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Aran Goyoaga on Cultivating Love in the Kitchen + Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples From Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple

"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
Image credit: Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple 

Image credit: Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple 

If you've had the pleasure of following Aran Goyoaga's work for the past 10 + years you will know that the cookbook author, food stylist and photographer has a very specific style. Not just a photographic style, but a style that infuses the recipes Aran develops, the ingredients she integrates into her gluten-free recipes and the way she delivers her work via her books, videos and outreach to the masses. If we were to encapsulate it into two words it would be this: simplicity reigns. 

We spoke with Aran about her latest book, Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simplethe good, bad and difficult of developing, writing and photographing a book by oneself during a pandemic, how to cultivate love in the kitchen and more. Read on for her inherent wisdom, and don't miss the recipe for her Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples, perfect for the upcoming holidays...or actually any day, at the bottom of the post. 

You developed all the recipes, photographed and wrote this book during the pandemic: how was that experience? 

The work of writing a book, developing recipes and photographing it is a very isolating one for me. It doesn’t have to be, of course, but that’s how I have always done it. I go deep into the methodical mind of recipe testing and then I have to become more fluid to create a visual world. So in a way, the pandemic was the perfect environment to delve into a new book. It was a challenge at times when I need to shop and source ingredients but the forced isolation worked for me. 

In the beginning of the book, you offer a disclaimer about the use of the word "Simple" in the title. Can you elaborate on that a bit more?

We live in such accelerated times that everyone is trying to multitask or take shortcuts. My work is not about shortcuts or doing things fast. Some recipes are quick, but to me, simplicity is something else. Simplicity is eliminating unnecessary steps and ingredients, and organize recipes in a minimal and orderly way so when you are making them you understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what the expectation is. It’s about eliminating clutter and that comes from all the work I do before the recipe reaches you. It’s about testing a recipe dozens of times to maker it as simple, efficient as possible without compromising texture and flavor. I like people to gain knowledge and understand why they do what they do. Of course, a cookbook is limited by number of pages so I couldn’t dig deep into science but the goal was for the recipes to be comprehensive yet simple. 

We have had the pleasure of experiencing your cooking first hand and if there is one thing that comes to mind, as has been mentioned by more than ourselves, we are certain, it is love. As cheesy as it may sound, your food tastes like love. A love of the process, a love for those you are nourishing and a love of the art form itself. You are human, so I am going to assume it does not always feel that way - but what sort of advice can you offer to use all on how to cultivate more love in our kitchens and in our cooking? 

Not cheesy at all and in fact, cooking and baking are the main ways I know how to show love. It's something I learned from my family so I think it has been passed down to me in a way that is hard to describe. My maternal grandparents were pastry chefs and their shop was the place where everyone in our small village would gather and converse. My grandparents had tremendous generosity of spirit and it showed in the way they baked and opened their lives. I am just a by-product of that environment. 

I love the idea of cultivating love in the kitchen. I would say it begins with the process of sourcing. When you go to the farmers market and buy beautiful ingredients straight from the source, from someone who has poured loved into their product, you will not ignore that. You will bring it home with excitement and you will prepare it simply and beautifully. You will be excited to share with the ones you love or even with yourself. 

Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable. Think of them when you are preparing food,. Think what they like or what new ingredient you think they will enjoy. Don’t try to impress people with fanciness. People come to your home to be with you, the real you, not to sit at a fancy table. 

Meringue Cake with Roasted Apples

Baked meringue over a cake or swirled around an ice cream bombe will always be one of my favorite celebratory treats. There is something about that crispy topping covering a marshmallow interior. You could serve this cake with fresh berries, but the caramelized apples add another layer of sweetness and spice.

MAKES ONE 9-INCH CAKE

For the cake

7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter or dairy-free butter, plus more for greasing

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 g) sugar, divided

5 large egg yolks

2/3 cup (95 g) superfine brown rice flour

1/3 cup (40 g) tapioca starch

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

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¼ cup (55 g) whole milk or oat milk

4 large egg whites

1/3 cup (40 g) raw sliced almonds

For the caramelized apples

1 large firm and juicy apple, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp

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½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower half of the oven.

2. Grease the inside of a 9-inch springform pan or tube pan with butter. Alternatively, use a 9-inch cake pan: line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to help lift the cake out of the pan.

3. To make the cake, combine the butter and ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar over medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg yolks one at a time until all are incorporated. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl and paddle if needed.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Finish by adding the milk. Once the batter comes together, increase the speed to high and give it a good whip for 15 seconds or so to ensure everything is well incorporated.

5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and set aside. Wash the mixer bowl, making sure there is no residue of batter in it.

6. Put the egg whites into the clean mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip them on medium speed until they begin to foam and increase in volume. Add the remaining ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 g) sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue whipping until all the sugar is incorporated.

7. Increase the speed to high and whip the meringue into glossy, stiff peaks. Spread the meringue over the cake batter, creating swirl patterns with the spatula. Sprinkle the almonds on top.

8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The meringue will puff up and the almonds should be golden brown. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and remove it from the pan to cool completely. The top will have deflated slightly and cracked in spots.

9. Meanwhile, make the caramelized apples. Peel, halve, and core the apple. Cut each half into slices that are about ¼ inch thick.

10. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan and cook until it melts and turns a light amber. Carefully stir in the butter, vinegar, vanilla, and spices, as the caramel may splatter.

11. Add the apple slices and toss to coat with the caramel. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning the apples occasionally. Try not to mush them too much. They should be slightly soft and caramel colored. If the caramel thickens too much, add 1 tablespoon of water or orange juice. Let the apples cool for a few minutes before topping the cake. Store the cake, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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©2021 by Aran Goyoaga. Excerpted from Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple: A New Way to Bake Gluten-Free by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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