Monday, October 6, 2008

An Ode to Apples and Butter

I always get blue in the Fall if I'm not careful, so I try to keep myself busy. Apple picking is a staple for me. For years, my family has trekked out to Harvard, MA, to Carlson Orchards. They have lots of apples within easy walking distance, and raspberries, too. It's never been crowded and it's a lovely drive. They are not organic, however, which brings up the topic of fruits and pesticides. Apples are high on the list of fruits to try to get organic due to the nastiness of their spray. The Environmental Working Group has a great article here on fruits and vegetables to buy organic and why. There is an organic orchard, also in Harvard, called Old Frog Pond Farm, though I have not been.

Once you have the apples, there are many things to do with them, including apple sauce, pie, pork chops with apples, and crumbles. All delicious and all pretty easy. Below are recipes for the two desserts. They include lots of butter. As my little sister used to say, "Can I have too much butter on my toast?" Yes, you can. Enjoy.

Apple Pie

Wash 10 to 12 apples (if not organic, since you want to remove as much spray as possible before you work with them). I prefer a sour apple, ideally macoun but macintosh work, too. Peel them and slice into 12 to 16 slices each (removing core).

Put in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt 1 stick butter. When melted, add 1/2 cup or so honey. Let heat until bubbly and add lots of cinnamon (I usually do around a tablespoon). Stir well and then pour over apples, turning them to completely cover with sauce. Lick the spoon.

Preheat over to 425 degrees.

Make crust. For years I made the Joy of Cooking's simple pie crust, and then my sister-in-law gave me Once Upon a Tart and I reluctantly tried their pie crust and have never looked back.

Flaky Tart Crust from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau
Makes two 9-inch crusts

(I have shortened their lovely directions for the sake of brevity)

In a food processor fitted with a blade put:
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 teas. sugar
1 teas. salt

Pulse a few times to mix.

12 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5 TBSP Crisco

Pulse only until it turns into moist crumbs; over-mixing will make the crust very heavy.

Dump crumbs into a large bowl and sprinkle 4 TBSP of ice water evenly over them.

With your hands or a spoon, mix until the dough just comes together.

Form two even discs. At this point, the creators of this recipe suggest wrapping discs in plastic wrap and chilling for at least 30 minutes. I'm impatient so I skip this step and it seems none the worse for wear.

Roll out one crust. Put into a pie plate.

Pour apple mixture into plate.

Roll out second crust. At this point you can either put the whole thing on top and crimp edges or you can get fancy and do a lattice-work crust. I get fancy. In my house, lattice-work means apple pie. Period.

For lattice, cut crust into 3/4" to 1 inch strips. Lay the longest across the middle. Lay another long one across the middle perpendicularly. Lay another one on either side of the first long strip. Then lay one on either side of the perpendicular long strip, lifting up the ends of the middle strip so it goes over these new strips. Continue this process until the pie is covered. Crimp edges.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then turn down to 325 and cook until crust is browning and pie is bubbling, anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour.

Apple Crumble (aka Apple Yum Yum)

Wash, peel, core, and slice (12 to 16 slices each) 5 to 6 apples. Put in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt 1/2 stick butter. When melted, add 1/4 cup or so honey. Let heat until bubbly and add lots of cinnamon (I usually do around a 1/2 tablespoon). Stir well and then pour over apples, turning them to completely cover.

Put apples into a bread pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In another bowl, put 1/2 stick butter (anywhere from cold to room temp), 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup oats. With your hands, mix until well incorporated. Crumble evenly over the apples and cook until crumble is browned and smells good, approximately half an hour.

Variation: this recipe works for peaches, berries, cherries. If I do any fruit other than apples, I skip the butter-honey sauce and just do plain fruit, or I'll toss with some vanilla or lemon juice and a few tablespoons of raw sugar.