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Going Gluten Free Abroad - the German Edition

Gluten free German apple cake from above

Having seen our gluten free community grow so significantly over the past few years, with increasing awareness about gluten as well as ‘free from’ products becoming readily available in our local supermarkets it was only a matter of time before other countries cottoned on. The traditional German diet is very wheat heavy, from their innumerable varieties of bread to their flour rich sweet treats like apple strudel or Bienenstich, both gloriously indulgent but ever so glutenous. So how are they managing to adjust to this new lifestyle that is becoming increasingly popular?

Cake (or Kuchen) is a big part of the German culture. Every day groups of Germans (and Austrians too) gather round at 3pm to have something sweet. It picks you up during that dip of the day and they have the perfect chance to put the world to right. This is a ritual I can definitely get on board with which is why I love the idea of finding out how they have adapted their favourite recipes to suit gluten free lifestyles.

Not only is gluten free becoming a movement in Germany, but added awareness for intolerances against dairy and other allergens have had more time in the limelight. With the introduction of the brand ‘Dr Schär’ in local supermarkets, gluten free is becoming even more normalised in their society. I firmly believe this is great news for our culture in general and will make travelling around Europe and even further a field a little less stressful. 

I couldn’t venture into the world of German baking without paying special attention to the apple cake. When I saw this traditional recipe for Versunkene Apfelkuchen, (sunken apple cake) my eyes widened. Everything about this cake makes me think of Germany without having to be extremely complicated (I’m looking at you, Black Forest Gateaux).  A large part of their traditional recipes involve milled seeds and nuts mixed with different types of flour, so when you think about it, they’re already halfway there.

Slice of gluten free German apple cake with apples

This cake is not only free from refined white sugar as it’s sweetened with honey, but also contains no eggs or butter, instead using flaxseed gel and coconut oil. The crumb is surprisingly structured and tastes just as good as a glutenous bake. The soft baked apple pieces are like succulent smiles and are generously studded throughout the cake. The sunken apples take the biscuit though, as one of our colleagues pointed out, they look like sunken stones (in a good way, they added), it’s a unique way of decorating a cake but one which is oh so German. A final sprinkling of demerara sugar does the trick and there you have it. I’ve even had the German seal of approval, so it can be done. People are proving everyday that any culture can be adapted to suit anyone’s dietary needs, it just takes a few tweaks! 

Recipe

For the apples:

  • 4 small apples, peeled and cut into halves

For the cake:

  • 140ml warm water
  • 50g ground flax seeds to make flax gel
    In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the warm water and ground flax seeds. Set aside to gel.
     
  • 110 g coconut oil
  • 150g liquid honey
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 120g unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100g light buckwheat flour
  • 50g hazelnut or almond flour
  • 40g tapioca starch or cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Remember to make the flax gel.

Peel the apples, halve them, and cut out the cores. Lay each half flat and with a knife, make shallow cuts close together across the whole half. Slice these cuts just deep enough to separate but don’t cut all the way through. Set the bowl of apples aside and add lemon juice so they don’t discolour. Cut one apple up into 2cm cubed chunks and set aside too.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C/170°C fan.

Line the bottom of a 7 inch spring-form pan with parchment paper and grease the sides and paper with cooking oil spray, butter, or coconut oil.

Cream the coconut oil with the honey. Add the vanilla, applesauce and flax gel. Beat until combined. This will be very loose but don’t panic.

Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix slowly to keep the starch from flying into the air. Beat until you have a smooth batter. Add the apple chunks in the mix but not the apple halves.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the cut apples on the top, pressing them down slightly into the batter.  Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top of the apples.

Bake for around 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springs back when touched in the middle.

Leave to cool. After at least 45 minutes, remove from the pan, serve and enjoy.

** adapted from Kitchen Frau blog sunken apple cake recipe

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