Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake

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TWDI’m not a huge fruit dessert person. In fact, my favorite part of a pie is the crust. I am all about the crust. So when I saw this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe I thought well, even if the filling sucks, at least there’s lots of crust! Why yes, I am the queen of pessimism. (Blame it on Internet dating.) Anyway, I suppose the negative thoughts began early on, when I tried to shape the dough into rectangles and it was sticky. And I mean sticky. (Photos of the process here. I have no idea if mine looks the way it’s supposed to because the book didn’t have a picture.)

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-CakeThen, I read and reread the recipe and realized I don’t have a 9×12″ baking dish, and oh no what am I going to do because I won’t have enough dough for my 9×13″ dish. Oh, did I not mention I’m also a worrier? Well, I conferred with my mom who didn’t think 9×12″ was a standard size and said just to use the 9×13″, then I did some research and found the 9×12″ to be a typo (phew!). Much happier, I got to slicing my apples. Speaking of apples, if you don’t have one of these gadgets that cores, peels, and slices, you must go out and buy it. What a time saver! (We use it every year for Passover apple crisp and the best ever apple pie for Thanksgiving.)

Back to the pie-cake. I bought 10 apples (half Granny Smith, half Fiji) like the recipe says, and I needed only half of them. Not sure how that happened (maybe the Granny Smiths were large?), but whatever. Aside from the extra apples, that part of the recipe was no problem. The dough however, oh, the dough. I tried rolling it out and it didn’t want to roll, so I ended up taking small pieces and flattening them between my palms then pressing them together in the dish to create the crust. It worked. It’s not attractive, but it worked.

Finally, I got the sucker in the oven and watched it brown in about five minutes. I quickly covered it with foil, let it bake for an hour, and listened for the sound of bubbling apples and cinnamon-sugar, which never happened. But my apartment smelled so good!

OK so, after all that rambling, the verdict: Eh. While the smell is fantastic (and there’s nothing like waking up the following day to the scent of apple pie), I just didn’t find this anything special. Of course, I’m not big on fruit desserts, so I’ll let you know what my coworkers say when I bring it into the office this morning. If it’s gone by lunchtime, we know it’s a hit. Stay tuned.

p.s. I omitted the raisins, because just like nuts, raisins ruin baked goods. Hah.

Dough Ingredients
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 T baking powder
½ tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
3¼-3½ c all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (Fuji, Golden Delicious, Ida Reds, Cortland, or Rome, etc)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 c moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
¼ c sugar
1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar for dusting

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice—the dough will probably curdle, but don’t worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3¼ cups of the flour, mixing to soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra ¼ cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Warp the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about ¼ inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice—even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that’s fine—and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting ready to bake
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375?F. Generously butter a 9×12 inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it’s a little more malleable, you’ve got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan—because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven’s heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about ¼ inch thick—you don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If you the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that’s fine; if it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom. Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you’ve got a ¼-½ inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don’t have that much overhang, just press what you’ve got against the sides of the pan.) Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65-80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You’ll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Recipe from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan.


26 Responses to “Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake”

    April on 1 March 11th, 2008 5:24 am

    It looks wonderful!

    noskos on 2 March 11th, 2008 5:29 am

    It looks great! I had the same experience with this cake, it smells nice, looks pretty but it just doesn’t do it for me.

    Chelle on 3 March 11th, 2008 5:56 am

    I’m sorry that you didn’t love this recipe, but your crust looks just divine!

    Madam Chow on 4 March 11th, 2008 7:07 am

    Yours looks great. We really liked it, although I agree with you about raisins and baked goods, generally speaking. Next time I make this, I think I’ll use cranberries.

    Rachel on 5 March 11th, 2008 8:14 am

    Great job! I don’t do raisins either. I also had some extra apples but only realized it after I had used my gadget to slice them up. I’ll remember for next time! 🙂

    Annemarie on 6 March 11th, 2008 8:40 am

    Sorry you didn’t like it…it looks great, though!!

    Joy the Baker on 7 March 11th, 2008 9:10 am

    Ha!!!!! Blame it on internet dating! You’re hilarious.

    Mari on 8 March 11th, 2008 9:26 am

    My dough was also super sticky, and although I’m not a baked apple fan, I have to say that this cake-pie made me a lover.

    Your corer/slicer gizmo rocks!

    Lemon Tartlet on 9 March 11th, 2008 10:33 am

    Great job! The dough was sticky for most of us.

    Ulrike aka ostwestwind on 10 March 11th, 2008 10:46 am

    Now I know what I did wrong, I just used a knife.
    I was surprised, that I and my three gentlemen liked the cake

    CB on 11 March 11th, 2008 11:10 am

    I totally want an apple corer now. I don’t bake with apples that often but I still want one. haha. Sorry it wasn’t a TWD favorite for you but I loved all the flickr pictures. Great job!

    Marie on 12 March 11th, 2008 11:14 am

    I think yours looks great. On it’s own I didn’t happen to think this was a particularly spectacular dessert either. Ours was rather dry, not juicey at all and I thought the crust was a bit of a nightmare. But …topped with a scoop of Haagen Daz Vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup it was devine!

    Dianne on 13 March 11th, 2008 12:21 pm

    It looks like it turned out really well. I couldn’t agree with you more about the apple corer! 🙂

    Julie on 14 March 11th, 2008 1:44 pm

    What a great recipe I will definitely give this a try, thank you.

    Erin on 15 March 11th, 2008 1:56 pm

    Even if you weren’t crazy about it, it still looks good!

    Melissa on 16 March 11th, 2008 6:13 pm

    Looks great. I agree with you on the raisins though…

    Amanda on 17 March 11th, 2008 8:35 pm

    I only used half my apples too. Except I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to use them until after they were chopped and covered in cinnamon and sugar. Urgh.

    Your pie-cake looks great!

    justJENN on 18 March 11th, 2008 9:02 pm

    Damn woman, you ARE a worrier! You bake enough to be able to go with the flow!!

    Natalie on 19 March 11th, 2008 9:53 pm

    Great job, even with all the worrying 🙂

    Claudia on 20 March 12th, 2008 12:17 am

    I agree with you about this cake not beeing “special”. I think that something old recipes have in common: They are simple because they didn’t have all the ingredients we have today. They just had fat, eggs, sugar, flour, apples. But even if I think it wasn’t the best ever apple tarte – I liked it.

    Paula on 21 March 12th, 2008 5:59 am

    Nice job! Too bad you didn’t care for the final result. Still it looks great:)

    zakia on 22 March 13th, 2008 2:40 pm

    i wasnt crazy about mine at first. but it grew on me. i wish i had a piece now. yours looks more like a cake than most the others ive seen.

    Jaime on 23 March 13th, 2008 5:20 pm

    i thought that the 9×12 was a typo too but then i googled and saw that they do sell pans in that size… so i’m not sure if it’s a typo or not?

    i thought it was good b/c of the cakey crust but prefer a crumb pie a lot more; your crust looks like it turned out perfect though!

    H on 24 March 13th, 2008 8:37 pm

    No it really is a typo! I found this:

    Deborah Dowd on 25 March 29th, 2008 7:53 pm

    This looks so beautiful. I have friends who adopted twins from Russia and sent them the link to this recipe.

    joni soule on 26 July 20th, 2008 11:29 am

    Beautifull website!