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Without The Squeeze
Somewhere in my jaded youth, I learned the English proverb “Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” I found this gleefully funny and would loudly repeat it anytime we were at dinner in a restaurant and someone unfortunate enough to order apple pie (this being in the US, it sometimes came with a quarter of a processed cheese slice) would be the victim of my newfound joke. But, like so many of my under appreciated forays into humor, it came to an end when the parents of one of my brother’s friends told my parents that my loudly pronounced joke had profoundly embarrassed their son, and he didn’t want to eat with us again.
Going to one of my favorite websites, which has long discourses on little known culinary facts- Gastro Obscura -I found out that this proverb has its roots in 17th century England, where serving dairy with, or on top of pie became a “thing”. In Yorkshire, Wensleydale cheese was served with the slice. Another reason for gilding with dairy is that the apples weren’t that great tasting, as they were usually grown to make hard cider. Cheese (there was no ice cream) softened the blow.
Fast forward to my current trials with apple pie. My mother-in-law made a delicious apple pie (replete with a Crisco crust, which I could never make as well as she did) and she used an apple grown by an elderly woman (who was the only woman I ever encountered who actually wore bloomers) with the name of Rebby DeButts. The name of the apple was Rambo. Even staid Wikipedia stated that the real Rambo apple – not to be confused with another apple called Summer Rambo – had a distinctive taste and aroma. I agree, and even managed to make a really good apple pie with Rambo apples once upon a time, but now I can’t find them anymore. Every fall, I used to line up a new apple pie recipe from a cookbook, and occasionally from untried internet sources. The results varied from okay to pretty good, especially with ice cream and not too much cinnamon. But not one of them was something that I particularly wanted to repeat.
During The Pandemic (known hereafter as DTP), some of my favorite cookbooks to read were from David Tanis. Cookbooks are always seductive to me for nighttime reading as they all have happy endings. I made his Rustic Apple Tart from his book Market Cooking. It’s a hit. It’s much simpler and his technique of using the cores and peelings to make a glaze is a genius use appealing to my waste not- want not complex. I always have Cathy Barrow’s All Butter Crust in the freezer and use that instead of his, so I have excluded that from his recipe given below.
If you have somewhat flavorless apples, add a drop or two of the Green Apple Essence from Grasse to the syrup. I sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of Calvados to the syrup while it is still hot. Once I quarter the peeled apples and core them, I usually get 4 to 5 slices from each quarter. And when you sprinkle the sugar over the apples and border of the tart, it can be turbinado, or maple sugar and not just white granulated sugar. Although he advises to brush the glaze onto the surface of the tart before serving. I brush some all over (including the crust) after I pull it out of the oven, and sometimes a quick brushover right before serving. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes for this tart to bake until the crust is a golden brown and the apples are a soft and a bit caramelized. Feel free to garnish with cheese!
- 2lbs (900gr) firm tart apples (4-6 medium sized ones)
- 1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar - I prefer Caster Sugar
- 1 cup (237ml) water.
- 1 premade pie crust of your choice, but one that can be baked freeform.
- Extra sugar for sprinkling.
- Preheat oven to 400F (200C)
- Peel and core the apples, and put the cores and peels into a saucepan with the one cup of water and the 1 cup of sugar.
- Set the pan over medium heat and allow it to develop into a syrup - at least 10 minutes -and then strain the peels and cores from the syrup.
- I quarter the peeled apples then make a quarter moon incision to remove core and seeds - it makes for a nicer slice.
- Slice the apples thinly, not paper thn,and reserve in bowl of acidulated water (lemon, Vitamin C)
- Roll out your pie crust of choice into a rectangle on a silpat or floured parchment paper - approximately 8x 12 inches or a bit larger if you prefer.
- Line up your slices like tiles on a roof in rows, and leave a a border of plain dough of approximately an inch or 1 1/2 inches.
- Fold the border dough over the edge of the apple slices.ple
- Sprinkle the apples and the border crust with sugar before baking
- It should take about 30 - 40 minutes to bake out to your taste - crust should be golden to light brown and the apples should be soft and somehat carmelized.
- I use the Maple Sugar from India Tree, or their Turbinado Sugar to sprinkle on the unbaked tart.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.