When it comes to desserts, I am avowedly a snob. I have my mom to thank for this. She spoiled us with all manner of French pastries when we were growing up. I remember studying upstairs and the sweet waft of orange zest would find its way to my desk, drawing me along into the kitchen where I'd see my mom, her back towards me, intent over a large skillet. I would watch her pour creamy batter that sizzled into gossamer-thin creations. Soon, the entire household surrounded her, each with a plate in hand, ready to receive a delicate crepe Suzette to go along with the bedtime glass of milk.
On a recent trip to visit my parents, my mom pulled out her collection of old recipes. No longer stuffed into the dented tin box -of an indeterminate green hue- in which they had once been stored, the recipes were now held together by a large metal clip. Index cards, pieces of paper with ragged edges, all were browned and crinkly with age, some smeared with ink beyond the borders of the written words, and in my mom's distinctive handwriting -they held the recipes from the past. I saw the recipe for the gateau aux pommes (apple cake), and as I read it over, I conjured up the scent and taste of one of my favorite foods.
That night, my mom again baked the gateau aux pommes. She pored over the instructions on the browned and crinkled index card. It had been years since she last made the cake, and what had been steps made facile through habitual experience - the presence of the recipe card then, a mere formality- now require more thought and study.
Soon, I again breathed in the familiar scent as the cake emerged from the oven. We all made quick work of it, gathered around the kitchen table.
At home, I added this recipe to my own file and pored over my own recipe collection. The individual recipes, culled over the years, marked different periods of my life. There was Gabrielle's favorite fudge recipe, one that I cajoled from its namesake, my then anatomy partner from medical school and friend. So bowled over was I by the fudge, I became a temporary chocoholic, and for several weeks on end, I compulsively grazed on it while studying for my Boards.
Years have gone by since I last made that fudge. Tucked in a phase of life in which I no longer reside, Gabrielle's favorite fudge and other recipes cobweb comfortably until I think to clear off the dust.
Now, as I sit over my bowl of matcha, I think about making the gateau aux pommes in my own home. It would be a transmutation of a family tradition, served with tea instead of milk, shared with E and friends, sweetly permeated with memories.
Recipe for Gateau aux Pommes (Apple Cake):
1st mixture: 5 Tbs flour 4 Tbs sugar 3 Tbs milk 2 Tbs oil (canola or olive) 1/2 packet of Alsa baking powder pinch of salt 1 egg 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced and peel removed.
Grease baking dish with butter and flour. Mix dry ingredients (except baking powder). Combine with wet ingredients. Add in baking powder last . Pour batter into baking dish and arrange the apple slices on top. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes until batter rises.
While waiting, make 2nd mixture.
2nd mixture: 1 egg 1/4 c butter 1/4 c sugar
Combine ingredients of 2nd mixture together. When batter containing the 1st mixture is ready, remove from oven. Add 2nd mixture to the 1st and bake for another 20 minutes.