Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Apfelkuchen" for The Edible Word: "Confections of a Closet Master Baker"


When Cath of A Blithe Palate emailed me and asked if I thought some of our Cook the Books members might be interested in taking part in the "Edible Word" event she and Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness were hosting and then generously offered to set aside some books for us, I was excited. Like many food bloggers, anytime I can combine my passion for cooking and eating with my love of reading works for me and reading a book and then cooking something from it or inspired by it is always fun. The book for the event is the masterfully titled foodie memoir, "Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado. If part of that last name sounds familiar, it is because Gesine, (pronounced Geh-see-neh--and BTW, Lord help you if you mispronounce it!), is the sister of actress Sandra Bullock. Gesine had a very successful career heading up her sister's movie production company but was miserable with the Hollywood rat race, finding her attention going to baking; taking pleasure in creating elaborate lists of ingredients and making indulgent pastries and baked goods for her family and friends. Bailing on the Hollywood scene, Bullock-Prado and her husband escape to Vermont where she opens a successful bakery and settles into small town life.


The book is an easy read and blends tales of her sugar obsessed childhood with an inside look at Hollywood and the movie business, descriptions of daily life as a baker in quirky Vermont, and fond memories of her Mother and her "Omi" or Grandmother who both inspired her passion for baking. The book is both funny and at times very poignant, as her mother passed away from cancer several years ago. The book also contains recipes at the end of each chapter for some of the wonderful pastries and desserts that Bullock-Prado creates as well as her tips and thoughts about them. Even not being someone who considers themselves a baker or bakes very often, the recipes and descriptions gave me the urge to bake. (Although  definitely not to own or run a bakery EVER--that is way too much work and too many early mornings for me!). I also found inspiration from the fact that Gesine made the choice to stop doing something that didn't make her happy and "followed her bliss", finding something she could be passionate about. In the process myself of taking a year or so away from my career to figure out my next steps and what will make me happy, I can totally relate to that. I enjoyed this book and was sorry to have it end. 


When choosing a recipe to make, I immediately went to the one for "Apfelkuchen", (German for Apple Cake). I love any dessert with apples in it and it seemed relatively simple to make, plus I loved the fact that her grandmother made it for her. In fact Gesine says her Omi made it in under an hour one time and so quickly and impatiently that she folded a fly into the cake batter. (I decided to make mine without that extra ingredient).


Basically, sliced apples sauteed in some butter and calvados, (apple brandy), are placed on top of a buttery batter, baked and then glazed. The recipe was easy enough although it seemed to call for many more apples than I needed to cover the cake.


I liked how the Apfelkuchen, even with the glaze, was not too sweet or too heavy and it was perfect with a cup of green tea flavored with apple and pomegranate. I thought I may have over-baked it just a tad, but the cake was tender and moist. I baked the cake in time to indulge in my tea and cake break at 3:00 PM, as Gesine says is the custom in Germany. (A custom I fully support adopting!) I would make this recipe again.


Cath will be hosting the round-up of this fun event on her blog A Blithe Palate on September 7th so stop by and see what others thought of the book and what recipes they were inspired to try. If you want to see more about the book and the author, Gesine has her own fun to read blog, here

If you love reading foodie books and cooking dishes inspired by them, check out Cook the Books, our bi-monthly virtual book club, here. FYI--we are about to start our next book, Peter Mayle's "French Lessons" so come journey to France with us! 

20 comments:

  1. Great review Deb! Reading the book actually did make me want to be a baker and own a bakery but only in the way that reading Bourdain's book made me want to be a line chef. In all likelihood I would want to have the experience for a month, just to try it out and to say I did it. Maybe one day...

    The apfelkuchen looks delicious! I had considered making it but I didn't feel like buying the calvados :D. Since you gave it such a rave review, I will have to try it.

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  2. Great, great post Deb!!! You've reviewed it so perfectly and captured one of my favorite aspects of the book...this cake was on my list, too! Looks delicoius :D

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  3. Adoro la torta di mele, non conoscevo questa ricetta e la voglio provare. Ciao Daniela.

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  4. Like Joanne said, I would consider making this if I didn't have to buy the calvados. Otherwise, I'll have a ton of it left over that I'll never use. But I sure would love to have a fork and a slice of yours! I love apple desserts, too.

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  5. That looks fantastic! You sure you're not a baker?
    I love the dishes too.
    You summed up the book beautifully, now I don't know what to write... :)

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  6. I can't wait to read this book! This dessert is beautiful!

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  7. Great book review and what a spectacular looking cake. Minus the fly garnish, of course. A very enjoyable post.

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  8. The cake is beautiful! My mom makes a kuchen passed down from my great grandmother, but it mostly resembles a coffee cake. I have to agree on the 3:00 cake break. Let's see its about 1:45 right now. :)

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  9. That looks like a great cake. Just beautiful. Apple season is right around the corner here and I know I will be trying that one!!!

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  10. For someone who professes not to be a baker, your apfelkuchen is spectaculor. I would encourage anyone who is worried about having leftover Calvados lying around to do one of two things: send it to me or try it in hot apple cider or to deglaze pan juices. Your review was very entertaining, Deb. Thanks for getting us involved in this Edible Word event.

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  11. Another great book review, Deb. Your version of her apple cake looks perfect.

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  12. mmm this cake looks so delicious!

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  13. There are an abundance of apples in our possession. Perfect!

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  14. I'm totally cracking up over the name of the book!! The cake looks so elegant and delish!

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  15. I enjoyed the book too! I'm hoping to try one of her recipes, whenever I feel baking brave enough!

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  16. Oh wow! I love that sort of cake!

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  17. I don't know how you can keep running down your baking skills when you produce something as gorgeous as that cake! It looks spectacular - good enough to sell in a bakery easily.

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  18. Deb, thank you thank you thank you! For co-hosting and for making such a beautiful entry. I almost made this too but in the end, my weakness for macaroons won out.

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  19. Oh my gosh, this looks incredible! Thanks for sharing with us!

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  20. Deb, this sounds fantastic! I've never actually heard of this book, but definitely want to check it out now. Thanks for the suggestion :)

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