Oktoberfest – Dessert first

It’s time for Oktoberfest!  Since Adrian’s company celebrated Oktoberfest, today, I’ve decided that this week will be Oktoberfest week for me, too.  Thus, I’d like to share with you some German recipes – better said…Romanian recipes with German influences.  Let’s start with a little bit of history!
As you may know by now, I’m originally from Transylvania in Romania.  Transylvania, which means “beyond the forest” in Latin, is the western region of Romania.  It is also the largest and most visited province of Romania.  Most people, when they hear about Transylvania, they immediately think of Dracula.  Dracula was, in fact, Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian king who lived in the 15th century.  Although, Dracula’s Bran Castle is perhaps the main tourist attraction in Transylvania, we shouldn’t overlook the beautiful scenery created by the Carpathian Mountains, the historic cities, the architecture and, most importantly, the food, all of which define this amazing region.  
Transylvania was under foreign authority for almost a thousand years, although its existence dates way before then.  Transylvania was occupied by the Hungarians and the Habsburgs, who later created the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  For centuries, Romanians, Hungarians and Germans were the main ethnic groups in Transylvania.  Therefore, the cuisine reflects a plethora of Hungarian, Austrian and German flavors while maintaining its Romanian identity.  Our food is diverse and rich in flavors, decadent, and fully satisfying.  At the same time, it is simple and easy to make using basic everyday ingredients.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ve always believed that the simplest ingredients produce the most memorable dishes.  
I hold a special place in my heart for desserts.  And let me tell you, growing up, my grandmother spoiled us with mouth-watering sweet creations.  There wasn’t a meal that wouldn’t end with some sort of dessert.  Cakes, tortes, pies, crapes, cookies, pudding, you name it, we’ve always had dessert.  And the Vanilla Pudding Apple Torte was one of my favorites.  Regardless of season, this sweet treat will make your taste buds dance with joy and fully satisfy your sugary cravings.                
Vanilla Pudding Apple Torte
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki
Yields 12 servings
Special Equipment: a 9-inch round pan
·         Butter for coating the pan
·         4-5 medium Gala Apples or any other firm apple
·         Heaped 1/2 cup (75 – 80 grams) walnuts, chopped
·         ½ Tablespoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon
·         5 large eggs, at room temperature
·         1/3 cup (75 grams) sugar, plus more to coat the pan
·         7 Tablespoons (70 grams) all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
·         1/8 teaspoon (0.5 grams) salt
Ingredients for the Vanilla Pudding:
·         1 packet Dr. Oetker Vanilla Pudding
·         3 Tablespoons (50 grams) sugar
·         2 cups (450 ml) milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).  Coat the 9-inch pan with butter and sprinkle generously with sugar.  Peel and slice the apples and place them in the pan to cover the entire bottom.  Sprinkle the walnuts on top and then the cinnamon.  Bake the apples for 20-25 minutes until they soften but still hold their shape.  Take them out of the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the flour and baking powder and keep close at hand.  Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.  In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric hand mixer on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes until the sugar dissolves.  In three batches, beat in the flour and baking powder mixture.  
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt on medium speed until they hold medium-firm peaks.  Carefully, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, sugar and flour mixture.   Pour the batter over the apples, walnuts and cinnamon.  Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350°F (180°C) until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan.  Invert the torte on a platter and let it cool.
The Vanilla Pudding
In the meantime, in a small bowl combine the vanilla pudding and sugar.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil.  Add the pudding and sugar mixture.  Turn the heat to medium-low and whisk until it thickens, about 15-20 minutes.  Take the pudding off the heat and immediately pour it over the apple torte.  Let the vanilla pudding and apple torte cool completely before serving.  
Next up on my Oktoberfest adventure, I am going to show you how to make one of my favorite dishes from Transylvania: Szekely Gulyas (Pork and Cabbage Goulash).  Stay tuned!  Until then, I hope that you enjoy the vanilla pudding apple torte and the aroma of freshly baked apples infused with sugar and cinnamon! 

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