My mother Ruth Schachter was an expert at baking. This is one of her trademark desserts originally taken from a vintage copy of “Penguin Cordon Bleu Cookery.” In the book, it is called Galette Normande: basically, cookie-like layers sandwiched between layers of applesauce. Simple and divine.
It is crucial – and I can’t emphasize this enough – to use the most tart apples you can find. I even recall my mother using crab apples from her garden. When making this at Mum’s in her Primrose Hill, London home, I bought Bramleys at Marks & Spencer in nearby Camden Town. Bramleys are large green apples only suitable – and ideal – for use in pies, crumble etc. In Canada, I use Northern Spys available at some stores in late fall. The contrast of the tangy applesauce with the sweet cookie-like cake layers is imperative for this dessert. The same holds true, in my opinion, for crumble.
Make the dough for the torte layers while the apples are cooking. I sometimes sprinkle 1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds on top of the icing. The original recipe suggests “marbling” the icing with some melted redcurrant jelly.
This is best made a day ahead of serving so the applesauce has time to soften the torte layers.
4 large tart apples (such as Northern Spy), cored, peeled, sliced
1 or 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp ice-cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup icing sugar
1 to 2 tbsp lemon or orange juice
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
For applesauce, place sliced apples and lemon juice in ovenproof dish with lid; toss to combine. Bake covered in oven about 1 hour or until apples are soft. Mash lightly with fork. Cool.
For torte layers, place flour, sugar and butter in food processor or electric mixer. Pulse on and off until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolks, water and vanilla; process just until dough begins to clump. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Shape into ball. Divide into 3 equal pieces; flatten into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll each dough disc into an 8-inch circle. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake in oven about 15 to 18 minutes or until golden but not browned. Cool completely.
For icing, in small bowl, combine sugar and lemon juice.
To assemble, place a torte layer on cake plate. Spread with half of applesauce. Repeat layers. Top with third torte layer. Spread with icing.
Makes about 8 servings.