Torte per colazione – gluten free apple, date and walnut cake

I am a firm believer in eating cake for breakfast when you are holidaying in Italy. You walk so much, up and down steps, hills and cobbled vie (narrow streets) in those small towns and villages that you earn the right to do it. In celebration of this, a few months ago, I started a series of blog posts called “torte per colazione” (cakes for breakfast) which was unfortunately interrupted by my trip to Italy (so there are currently only two posts in that series ginger, lemon and honey cake and breakfast pear cake). I am determined to rectify that and share recipes for several simple cakes in the next few posts, starting with a lovely moist gluten free cake using seasonal apples and walnuts.

I’d made it a few weeks ago with regular flour, but love having some GF cakes in my repertoire so converted it and used some rather good GF flour that I bought in an organic shop at the start of the year. It is called “not so plain flour” and made by Casalare  in Kyabram, Victoria and contains rice flour, potato starch and maize flour. I sometimes make my own GF flour mix (for example, for pasta), but love the convenience of finding a good one ready-made. I have been converting regular cake recipes to gluten free for some time, since my daughter became intolerant of gluten. I find that I need to decrease the amount of flour to get the same consistency (about one-fifth to one-quarter less, though it does depend on the recipe), and importantly, reduce the sugar by the same proportion, otherwise the resultant cake is way too sweet. This one worked out quite nicely though I think the sugar could be deceased even more, maybe 30g less (so feel free to experiment a bit if you make it). Alternatively, you could use tart apples to get the balance right – the ones I used were what I had at home – sweet Pink Lady apples. Tart Granny Smith apples would be just lovely. 
I made the cake on Wednesday, after a morning in the office and on what was the Southern Hemisphere winter solstice. I knew the sun was setting at 5.08pm, so by the time the cake came out of the oven at 4.20pm, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to let the cake cool, set up the scene and take photos. And I clearly couldn’t wait until the following day as although this is breakfast cake, I was in need of some late afternoon tea. So in the waning light of the shortest day of the year, just before the light disappeared completely, I took some rather dark moody photos near the window to my terrace, the only place with good natural light in my apartment. Once I was happy with the photos, I had a very late but delicious afternoon tea.

A couple of notes and events:
– COOKING CLASSES MELBOURNE – I have places in some cooking classes in July, August and September: a crostoli-making class; a risotto and arancini class; a gnocchi class; a pasta sauces class; and an apple strudel master class. I run them from my home in North Fitzroy, so we work in my kitchen and on my dining table, that I convert into kitchen work-spaces with six large pasta boards. For more information on all my cooking classes, click here.
– WORKSHOP SICILY – there are still a few (not many) places for my 6-day workshop at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school from 1 November – 6 November 2017. Click here to read more about it on my site and here for the Cooking School website. I am so excited about returning to this wonderful part of the world later this year! The school was recently named one of the best cooking schools in the world by goop.
– BOOK TALK – I am giving an author-talk at the Diamond Valley Library (Greensborough, Melbourne) on 20th July at 2pm as part of their book-lovers festival. I did a talk about my book Italian Street Food (and slide show) last week at the Yarra Library Fitzroy branch and it was such fun! I will also be talking bit about my second book, Adriatico, that I am currently writing, and show a few photos of that as well. Click here for more information; I do hope some of you can make it.

gluten-free apple, date and walnut cake

250g dried dates
250g peeled apple, roughly chopped
50g shelled walnuts, chopped

1 lemon, zest only

125g butter, diced, at room temperature
170g raw caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
310g gluten free flour

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 23cm diameter cake tin with a removable base.

Roughly chop the dates and cover with 240ml (one cup) boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes to soften. Place the apple in a heatproof container and add 1/4 cup water. Place in the microwave, covered, for about 3 minutes until the apple has softened. You can also do this on the stove top in a pan. I then blitzed 2/3 of the apple with a handheld mixer and keep the rest whole. Once the dates have soaked for the required time, add the cooked and blitzed apple, the walnuts and the lemon zest to the cooled date mixture and set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in a kitchen mixer and mix until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition.

Place the flour and baking powder in a bowl and whisk briefly by hand to remove any lumps.

Add about a third of the flour mixture to the egg/butter/sugar mixture and fold until combined. Add half of the date mixture then fold through. Add another third of the flour mixture, folding until well combined, then add the rest of the date mixture. Add the remaining flour, keeping a quarter cup aside just to make sure that you need it. The mixture should be thick but pourable.

Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes or until golden on top and when a skewer (or dried spaghetti which I always use) comes out clean. Set on a cooling tray and remove the sides form the tin after 5 minutes. Eat warm or cold, for breakfast, morning or afternoon tea. the cake will keep for 3 days covered in the fridge.

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