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Over the last few weeks we have had the pleasure of takeing our granddaughter on a college tour in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As grandparents the experience was nostalgic and wonderful to have shared this important time and decision with her. Our base was North Andover, Massachusetts where we also cared for our younger grandchildren and enjoyed a day of apple picking at Smolak Farm. Of course the evening brought apple pie and later in the week apple crisp. One of their favorites is apple pie cake, a recipe I found in my aunt Rosette’s hand written cookbook. It has become an autumn tradition after apple picking and brings back memories of this lovely woman. I always like to associate the family member with my recipes because I think it is important to have our children know people in our family that we have loved and who’s recipes we still enjoy.
Apples such as Macintosh, Courtland and Red Delicious are mainly grown at the farm and are the varieties we have always used in our apple desserts.
I grew up west of Boston and for many years lived in Concord and Boston Massachusetts where I lived among the roads and buildings that played such an important roll in the history of our country. This is home no matter where I am in the world. I always try to visit my family in the Boston area during this time of year – there is nowhere else in the world that is more beautiful in the fall. The colors driving up to New Hampshire were just awesome. The small brooks and rivers with stonewalls rambling alongside of barns I never tire of seeing. The lovely little towns and harbors along the ocean and the beautiful white church steeples and commons centered in every town seem to have been standing there since the beginning of time.
After driving through this beautiful country we sat down to apple pie cake made with the apples we picked ourselves. What could be homier and New England then a house filled with the aroma of apples, cinnamon and cake baking in the oven.
Apple Pie Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes at 350ºF
Yield: 8 servings
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 1/2 cups chopped apples
1/4 cup butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons hot water
Other Things Needed
8” x 8” square baking dish
Cream the sugar, butter, and egg in a mixer until smooth. Stir in the flour a little at a time, then add the spices and baking powder and blend well. Add the water and vanilla and thoroughly blend. Fold in the apples and nuts by hand. Make sure they are well coated with the batter.
Grease and flour an 8” x 8” square baking dish. Pour in the batter and spread the evenly. Bake at 350ºF for about 45 minutes.
Sprinkle the top with confectionary sugar.
This cake can be served at room temperature, warm or with ice cream.
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Stephanie Tatin was the chef in the family-run ‘Hotel Tatin’ and is known for first creating this dessert in 1889, and it became a French classic. I remember the first time I ate it in a restaurant overlooking the ocean in the South of France. I guess that should tell you how much I love this luscious apple tart. As beautiful as the environment was, I totally fell in love with tarte tatin.
I have seen Julia Child make tarte tatin several times as late as when she was in her 80”s. I decided that I had to master it and make it one of my classic tart’s
It is an upside down caramelized apple pie that is easy to make but on the other hand hard to make. The reason for this is that the ingredients are easily assembled, but the caramelizing can be dangerous. When cooking and spooning the caramel over the top of the apples so that they get completely covered and when turning the hot tart from the pan, one must take great care. I recommend a no-stick pan and heatproof oven gloves to protect you hands if some caramel should drip out.
Tarte Tartin is typically an apple tart, but it can be made with other fruits.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes on the stove/25-30 minutes in the oven at 400º
Yield: 8 slices
1 9” pastry crust, pâté brisée or store bought puff pastry
8 apples (dry and apples that will hold their shape i.e. Granny Smith)
3/4 lb sugar
1/2 lb butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of one 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the sugar and butter in a 9” oven pie plate or frying pan that can be placed in the oven. Cook the sugar and butter on high heat until it becomes a deep golden brown caramel. Do not stir, as it will form crystals. If crystals do form, wipe the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and blend. Add the apples, which have been peeled, cut in half, and the seeds removed.
Toss the apples with the cinnamon and place the apples next to each other in a circle outside down. They should overlap in the caramel mixture. Allow them to cook for about 10-15 minutes scooping the caramel over the top of the apples with a spoon. Caramel is extremely hot and dangerous. Extreme care should be taken.
Place the pastry over the top of the pan and carefully tuck the edge into the pan. Place the tart into the middle rack of the oven and bake according to the directions on the pastry package. If using a home made crust cook about the same time or until it turns brown. It is usually about 25 minutes at 400º F if using a packaged puff pastry.
The early settlers brought Apple seeds to Massachusetts from Europe. A farmer named John Chapman, from Leominster Massachusetts was known as “Johnny Appleseed”. He distributed apple seeds all over North America and became a part of American folklore.
Smolak Farm is surrounded by preservation land in a country setting in North Andover, Massachusetts. A distinct seasonal personality of New England set in a green valley surrounded with vivid warm autumn foliage.
As you drive down this quite country road you are drawn to this lovely farm framed with stonewalls and fruit orchards. Driving closer your pallet begins to salivate as you are pulled towards the sent of cinnamon, sugar, apple cider and the aromas of homemade doughnuts, pie’s and muffins. Without even noticing it you are standing in front of the counter trying to decide which of these desserts you will enjoy. It is impossible to resist. I select some cinnamon sugar doughnuts to take home for breakfast in the morning and look forward to making a warm apple pie for dessert this evening.
Apple picking is a family tradition and we are off to the apple orchards with rows of trees all marked by the variety of apples grown; this is what we came for. As usual we select the largest bag and fill it with several varieties especially good for baking apple pies, apple crisp and apple muffins. Our eyes are bigger then our stomach and we think what are we going to do with all of these apples.
Within a few days they will all be smothered with spices and baked into apple dumplings, pies and crumble and shared with friends and family. Then we head for the pumpkin patch. It is a treasure trove of gourds. We select several for carving and some for baking pumpkin pie. This is New England and the joy of filling our home with autumn scents is a tradition we look forward to.
The passion of the New England farm is alive and well throughout the region.
Cook Time: 60 minutes – 15 minutes @ 425ºF, 45 minutes @ 350ºF
Yield: 8 servings
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening (one cup of shortening if you eliminate the butter)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (the butter makes the crust flaky)
2/3 cup ice-cold water
USING A MIXER OR PROCESSER
Mix the flour, shortening, and salt until it looks like a crumb mixture. Add the butter to the crumb mixture. The mixer or processor does a good job of crumbing the mixture. The butter should only be pulsated a few times to assure it isn’t over processed. The original recipe calls for a total of 1 cup of shortening; you can use a mixture of butter and shortening. Remove it from the mixer or processor and mix 2/3 cup of ice-cold water a little at a time until the dough forms. You may not need the entire amount of water. DO NOT OVER PROCESS OR OVERWORK THE DOUGH. Once you have brought all the ingredients together, cut it in half and form a disk shape by patting it with your hands and put it in plastic bags. Refrigerate them for at least 1/2 hour.
If you are mixing the dough by hand, place the flour in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Cut the shortening into small pieces and crumble it either with you hands or with a fork. Cut the butter in, but in larger chunks. Add the ice-cold water and bring it together into a ball, the same as the directions above.
Roll half of the dough out and place it into your pie plate. Fill your pie with whatever filling you are using (follow the directions according to the recipe you are using in the Pie Section). Roll the second piece of dough out and place it on top of your filling. Evenly cut the dough around the edges and crimp the dough according to the directions in the recipe. Return the pie to the refrigerator for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to cool down before baking. The crust should be kept cold. This will make the crust flaky.
12 large apples (mixed varieties, see apple varieties list)
1 cup sugar (the sugar quantity depends on the sweetness of the apples)
4 tablespoons butter, cut in quarters
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
Prepare the dough and cut it in half. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
Retrieve 1/2 of the pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough to fit a 9” pie plate. The dough should overlap the plate.
Peel, core and cut into sections all the apples and put them into a bowl. Add the flour, cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest and toss the apples until they are completely covered with the ingredients. Put the apple mixture into the prepared cold pie crust and return it to the refrigerator.
TOP PIE CRUST
Retrieve the remaining dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out. Retrieve the pie from the refrigerator. Cut the butter into cubes, dotting the top of the apples in different places. Cover the apples with the second pie crust. Cut around the edges evenly so that it falls uniformly below the rim of the plate; about 1 inch. Roll the dough under all around the rim by hand and crimp the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut the top crust with a sharp knife in decorative cuts. This allows the steam to exit. You can make some decorations with the dough, for example in the shape of leaves etc. and put them on the top before you put the egg wash on. Sprinkle with a little sugar and place the pie in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool down the ingredients before baking.
Bake in a very hot oven at 425º F for 15 minutes. This will set the crust. Turn down the oven to 350º F for 45 minutes or until done. You can put a skewer into the slit in the piecrust to test if the apples are soft. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack to room temperature.
Apple pie is best served warm. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or a slice of good cheddar cheese compliments the pie.
EXAMPLES OF APPLES GOOD FOR PIES
Cortland: Mild, tender
Red Delicious: sweet, crunchy
Jonathan: Tart, juicy, crisp
McIntosh: Slightly tart, tender, juicy
Rhode Island Greening: Tart, firm
Yellow Delicious: Transparent, tart, soft
Granny Smith: Green, tart, crisp
NOTE: You can add raisins, or walnuts and also some fresh ginger or a shot glass of Calvados (Apple Brandy) for an exotic flavor.