Chef’s Note: If you have never used hibiscus in your kitchen, you are going to love the fabulous color and flavor that it offers!
Almond Cake Ingredients:
8 ounces butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or half of a vanilla bean
3 eggs, each cracked in individual bowls.
2/3 cup almond flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Poached Apple Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
3 cups white wine (note: we use EnRoute Chardonnay in our winery kitchens)
3 cups water
3 apples, peeled and partially cored: Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, or Braeburn suggested
1/4 cup dried hibiscus, rehydrated with 1 cup boiling water
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 whole cloves or 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 whole star anise
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or one two-inch piece of a vanilla bean)
For the almond cake: Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10-inch round cake mold and set aside.
Place your room temp butter and sugar into a mixing bowl. If your mixer has multiple attachments, choose the paddle attachment. Mix on medium high for 10 minutes, scraping down the edges to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Reduce your mixing speed to medium-low and add your pre-cracked eggs one at a time. Continue to scrape down the sides as you add vanilla and continue to mix.
In a separate bowl add your remaining dry ingredients and stir or sift together. Add the blended dry ingredients to your wet ingredients while you mix on low speed. Your batter should be fairly thick with no lumps. Scrape your batter into the cake mold and bake for 10 minutes. Gently rotate your pan, and cook for another five to 10 minutes until the top is lightly golden in color, with a slightly deeper gold around the edges. Not sure if it’s done? An inserted tooth pick should come out clean.
For the poached apples: At the winery, we like to employ this simple coring trick for better poached fruit: First, peel your apple, before gently piercing its base with an apple corer. The long cylindrical-shaped corer will cut the core out, however, leaving the core inside the apple will help it cook more evenly. When you remove the corer, try not to let the core escape. If it does, simply push the core back inside the apple.
Once you have your fruit cored, pour a cup of boiling water over the hibiscus and allow it to steep for five minutes. In a three-quart stainless steel pot, add your sugar, two cups of water, wine, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and anise, along with the hibiscus and all its hydrating liquid.
When the poaching liquid comes to a boil, turn it down to low heat for several minutes. Carefully add the apples, then cover with a lid that is small enough to push down the apples and still let steam escape. You could also use a cloche made of parchment paper.
With the lid pressing down on the fruit, slowly bring the apples back to a simmer in the poaching liquid. Keep covered and cook until the fruit can be pierced easily with a paring knife, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your fruit. Check often, inserting your knife at the top. Once it pierces easily, remove the pot from the heat, and allow the apples to continue to cook in the liquid as it cools.
You can prepare your poached apples in advance, as they will hold their liquid for several days while refrigerated. When you're ready to serve, gently slice each apple into halves - the core should easily slip out - and remove any seeds that may have remained. Gently slice each half into quarters.
Plate six plates with a generous slice of almond cake and three to four slices of poached apple. Top with vanilla bean ice cream or freshly whipped cream, and toast your elegant dessert with a chilled glass of Dolce Napa Valley.
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