A wealth of apples has yielded a shelf full of apple sauce, a freezer box of more apple sauce, dried apples that vanished faster than I could stash them in the pantry, a miserable attempt to can apple pie filling, and lastly, today’s Pie-O-Rama: one tart, two crumb-topped pies, and one double crust apple pie deluxe. No, I have not run out of apples, so this may not be the season’s final apple post…
Scheduled as a team event with three aspiring cooks disguised as foreign exchange students, it became a simple apprenticeship with one student, Trang. At home in the kitchen but new to American cuisine, she was eager to learn all about pies, translating the recipes in her mind to what her Viet Nam coffee shop might be able to duplicate. (So sad to hear that apples were out of reach—too expensive to import. She would have to manage with mango or papaya—oh, the sacrifices an artist must make !)
I began early with an apple tart loosely based on Martha Stewart’s recipe (Pies and Tarts, 1985). I found a rectangular tart pan hiding on the shelf above the washer and a jar of apple butter from last season in the freezer. Also, I snaked a jar of cherries in their own syrup from the back of the fridge (gift from a friend)—the syrup would make a great finish to the baked tart!
The food processor allowed me to whip up a double crust recipe (Pate Brise, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts), and then wrap and rest /refrigerate the two discs of dough before rolling out one for the tart. After lining the crust into the tart pan, I warmed the apple butter just enough to melt a tablespoon of added butter, then spread it over the bottom of the crust. I selected the rosiest apples, skins on for added color, sliced them thinly (about ¼ “) and spread them in an alternating pattern on top of the apple butter.
Dusted them with granulated sugar. Then into the oven. After 40 minutes, I pulled the tart out and brushed on a light layer of cherry syrup just to keep the apples moist and to add a little tartness. Voila! A very beautiful display of yummy appleness!
Trang arrived in time to begin the second round of crusts which we stowed in the fridge while we prepared the crumb topping. I selected a gluten-free topping because of the nuts–I’m not averse to a bit of nutrition in my desserts as long as it doesn’t compromise the flavor. So we used almond flour, chopped pecans, oats, browns sugar, and a few tablespoons of butter. Trang learned just how much they might affect her mix—the butter bits started to glom together into a single crumb–but we were quick to set the mix aside until we needed to use it.
Then we took the crusts out of the fridge and began to process the apples.
I cored as she peeled and we continued to peel and slice until we had enough for two pies—I had to add a couple more apples to be sure there were enough; I like a heaping pie of apples! We added a couple tablespoons of sugar, some lemon juice, and cinnamon, to each of our bowls of apples. Then it was time to roll out the dough. I want to mention that it was very useful for me to model what Trang was to do, just before she needed to do it—riding in tandem without the bike! We took pics to record the process so she could share it with her friends.
The dough for the crusts was easy to handle, thank goodness. I told her I have cried over pie crusts before, but that was a long time ago before America’s Test Kitchens and food processors. Meanwhile, we checked the thickness at different edges and made adjustments. Pie plates were lined and filled with apples. Time for the crumb.
I reminded Trang that when the apples bake, they will sink a bit which will allow the topping to cover more efficiently; her larger crumb will come right in the oven.
We topped both pies and put them in to bake. Very satisfying so far!
Our final endeavor was to make a two crust pie, Ken’s preference. This time, after coring, peeling, and slicing three varieties of apples, we added a couple tablespoons of agave, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of butter bits. I rolled out the bottom crust and filled the pie. Trang rolled out the top crust and together we applied it, folded and fluted the edges, vented the top with slits, and put it in the oven just as the other two pies were coming out. The house was filled with the most wonderful aroma!
Clock was ticking and tummies were rumbling, so Ken and I scrounged for some lunch nibbles—he even shared his Alaska reindeer sausage—we ate leftover roasted rosemary green beans and carrots, yesterday’s baked salmon, some sweet potato crackers, and raspberries thick as my thumb,(as an aside, if you can imagine! And aren’t leftovers wonderful?!) It was not so much that we didn’t dare to have dessert before the meal as that we were waiting on another friend, a tart baker in her own right, and didn’t want to slice the tart without her.
Party in full assembly, the tart consumption was an event laden with superlatives. Will I ever be able to duplicate the apple butter or the perfectly tender crust? It was a great closing to a very active morning in the kitchen. Trang took one crumb pie home; I will take the other to another connoisseur later this afternoon. Pie-O-Rama, indeed! So much more fun with an adept apprentice!