At Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year beginning Sunday at sundown - dipping sliced apples and challah in honey symbolizes a delicious wish the coming year will be “sweet” and blessed. A bite of this delicate Romanian apple cake or “Pandispan” is like a buttery prayer, filled with hope and promise for 5773 (that's 2012 on the Gregorian calendar.)
I was headed out to start my holiday grocery shop when I ran into my friend and neighbor, Andrea, in the car port with her three-year-old in tow. She told me glowingly about a European-style cake her mother makes that is perfectly sweet and light. I was hooked and she was kind enough to later get her mother on the phone in Romania for the recipe.
Some things can get pretty vague when one interviews an accomplished home cook who shuns measuring devices. “A cup of sugar” literally meant a coffee mug her mother used while visiting Los Angeles last spring and “6 soup spoons worth” would seem to be a perfectly acceptable form of measure except if you don’t have the exact same soup spoon. So I’ve worked on the recipe and hope her mother will be pleased and you are able to recreate it for those you love.
Andrea’s Mom's Romanian Apple Cake - Apple Pain de Spain or Pandispan
- 7 medium apples peeled, cored and sliced (or diced). Jonathan, Gala, Braeburn, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith all are good firm apples to use.
- 3 ounces of butter (3/4 stick)
- 1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
- 6 eggs - separated. Use whites only.
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder*
*I added some baking powder in writing this recipe so your cake will come out a little higher.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in an approximately 9” non-stick, oven-proof pot or a 9” wide souffle dish in the oven for 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven, add the apples and stir to coat then return the dish to the oven for about 20 minutes.
Check and turn the apples one or twice until they are a deep golden brown, then lower the heat to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer whip the eggs whites until stiff peaks form.
Add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar followed by the flour (add the baking powder to the flour first.) Do not overmix.
Remove the dish from the oven and pour the whipped egg/sugar/flour mixture on top.
Return it to the oven for approximately 10-20 minutes or until it is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let it cool enough to handle.
Place a large plate on top of the dish and very carefully - with mitts or a towel - flip it over so that the apples are now on top.
Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Bring to room temperature to serve. Wonderful with some whipped cream or creme fraiche on the side.
Pofta Buna! Bon Appetit! Enjoy!
Susan Silverberg is a chef, instructor, food stylist and blogger. For more recipes, techniques and just good fun visit her website, The Home Artist.