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Gateau Breton aux Pommes

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This time last year, I was frolicking (OK, well, no – I don’t actually frolic) around Brussels with a great group of girls. We took off for a weekend of rest, frivolity, food and shopping. I actually had the best time, even though I was pregnant, sick with a horrendous chest infection and couldn’t imbibe in Brussels’ famous beers. I swore I would go back, and I will – probably with my husband – sometime in the next few years.

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Even though I couldn’t drink with the rest of my friends (save for one, who was as pregnant as I was at the time), bon vivant I am,  I still over-indulged. Friends, being pregnant in Brussels isn’t so bad. Sure, you can’t drink the beer, but you’re surrounded ON ALL SIDES by waffles and chocolate. And, my personal favourite, speculoos!

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I packed so much eating into those two days, I’m amazed they didn’t roll me off the plane when we got back to Dublin. Waffles three times a day were a must.

“Just plain, no toppings, please! I’ll take six to go.” Hot and fresh off the iron, biting into a doughy Liege waffle was like taking a bite into heaven. I never wanted to be far from those angelic delicacies.

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Belgian frites were a must, at least twice a day. Triple fried in beef fat with a side of truffle mayo? Why not. I’M ON VACATION.

Moules-frites, fricadelle, chocolate (MOUNTAINS OF CHOCOLATE), nougat, pain au chocolat – I even over-indulged in some Turkish cheese pastries I found on our final morning. Everything was delicious. Drunk food and pregnant food are basically the same thing, and Belgians are really good at both drinking and creating drunk food.

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Can I let you in on a secret? The absolute, VERY BEST THING I ate while in Brussels wasn’t Belgian; it was French – from Normandy, to be exact. It was a caramelized apple pancake at Chez Leon, an old-school restaurant best known for their moules-frites. I didn’t enjoy my moules-frites very much, but I would return to this restaurant just for the desserts.

It was perfect. Sweet, but not too sweet, cooked table-side by our very entertaining waiter, served hot with a dollop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top – it was just what I needed after a highly anticipated, then disappointing dinner. My friends ordered other desserts but nearly everyone ended up taking a bite (or two) of my pancake; it was just so scrummy.

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Now, a year on, I’m just after turning 33. For my birthday I really wanted to replicate these flavours – my favourite flavours. I’m lucky to have an October birthday in Ireland – it’s peak apple season. Using tart cooking apples (like Bramleys) in this Gâteau Breton aux Pommes is a must, but equally important is the salted caramel sauce to drizzle over top.

This cake uses A LOT of butter and eggs, but no milk. The consistency post-bake is nearly custard-like, or that of a baked pudding. Your fork slides through the layers of sponge and apple with ease and the caramel adds the perfect amount of sweetness. I think this will be my birthday cake for years to come.

Recipe via Bon Appetit

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