tin, Fury ("the story of a horse and the boy who loved him"), and most of all, The Lone Ranger. Annually, there was a repeat of the one hour special explaining how the Lone Ranger acquired his strange identity, his horse Silver, and his taciturn companion, Tonto. This was a special occasion, which Bubie and I anticipated with particular relish, and discussed ahead of time, for weeks.
Zeide was usually at work when I arrived in the morning, and Bubie, wearing a full-body apron with frills on the side , was waiting on the sofa, tv tuned in. Around noon, Zeide, who was a cabinet maker, and went to the shop in the morning on saturdays, arrived with a deli lunch of smoked whitefish, cream cheese, and bagels and onion rolls. We had this little feast with salad every Saturday when I was there. Generally, for dessert I had a cupcake, which Zeide brought back from the Waldorf Bakery, along with more sophisticated pastries the grownups preferred. On a few occasions, though, we had an apple cake I really liked, which Bubie made herself.
Bubie was a traditional eastern european Jewish cook, though not a kosher one; hers was not an orthodox or observant household. Years later, I read a book called Miriam's Kitchen , about a woman getting to know her mother-in-law while they cooked traditional food together. A recipe for an apple cake which strongly resembled the one Bubie made appeared in this book, and I was moved to try it. I served it for dessert, without comment, when my parents came to dinner. My father said, "This is almost exactly like a cake Bubie made, only better-her's was a little bit dry." Never one to tell a little white lie about food, my late father, Harry, was a huge fusspot on the topic. And he ate a large piece of this cake. Thus, I think we can be sure that this is pretty much the cake my Bubie made, and that it's not too bad. I thought I'd make one of these to finish off the last of the huge box of green windfall apples I got with my farmbox last week.
When I first made this cake, I made the whole huge recipe, just as in the book. This was just too much cake for any situation, except maybe a soup kitchen or shelter. So I cut the recipe in half most of the time.. I also use butter, instead of margarine. Kosher ladies would have used the margarine, so as not to limit the cake to milk meals. But Bubie was not a kosher lady, and I believe she would have preferred to use butter, rather than margarine, in those situations where her first choice fat, schmaltz, was clearly unsuitable. It tastes more like Bubie's cake, and I think better, with the butter. I was a little nervous about making this cake with the green apples, since I had always used ripe apples before, but it turned out fine. This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 350F.
On a piece of parchment or wax paper, put, in a little pile:
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
3 cups all purpose flower
Make a hollow in the middle, and put in
2/3 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and 2/3 stick softened unsalted butter
With a fork at first, and later switching to fingers, begin blending the outer edges in. Use a light touch. As it begins to come together a bit, add two oz. of canola oil and the juice of a small orange. Keep mixing until it is uniform and resembles a light pastry dough. Sprinkle some more flour on your base paper, and form the dough into 2 balls, kneading it lightly. One ball should be 1/3 of the dough, the other 2/3. Wrap them in the paper they've been sitting on, and tuck in the fridge while you make the filling.
Grate 3 pounds of apples using a food processor, if you have one. If you don't, this is very tedious work. I include the skins, removing only the stems and cores. This recipe is thus suited very well to tiny windfall apples, which are horrible to peel. This filling will get very brown. You are not to fuss, or feel you must add lemon. Mix with 8 oz golden raisins, 2/3 cup white sugar, 2 tbsps matzoh meal. 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Butter an 8" square pan. I have used my favorite earthenware one. Pyrex is good also. It is best not to use metal; there is a very long cooking time, and your cake could get too dark.
Now, discard all feelings of pride you have concerning your dexterity with the creation of pastry dough.
You are going to be rolling out this cakey dough, big one first, into approximate rectangles, which you will patch together to line the bottom and sides of your pan, coming about 1" over the top on the sides. This is the intended method of construction. There is enough dough to do this without overhandling, if you don't have an overwhelming need for a tidy process or result. If you are too clever, you will run out of dough.
Put your filling in the pan. Roll out the other ball of dough to cover the top. You can patch this too. If you are making my small recipe, you may well do this part in one piece. In the original giant double recipe, it cannot be done. Set the dough lid on top, and roll the outside edges of the underneath part around the edges of the top.
Rub or brush the top very generously with canola oil. With a sharp knife, cut through the entire top layer of dough into squares of serving size. This will make the servings pretty later, and prevent unsightly shattering. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar and cinnamon, hiding your joins and patches, if you have them.Bake 90 minutes. Cool a long time, on a rack. It is nice to serve this slightly warm, and it can be gently reheated if you want. It can be a coffee cake, or a dessert. Like the Dorset Apple Cake, it is yummy and decadent topped with english-style runny custard.
I took this along as my dessert/ contribution to Friday Night Dinner, which this week included toasts to a recent wedding, and to the first fulltime job for a fine first grade teacher. Thus ends the saga of the apple windfall. Those few apples unaccounted for here were used in a pork chops and apples dish, which also included my farmbox cabbage, made into an Italian-style sauerkraut. We had it for dinner Thursday night, with thin skinned new potatoes and dill, also from the farmbox.