I’ve had a bit of a Julia Child themed weekend. Yesterday I finally got round to watching Julie and Julia which I absolutely loved. I know, I’m seriously behind the times. Meryl Streep was wonderful but for me the real star (aside from all that food) was Jane Lynch, isn’t she great? So, to follow up on the film, today I made my first ever recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I borrowed a copy from the library and will most likely be repeatedly renewing it until I get round to buying my own.
Since it’s Pancake Day on Tuesday a cake made from apple-almond compote layered with puffy, souffléd pancakes and doused in apple brandy seemed like a good dessert to take to dinner at my mum’s house this evening. It went down very well, my grandad must have been particularly taken with it given that he let me take the left-over wine home. It even sparked a conversation about my great great grandfathers, two of whom were bakers; apparently this baking lark is in the genes.
Of course this isn’t a quick recipe to make, all those pancakes take a while and the batter needs to rest for two hours, but it’s not at all difficult. Unless Tuesday is your day off, you’re probably not going to be whipping this up in an evening. But you can make the compote and pancakes in advance and pop the assembled cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before baking. Why not have Pancake Day take-two next weekend?
Normandy Crêpe Cake
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle
For the pancakes
- 130g plain flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- 60g butter, melted
- 115ml milk
- 115ml cold water
- a pinch of salt
For the compote
- 1kg apples (Braeburn worked well)
- 80g sugar
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 2 tbsp Calvados
To assemble the cake
- 75g crushed macaroons*/slivered almonds (keep 2 tbsp aside)
- 50g sugar
- 25g butter, melted
- 100ml Calvados**
First make the pancake batter. Mix the milk, water, sugar and yolks and whisk into the flour. Leave to rest for 2 hours. When you are ready to cook the pancakes, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff and gently fold into the batter.
Heat a 13cm (6″) frying pan on medium, ladle in some batter and swirl to coat the base of the pan. Once the edges of the pancake start to curl a little and the underside is golden flip and cook the other side. This should make 10-12 pancakes.
Stack the pancakes on a plate layering them with baking parchment. Allow to cool.
While the batter is resting make the compote. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Cook in a medium pan for 20 minutes until soft.
Add the sugar and boil for 5 minutes stirring regularly. The compote should be quite thick. Allow to cool and stir in the almond extract and Calvados.
To assemble the cake place a pancake on an ovenproof dish. Spread over some compote and sprinkle on some of the crushed macaroons. Repeat ending with your best-looking pancake.
Pour the melted butter over the top and then sprinkle over the reserved macaroons and sugar.
Bake at 190°C (350ºF) for 30 minutes. Heat the Calvados and pour over the baked cake.
*I wasn’t quite sure what to use, I had some plain macaron shells in the freezer so I dried them in the oven and set at them with a rolling pin. I suspect crushed amaretti biscuits would be perfect.
**I used about half of the Calvados required and that was plenty!