Friday was a miserable day in New York — the rain came down in the morning and didn’t stop all day, flooding streets and shutting down the subway. As luck would have it, though, I had some apples, so I posted a photo of them along with a question on Instagram: “Rainy Day + Apples = Baking Project. What should it be?” Many people answered right away, suggesting my own go-to apple crisp or cinnamon-apple spelt muffins, but I was in the mood to try something new, and though Alexandra Stafford’s Bolzano Apple Cake was calling my name (and many of your names, as well), I was extremely intrigued by the Rosemary Brown Butter Apple Cake reel that at least a half dozen people sent my way. It was a recipe from Jess Elliott Dennison, and fans called it some version of “life-changing,” especially with that rosemary-infused brown butter. (How good does that sound?)
There was only a slight problem: I had no rosemary. Another hitch: I had no flour. And since I wasn’t going outside (see above: rain, misery), I decided to go off-road a bit, something I’m usually scared to do with baking.
I did have a hefty supply of almond flour and, after a quick google search confirming I could substitute that for regular flour at a 1:1 ratio, I got to work. I made my rosemary-less brown butter, I switched out Dennison’s suggested rum or Calvados for almond extract, I packed the batter with artlessly sliced apples. I also added more apples and lessened the sugar. The result? I couldn’t believe how easy and tasty it was — the only thing that required a brain cell or two was the browning of the butter. And it gave the cake such a uniquely toasty flavor. Here’s exactly how I made it…
Brown Butter Apple-Almond Cake (Gluten-Free)
Adapted from Jess Elliott Dennison’s Rosemary Brown Butter Apple Cake
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
2 1/4 cups almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 large apples or 4 medium apples, peeled and sliced as shown (they do not have to be perfect slices)
powdered sugar for finishing
whipped cream or crème fraîche (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan with butter. Set aside.
Make brown butter: Add 12 tablespoons of butter to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Do not leave your stovetop perch! Watch as the butter melts, then foams a lot, then settles and begins to brown; swirling occasionally as you go. The whole process should take about 4 minutes, but its really an eyeball (and an aromatic) thing: As soon as it starts to smell nutty and you see brown speckles at the bottom of the pan, remove the pan from the heat so the butter doesn’t burn. Set aside to let cool.
Make batter: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, almond extract, and eggs. Using a rubber spatula, fold in cooled brown butter until just combined (it will be wet) and then the apples. If you want to save a few slices to arrange on the top, feel free, but the batter should be very apple-y.
Spread the batter in the greased baking pan, then arrange the reserved apple slices on top. (Again, completely optional.) If you want to jam a few extra apple pieces into the cake, that’s fine, too. “There are too many apples in this apple cake!” said no one ever.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top looks golden and toasty and a knife inserted into its center comes up dry. Let cool slightly. Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar, plus whipped cream or crème fraîche if you have it. Also makes an A+ breakfast.
(Photos by Jenny Rosenstrach.)