This recipe hails from Lampreia, a Seattle restaurant, and was originally printed in the food section of the New York Times in Spetember 2004. The roots of Balzano apple cake lie in the Alto Adige region of Italy, where Lampreia's Scott Carsberg trained as a young chef. There, Carsberg worked at the Michelin one-star restaurant, Villa Mozart, whose menu reflected the simple foods of the region and whose chefs taught him how to make Balzano apple cake, a classic northern Italian peasant dessert. Over twenty years later, Carsberg put the cake on his menu, serving it with caramel ice cream. Yum. —Alexandra Stafford
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a nine-inch circle pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place inside pan. Grease sides of pan and parchment round with butter.
Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside. Beat together eggs and half of sugar in a bowl. Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick — it should form a ribbon when dropped from spoon.
Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the egg-sugar mixture and add pod to melted butter.
Peel apples and cut straight down around the core into four big chunks. Discard the core then slice the apple pieces thinly.
Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Stir butter into sugar-egg mixture. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, then stir into batter alternating with the milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top. Cool for at least 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.