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Jack and Eva went apple picking last week, and I was the lucky recipient of their largess. Jack, a cool 8-year-old, loves to go on adventures with his mom, Eva, and she is always coming up with fun things for the two of them to do – even if some days it’s only shooting hoops in the driveway and playing ball with their dog, Red.

The pair is among some of my favorite neighbors and I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Jack grow from a toddler to a guy who now spins around the block solo on his brand new red bike (red happens to be his favorite color).

So, when I was bestowed with some bright red apples and beautiful golden jar of Michigan honey, I felt fortunate, thankful and inspired; I would have to make special dessert with this special gift. Eva and I discussed making an apple pie, which was their plan and how Northern Spys were the best type of apple to use, but I already had a Granny Smith to go with my red apples and remembered a recipe for apple sharlotka that I recently saw on the Food & Wine website.

A sharlotka is a Russian apple pie/cake that is light, airy and so simple to prepare. With a batter of eggs, sugar, flour, spices and almond extract, the result is a crispy topping covering perfectly cooked apples. There’s no need to roll out a pie dough with this delicate dessert but it does resemble a pie that is unlike any other I’ve tasted – and it’s not too sweet, either.

The recipe calls for Granny Smith apples, but as I stated, I had a combination of varieties and they all worked well. The only point I would stress is that you use an 8-inch springform pan. As the top is so delicate, the dessert needs to be unmolded from the pan after sitting for a few minutes. You can serve this with whipped cream but really, a sifting of confectioners’ sugar is all that’s needed. This is a dessert best served warm, but I had no problem scarfing down a cold slice for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

Kate Lawson is a former Detroit News food writer. You can reach her at katecook@comcast.net

Russian Apple Sharlotka

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of kosher salt

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and side of an 8-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the almond extract and the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow and a ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted, 8 to 10 minutes. Gently fold in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

Spread the apples in the prepared pan in an even layer, then pour the batter evenly over them. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the batter to sink in a little.

Bake the sharlotka for about 1 hour, until it is golden and crisp on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes. Unmold and transfer to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm. Serves 8.

Per serving: 226 calories; 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 8 percent calories from fat); 50 g carbohydrates; 36 g sugar; 70 mg cholesterol; 42 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber.

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