The winter has officially dragged on to ridiculous lengths, with -28 temperatures in the middle of March. Frustration mounts with each passing weather forecast which has nothing different to offer than that which we have experienced for the last five months without pause. Anyway, my rant with the weather and lack of spring finished, I want to share with you a recipe near and dear to my Mennonite heart, as well as to my mom’s (she taught me how to make it) and my Oma’s (she told me how to make it better) as well.
The recipe I am about to share with you is called “Platz”. You pronounce it phonetically – just say it how it looks. In the Mennonite kitchen, the methods of how to make it vary and the preferred fruit (rhubarb, apple, apricot, peach…) sparks a debate…at least in my house it does. I am using the recipe that I learnt from when I helped my mom make it, as a kid. The platz my oma made was different but no less good – probably better, if I’m honest. When I had finished baking it, I looked through Oma’s cookbooks and found her recipe for platz and next time I make it I look forward to trying her recipe, however I doubt I will do it justice.
Making platz itself is quite the process: the batter, the fruit, and the crumb topping. It all takes a while! The strongest memories I have of making this, are with my mom, when we had “dying” apples in the dining room (where we kept apples…); ie, apples that had bruises or that it was clear to both the apple and to my mom that no one was going to eat them anymore, so they became platz. Of course depending on the season, and it was usually summer when we made this because we had more fruit options, the fruit prep was easier. Sometimes it was easy (rhubarb – chop) or a little more time consuming (apples/peaches – peel, core, slice). Now of course, I undertake all three parts without hesitation and I find parts of it cathartic, but it’s nice to have my mom there even if it’s only to do the fruit part.
So, here’s the recipe: and I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labour ;)
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, cold-ish
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Fruit: apples, peaches, apricots, rhubarb, plums*
*plums were my oma’s specialty – I never learnt that one – I seriously missed out and I already wish I had taken more opportunities to learn from her.
Be creative when it comes to the fruit! The ones I listed are tried and true and will be fabulous always! I’ve also added strawberries to the rhubarb variety, and still on my wish list is pears.
I like to start with the crumb topping – Throw all the ingredients into a bowl and cut the butter in till it looks like coarse crumbs.
Once it looks like this (or something similar), throw it back into the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Next start on the batter. Cream the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy. While it’s mixing, blend the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, giving the mixer a chance to break the yolk and to blend evenly. Add the vanilla extract and blend evenly (note: if at this point the mixture looks a little curdled, NO WORRIES! Once you add the flour mixture it’ll all come together wonderfully). Grease an 11×15 pan and pour the batter into the pan. Spread evenly and set aside.
Now would be a good time to preheat the oven: 350F. And, get going on your fruit of choice. In my case it was apples:
Wash, peel, core and slice these babies – no thicker than 1/4-inch thick. Layer them on the prepared batter in the pan until the entire surface is covered.
I try to get similar sized pieces in the same rows and such. Save small bits for the edges and also at the end to fill in gaps if there are any. My mom’s philosophy was get as much fruit as POSSIBLE on there!
Once you’ve covered the batter with the fruit, pull the crumb out of the fridge and dump it straight on the fruit. Spread it over the fruit to all corners so the whole cake is covered.
Throw it into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It’s hard to tell if the bottom is done, but if you can, squeeze a fork under one of the corners and lift gently. It should be golden brown. This is where my oma took liberties in telling me how to do it better. The last time my dad took her a piece of platz, the message when he came back was: Leave it in the oven a little bit longer! Something I never minded hearing!
Once you’ve judged that it’s done on the bottom, turn the oven off and the broiler on. Here is the nerve-wracking part (me and the broiler have a complicated and unfortunate relationship) and here is fair warning: DON’T LEAVE THE OVEN’S SIDE ONCE THE BROILER IS ON. This part will only take 5-6 minutes and you really don’t want to push it. The broiler caramelizes the sugar in the topping, giving it a lovely golden brown finish. I like to stay by the oven and peek in the door every once in a while because, well, I’ll admit it, I’m paranoid about it. Like I said, 5-6 minutes tops and the top should finish just like this!
I would highly recommend eating this straight out of the oven (just don’t burn your mouth!) – the topping is crispy and the fruit is sweet and warm and soft. Just amazing!
Thanks for reading! Happy eats!