It all started last week, when I bought some Granny Smith apples from the local grocery store. Initially I wanted to use them in a salad, but then I got very busy with work and school, and time flew by like in a dream. On the plus side, those extra few days gave me the chance to reflect more on my options, and in the end I changed my mind completely – for the better, I think. I decided that I should try to make a special cake – a cake that meant the world to me when I was a child: Méro.
This cake was sold at a pastry shop which was located just around the corner from our flat. Money was scarce in my family when I was a kid, so shopping there was a rare and special treat. It was a time when my parents worked very hard to put food on the table, and all the money they had was spent on the basic necessities of life – and eating cake was not a necessity, as you can imagine. But when the time came to visit the shop and to buy a cake – wow, how can I put it into words? It was magic, pure and simple.
I remember the pastry shop ladies well: always dressed in pale blue uniforms, they cut the cake into small squares and served it straight from the huge baking pans, each square decorated with a bit of whipped cream. As they took the squares out of the pans, I could see the syrup oozing from the cake, dripping from the spongy pastry and settling peacefully on the chipped white plates.
The apple element was my favorite part: I loved its tartness and its assertive nature, which went well with the delicate, subdued and unbelievably light pastry. Back in those days I did not like whipped cream, and I used to leave it on the plate for my mother to eat it. I only ate it once, and it happened after I dropped the cake on the floor inside the pastry shop, in front of other customers, and mom had to buy me another one. I was so ashamed by what I’d done that I went straight to a table, took a seat and ate the cake very quickly, with whipped cream and all. That scene has made quite an impact on me, and I remember it now as if it were yesterday.
I started off by making an apple jam using 4 medium-sized (around 2lb) apples and 3 cups of sugar. Granny Smith apples are very sour, and they work great in this recipe.
Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks. Put them in a pan along with 3 cups of water:
Bring the pan to simmer and let the apples cook for 20 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally:
Add the sugar and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (you want to ensure the sugar has dissolved):
Slowly but surely, the jam is getting thicker thanks to the pectin naturally present in the apples:
The jam should be done in about one hour. I turned off the heat and left it in the pan till the following morning. When the jam was still hot I also added a pinch of ground cinnamon, and then stirred the jam well. This step is optional.
The next day, the jam had a thick consistency…
… and a nice, golden color:
Time to proceed to the next stage: making the spongy pastry.
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp flour
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Separate the eggs. Mix the egg whites until stiff and fluffy:
Transfer the beaten egg whites into a separate bowl.
Mix the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture has a silky consistency:
Add the flour and mix until the ingredients are well combined:
Add the beaten egg whites and mix until smooth and silky:
Place the mixture into a small greased and floured baking pan:
Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden-brown. Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely.
Spread apple jam on top of the spongy pastry. Add whipped cream and serve.
This was a first attempt to recreate my beloved Méro cake. Next time I make it I will prepare a simple syrup and soak the pastry in it, in which case I will probably need to add a crunchy element – maybe some chopped roasted nuts sprinkled on top? We’ll see.
Méro is easy to make, and its ingredients combine to create a unique balance of flavors. The choice of apples is crucial, and the contrast between the delicate spongy pastry and the pungent apple jam defines this cake and makes it a success. As soon as I took a bite my mind went back in time, to childhood memories that are very dear to me. The pastry shop ladies in pale blue uniforms did a great job creating Méro, and I will nostalgically return to savor their creation for many years to come.