Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

January 29, 2015

Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day -- on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.

Today: A reliable, no-thinking-required treat from Dorie Greenspan's latest book.

Did you see the back-pocket-dinner-recipe post last month? You should; it could save your dinner someday. And after you read it, you might start thinking in terms of back-pocket-everything.

Also, I’m not sure when back-pocket replaced pantry in the last-minute cooking lexicon, but it is a notable improvement. A pantry recipe sounds sad and desperate, but a back-pocket recipe sounds competent and a little sexy, the sort of thing that Brooke Shields would make after putting on her jeans.

Thinking in terms of back-pocket-anything is a good way of assessing where you feel confident in the kitchen and where you don’t. I’m good at back-pocket-pasta. I’m good at back-pocket-leftover-roast-chicken. I’m okay at back-pocket-snack. (Peanut butter, spoon.) I’m exceptional at back-pocket-remaining-ice-cream. (Spoon.)

I’m no good at back-pocket-treat, though.

Here’s the problem: On the nights we’re not eating cereal, I have to make dinner, so I might as well make some dinner. If it isn’t everything it could be, well, dinner will be back tomorrow. (It’s a problem.) But I don’t have to make treat, so if I am making treat, it ought to be the treat I am meant to be making at that moment. There’s no real raison d'être for treat, other than desire. And what do I desire? How much time do you have?

You can see why at some point the rest of the family just leaves the kitchen.

Back-pocket-pasta is easy: You have limitations. (You have to rescue the broccoli rabe before it turns to the dark side.) But butter and flour and sugar are not limitations. They are possibilities. Who needs possibilities?

Obviously these are problems that are best addressed with a medical insurance policy with minimal co-pays. But a reliable, no-thinking-required recipe helps too: In this case, Dorie Greenspan’s custardy baked apples, from her recent book, Baking Chez Moi. Think of it as a baked crêpe, with stacked layers of apples -- a variation on a clafoutis, really. It’s just sweet enough, and it's flexible enough to accommodate what you have. Greenspan suggests substituting pears or firm mangoes; when plums come around again, I’ll try them too. I’ll save the broccoli rabe for the pasta, though.

Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

Makes one 8-inch square cake

Butter for the pan
3 medium apples (juicy, sweet)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (but still liquid)
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Hina
  • Shortnsweet
  • Chevelle
  • Fairmount_market
  • AntoniaJames
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.


Hina February 5, 2015
Thanks so much for posting this! Made it this evening with gluten-free cup4cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar, and it was delicious + custardy. True winner! Can't wait to try next time with pears!
Shortnsweet February 1, 2015
Can I brown the butter with this, or would that be too much?
Chevelle January 31, 2015
I don't bake, so I'm super happy to find this easy sweet treat to make! My daughter and I made this tonight, next time I may add cinnamon.
Fairmount_market January 30, 2015
Looks delicious! I've made variations of Julia Child's clafoutis for many dinner parties, and it's always a sure fire crowd pleaser while being ridiculously easy in comparison to a pie. I subsequently realized that a savory clafoutis for a brunch is the solution for when you don't have the energy to make a quiche, so I actually think that a savory version of this with broccoli rage could be good.
Nicholas D. January 30, 2015
This is brilliant, as always. What's your savory clafoutis base? The Julia Child minus the sugar?
Fairmount_market February 2, 2015
Here's one version:
AntoniaJames January 29, 2015
That bears a startling resemblance (minus the baking powder and in a square pan) to the simple torta di mele my Florentine host mother made on Sundays when I was a student there. Definitely putting this one in my back pocket. So many apples, so little time! Thank you for posting this. Much appreciated. ;o)
Sharon K. January 29, 2015
I have made this recipe so many times for impromptu dinner parties that I hardly have to think about it. It is equally delicious made with pears.
Sarah J. January 29, 2015
When I asked Dorie which recipes she would immediately suggest I make from her book, this was the first thing she mentioned! So when both Nicholas AND Dorie tell me to do something, I do it. Also, I'm just imagining Brooke Shields stuffing a copy of this recipe into her pocket.
Allyn January 29, 2015
I've been debating on what sweet to make for Super Bowl watching (or pretending to watch), and I think this is the winner.