Beautiful and crispy on the outside, sweet-tart and moist on the inside
When I think of apples, I instantly think of my grandma's house in a tiny village in Belarus near the border with Latvia, where I used to spend all of the summer breaks during my school years. And, even though I have not been there for more than 20 years, the memory of picking apples and the smell of apple trees have deeply embedded in my mind.
I remember one particular kind of apples was so light in color, almost white, and when ripe, it tasted like pure honey; they were my favorite. I have never seen them anywhere in the US. Now, I rarely eat store-bought apples simply because none of them would compare to the taste and smell of apples in my grandma's orchard. But today I was thinking of her, and I decided to make an Apple Coffee Cake with a sourdough starter. My starter discard jar was getting full, and I urgently needed to use some of it up, plus it makes everything taste better.
I am not an expert in different apple varieties, but I did my research and learned that the best apples to use in baking are:
Granny Smith - tart
Pink lady - sweet-tart flavor
Golden Delicious - sweet, won't break but might need lemon juice for more flavor
Lady Alice- sweet with hints of tartness, great for cooking, hold the shape well
And these apples are not so good for baking:
Gala and Red Delicious - won't withstand high temperature
Honeycrisp - the texture is too crumbly, will fall apart when baking
Fuji and Macintosh - too juicy
I bought both Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples to see if I like one better than the other. After tasting them, I chose to combine both. I used two Granny Smith apples inside the cake to add more flavor, and two Pink Lady apples for decoration because I wanted to have a pop of red color on top.
I actually baked this apple coffee cake three times and adjusted ingredients and their quantity each time to achieve the color, flavor, and texture of the cake that I imagined: yellow on the inside, sweet-tart, and moist with a hint of crispy crust. I tried it with oil, I tried it with butter, with milk and sour cream, and with or without the cinnamon inside. The 3rd attempt turned out to be precisely what I wanted!
I found that oil in my 1st attempt made the coffee cake too moist and gummy, I switched it with butter, and it was the right choice: the cake was still moist but not gummy. In 2nd attempt, I substituted milk with sour cream, which added softness to the cake and, together with a sourdough starter, made the taste richer. I went for the 2 eggs instead of 3 just because sometimes you only have two left in the fridge and craving an apple coffee cake!
Don't put Cinnamon inside the batter if you want the color of the cake to stay bright and yellow; even 1 tsp of Cinnamon will add a brown shade to the whole cake. Sprinkle it on top instead.
Use Lemon Juice to pour over peeled and diced apples to prevent darkening and add more tartness, especially if the apples you are using lack it. Combined with the sweetness of the batter, it creates sweet-tart flavor.
Substitute white sugar for brown for a more moist texture. I found that adding 2 tbsp was enough for the texture I tried to achieve.
When adding a sourdough starter to a recipe, remember to adjust the quantity of flour and liquids accordingly, since the starter is 50% flour and 50% water.
Check my other delicious Sourdough Starter Discard Recipes to add unique flavor to your baked goods and save your starter.
As usual, I simplify my recipes, so they are easy to follow for beginners. I avoid using complex numbers and ingredients, so the recipe is less intimidating for new bakers.
1/2 cup Sourdough Starter Discard
2 tbsp Sour Cream
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/4 cup Flour
Cinnamon and brown sugar to sprinkle on top
Lemon Juice of half lemon
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Peel and dice 2 apples into small cubes and pour lemon juice over them to avoid darkening.
Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and mix together with a mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add sourdough starter, sour cream, vanilla, and melted butter and mix.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Carefully mix with a spatula.
Stir in the diced apples. Make sure not to accidentally pour lemon juice along with them. The batter should be thick.
Pour the mixture into the 9" springform covered with parchment paper and greased with oil or butter. Distribute the batter evenly with a spatula.
Cut the rest of the apples into thin slices about 1/8 in thick. Do not peel; just remove the core. Add a little bit of lemon juice.
Decorate the top of the cake by pressing the apple slices into the batter in a circular manner overlapping one another.
Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on top.
Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Dust it with a tiny bit of powdered sugar.
Tools for Sourdough Bread Baking: