mother nature had other plans for us
the frost bit the blossoms in the Spring
the apples fell early
the tree was bare
we had to choose
from a bin
from the ground
we went apple choosing
and still had fun
According to Linda Stradley, on the web site What's Cooking America, one of the first records of apple pie was in a cookbook originally compiled around 1390 A.D. by the master cooks of King Richard II. The following, according to historians, is one of the first recipes of what we know today as apple pie.
XXIII. For To Make Tartys in Applis
Tak gode Applys and gode Spryeis and Figys and reyfons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed co-lourd wyth Safron wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake well.
These early pies differed from pies today in that no sugar was used – for obvious reasons. Sugar was both scarce and expensive. Also, the pastry, referred to as a “coffin” in the ancient recipe, was considered simply a container, something not to be eaten.
It was said that the mark of a good “coffin” was if it could be run over by a wagon wheel without breaking!
Apple trees were brought to America from Europe. The only apple trees native to North America are varieties of crab apple trees. However, the acceptance of apples in the American culture is demonstrated by the well known slogan:
“As American as motherhood and apple pie.”
Today, the mark of a good apple pie is its tender, flaky crust and the shortest possible period of time between the picking of the apple and the baking of the pie. It has become a family tradition at our house to pick our own apples in the fall. At Thanksgiving this year, we made pies with apples that had been at the orchard as recently as the day before we made the pies.
Recipe for Apple Tart
An apple pie is often made with a double crust. This time we used only a bottom crust, making it an Apple Tart.
200 g flour (about 1½ cups)
100 g butter, unsalted, and broken into pieces (about 7 tablespoons)
70 g confectioners' sugar (about 1/3 cup)
5 g salt (about 1 teaspoon)
4 ml milk (about 1 teaspoon)
3 egg yolks
5 ml pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
700 g apples (about 3 cups)
500 g apples (about 2 cups)
50 g sugar, optional (3½ tablespoons)
50 g butter (3½ tablespoons)
cinnamon, to taste
For the dough:
Sift the flour onto the counter. Make a big well. Add the butter, confectioners' sugar, salt, milk, yolks and vanilla extract. Using your pointing finger, start bringing the flour into the liquid ingredients in a circular motion. When you have a paste-like mixture, use a pastry scraper and break the dough up into a crumbly, sandy mixture.
Fraisage: Take a small amount of dough and rub it through the palm of your hand along the work surface. This pulls the butter around the flour and ensures that you don't overwork the dough, keeping it tender. Set this piece of dough aside and repeat with remaining dough.
After you've performed this technique on all the dough, then you can knead all the dough into a ball. You should be able to see a fingerprint in the dough that springs back a little before resting. If the dough seems dry, add fingertips of water. If wet, add touches of flour. Form into a circle, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Fleurer (sprinkle) the counter with flour. Roll the dough out. Always roll from the middle of the dough and roll evenly. Position the dough in the tart pan or ring. Chill until needed.
For the filling:
Core, quarter and slice apples. In pan, melt butter. Add apples. Then add sugar, to taste (depending on how sweet your apples taste). Cook until soft. Then add pure vanilla extract. Cook (adding water if it dries out too quickly and turn heat to low) until somewhat soft. Pass through a food mill (or use a food processor to purée.
Spread the compote on the bottom of the pastry. Layer the remaining slices of apple on top in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 30 to 40 minutes, until done.
My 11 year-old loves to help make pie and she does it now with minimal supervision. We all love it when she gets into her pie making mood. The only thing better than the taste of fresh apple pie is the anticipatory smell of it baking in the oven. This year, the pie came out just in time for the turkey to go in and the lingering aroma of apple pie spices with a slow roasting turkey – well, memories are made of this!
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