Saturday, December 12, 2009

There Is No P In Granny Smith*

apple crostataIt was time to try making an apple crostata. I don't know why, but today was the perfect day for it. It just was. The rain we were promised (threatened with) earlier in the week finally materialized. And how. We were snug and warm inside though, and there was a round of crostata dough wrapped up in the freezer. I felt an urge to bake. Something new, yet also familiar. Apple crostata. By now, my friends are probably wondering if I know how to make anything else. How many of these have I made in the last 6 months? 10? 12 or more? But apple, I've never tried. Wanted to, but was never sure of the outcome. Apples are generally firmer than peaches, plums and pears*. How would they act within this recipe?

I just finished reading an excellent cookbook/memoir**, and in it the author describes an apple pie like the one I made years ago: piled high with apples going into the oven, coming out with a big space under the top crust where the apples used to be. They had cooked down while the crust stayed in place. Her solution was to sauté the apples first and then pile them into the pastry. Since this was an experimental crostata, I decided to try it both ways: cooked and raw in the same crust. This was my idea of "blind baking"; I had absolutely no idea what would happen. This one wouldn't be leaving my kitchen to be foisted onto unsuspecting friends though, so nobody would be thinking to themselves, "Crostata? Again?". Frankly, most of it wouldn't even live to see the following day. We ate it before AND after dinner, then forced ourselves to wrap it up and save some for the following day. I just know, that with the littlest bit of encouragement, we would have polished off the whole thing. Was it perfect in every way? No. Did it look magazine-cover gorgeous? No. Did it taste really really good? Uh, yep!

My Notes: Using the Peach Crostata recipe as a guide, I first peeled and sliced the apples and tossed them with some lemon juice. Then I mixed them with cinnamon/clove/nutmeg along with a little sugar and flour. Half of the apples then went into the skillet with some butter and were cooked until soft, but not falling apart. When they had cooled off, I started layering them into the rolled out dough and filled up the rest of the space with the raw apples. The cooked apples had lost half their bulk, so the pie was more like 25% cooked apples to 75% raw apples. I brushed the crust with water and sprinkled chunky sugar over it (and yes, I'm still working that jar of pastel green sugar). When I took it out of the oven, the crust was totally done and the apples didn't look so hot. They had shrunk down and left a gap under the crust, even on the pre-cooked side! The raw fruit looked dry and the cooked fruit looked a little better. And maybe it would have looked fine after being brushed with a warm glaze, but that kind of negates the whole "simple rustic country dessert" feel that I was going for. Next time I'll leave out the flour, sauté all of the apples (will probably need more to make up for the shrinkage) and I'll use more butter and sugar so they'll get more caramel-y. That should do the trick.

*Up to this point I had only made Crostati with fruit whose name began with the letter "P". Didn't plan it, just noticed it one day. I notice stuff like that.
**Confections Of A Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was not only a lot of fun to read, it also has an artery-clogging butter-filled pastry recipe at the end of each tasty chapter! I hope the library doesn't notice that I drooled on all the pages.

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