Candy Apples

Candy apples, rank and fileI really want to like candy apples.  They are so closely associated with fall and carnivals and country fairs, they seem like a fantastic way to celebrate our local apples.

In practice they are usually disappointing.  They are often died a garish red.  The candy coating is either adamantine, or it sticks to your teeth and threatens to pull out your molars.  And usually the fruit is so large that it cannot be eaten comfortably from the end of a stick.  You have to unhinge your jaw, which compromises your ability to break the adamantine candy coating.

In theory all these problems can be solved.

Let’s talk apples.  Any good eating-apple is a good candy-apple.  Firm, crisp, juicy.  Apples that may be a touch sour to eat out of hand can still make good candy apples.  As I hinted above, small apples are key.  I say 2.5″ in diameter at the most.  Edmonton is awash in many varieties of smaller apple that you can comfortably fit between your teeth.

As an aside, to make candy apples you have to use whole, intact apples; you can’t use segments or slices.  The skin of the apple acts as a moisture barrier between the flesh of the fruit and the hard candy.  If the hard candy comes into contact with moisture it starts to melt.  Candied slices of apple will deteriorate within 10 minutes of the sugar setting.

Candy coating.  Here we use white sugar, corn syrup to prevent crystallization, and a bit of water to slow down the caramelization.  The name of the game is hard crack.  The syrup needs to reach 310°F.  Any lower and the the candy will not be brittle, and will stick to the teeth.

Most candy apples are dyed an intense, impossible red.  Personally I think they look better without food colouring, as you can see the natural colour of the apple.  Edmonton-grown apples come in a shocking array of colours, from gecko green to straw yellow to lipstick red.

I know it’s a bit crafty, Pinterest-y, even Martha Stewart-y, but I love using twigs from an apple tree as the sticks for candy apples.

 

Candy Apples

Ingredients

  • 480 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 180 g water
  • 8-12 apples, firm, crispy specimens not more than 2.5″ across

Procedure

  1. Skewer each of the apples with a thick twig from an apple tree.  Line them up on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot.  Stir briefly to moisten all the sugar.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Monitor the temperature of the syrup with a candy thermometer.
  3. As soon as the syrup temperature reaches 310°F, remove the pot from the stove.  Working quickly, dip each of the apples in the syrup, rolling the apple to ensure the entire surface is coated with the candy.
  4. Allow the syrup to cool and harden before serving.  Obviously.

Apple Must

Apple must reductionWhen you have hundreds of pounds of something you start thinking deeply on how you can preserve and consume the bounty.  This time of year apples are the subject of those deep thoughts.  Of course cider is the supreme way to preserve and consume apples, but I’ve been experimenting with some other techniques that involve cooking and reducing the fresh apple juice.

I got the idea from the cuisine of Modena.  Obviously they have an abundance of grapes, and obviously the majority of those grapes end up as wine or liquor, but they also have a few preparations made by cooking and reducing fresh grape juice.  The most famous is traditional balsamic vinegar, but there is also a little-known preparation called saba.  It is a simple grape must reduction, once commonly used as a sweetener.

Above, at left, is an apple must reduction.  It started as 16 L of fresh apple juice, pressed from Edmonton apples.  Before fermentation could start I brought the juice to a simmer using my turkey-fryer.  I maintained the gentle boil for about 12 hours, after which I had less than 4 L of liquid remaining.

The must is a beautiful, dark red-brown colour, like dried dates.  It is tart, and somewhat sweet, maybe a touch sweeter than grape juice.  It is slightly syrupy on the tongue, and it has a remarkably concentrated aroma that reminds me of dried fruit like prunes.

So what do you do with this stuff?  If you whisk it with a touch of vinegar or mustard and shallot it makes a great dressing.  Diluted with a bit of cold water it also makes a delicious drink.  But I think its supreme use is in making reduction sauces for meat and vegetables.  To make the dish pictured below I pan-roasted pork tenderloin, then deglazed the pan with apple must, reducing it to make a sweet-and-sour sauce that also played will with the roasted root vegetables.

Roast pork, root vegetables, and an apple must pan sauce.

 

As a side note, I’ve also used this apple must to make a superlative vinegar.  You may have even tasted some of this vinegar if you’ve eaten at RGE RD; they’ve purchased a few bottles from me over the past year or so.

I don’t see myself making gallons and gallons of apple must reduction every year, as it is extremely energy intensive, but it’s one more interesting way that apples could feature in our regional cuisine.

 

Sour Cherry Pâte de Fruits

Originally published December 14, 2013.

 

Evans cherry gelsPâte de fruits, literally “fruit paste,” is a simple confection made of fruit, sugar, and pectin, though some recipes call for gelatin instead.

Pâtes de fruits have a very distinct texture.  They are firmer than a spreadable breakfast jelly, but without the persistent chew of a gummy bear or gummy worm or any other fauna from the gummy kingdom.  One of my chefs compared the texture to a medium ganache.

Another distinction between true pâte de fruits and inferior industrial candies is flavour.  They are very bright, pure expressions of the fruit from which they are made.  They tend to be tart, though well-balanced.

The chemistry behind pâtes de fruits is the same as that behind jellies (see this post).  We require three things to form good pectin bonds:

  • heat, to evaporate moisture and concentrate the pectin
  • acid (hydrogen ions), to neutralize the negative charge that repels pectin molecules
  • sugar, to draw in moisture and make room for the pectin molecules to get intimate

The only difference between a spreadable jelly and this jelly candy is the concentration of the above-listed ingredients.  The real trick is finding the right pectin content: too little and the paste will not cut into clean squares, too much and they will be very firm and have a slightly mealy texture on the tongue.

Estimating the required pectin quantity is especially hard if you are using fresh fruit.  Bakery supply shops carry fruit concentrates designed to be used in this type of confectionery, and each is carefully blended to have uniform characteristics across batches.  Fresh fruit, however, is not and cannot be controlled in this manner.  Pectin content varies from plant to plant and within the same plant as the fruit ripens.

I’ve been trying to make a great Evans cherry pâte de fruits for some time now.  For the Eat Alberta 2013 tasting board I set out to make a pâte de fruits with some of the Evans cherries left in my freezer from last season. I wanted to give folks a really clear idea of what our sour cherries taste like.  Since we were still three or four months away from having fresh cherries, I thought that jelly candy was the best way to do this.  To be completely honest they had too much pectin in them, so the texture was a bit too firm and mealy.  Interestingly, I let some of the candies leftover from Eat Alberta sit, covered, at room temperature for a few weeks, and the texture smoothed out and they were exactly the right consistency.  My working theory is that pectin bonds degrade over time.

Anyways, for my latest batch of Evans cherry jelly candies I used the recipe below and they turned out great.  As mentioned above, due to natural variations in pectin content, you might need to tweak the quantities for your cherries.

I have omitted extra acid such as citric acid solution from the recipe because I think that Evans cherries are plenty sour on their own.

I’ll share two more details before leaving you with the recipe.  First: boil the jelly very aggressively.  This preserves a lot of the flavour of the fresh fruit.  Second: when selecting a dish to pour the jelly into to set, pick one that is a size that will make your jelly candies about 1/2″ high.  Making the candies too flat makes them hard to pick up.

 

Evans Cherry Pâte de Fruits 

Ingredients

  •  600 g Evans cherry purée (pitted cherries run through the blender)
  • 170 g liquid pectin
  • 300 g white corn syrup
  • 600 g granulated sugar

Procedure

  1. Combine the cherry purée, the liquid pectin, and the corn syrup in a large pot.  Heat and stir to dissolve the pectin.
  2. Add the sugar and stir gently to dissolve.
  3. Crank the heat and boil aggressively until a candy thermometer reads 218°F.
  4. Immediately and quickly pour into a casserole.
  5. Allow to cool and stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
  6. Cut into squares or diamonds and roll in sugar.

 

Can you imagine if Edmonton restaurants started serving these when they brought you the cheque, instead of a mint?

Fried Apple Peels

Fried apple skins tossed with sugar and salt.The only time you should ever peel apples is when you are going to cook them.  Once cooked apple skins are hard, like photography film, if you can remember what that tastes like.

The only time I peel and cook apples is when I’m making apple pie or apple sauce, which is only a few times a year.  Most of the apples that pass through our home are crushed and pressed whole to make cider.  In this process the skins are broken up very fine so that they lend some body and tannin to the drink.

What I mean to say is I don’t actually peel very many apples.  But when I do peel those very few apples it bothers me to throw out the skins, because they are actually quite tasty.

So one day instead of dropping those peels in the trash can I dropped them in a pot of hot oil.

It’s difficult to get all the moisture out, to make them brittle and delicate and crisp, without the peels getting too dark and bitter.  The trick is to pull them from the oil when the bubbling has mostly subsided: they will still be limp, but once they cool they will be crispy.  Toss them with a pinch of salt and a three-finger pinch of sugar and they make a great garnish for any number of sweet or savoury dishes.

Below they are pictured with cornbread pudding, poached apples, and buttermilk ice cream, but they could just as easily be put on top of a bowl of squash and apple soup, or even a plate of grilled pork chops with apple sauce.

Cornbread pudding with poached apples, vanilla ice cream, and whisky caramel sauce

 

Addendum I

The photo above reminds me of a chef I once worked for.  One night we ran veal sweetbreads, floured and pan-fried, with chanterelle mushrooms and a reduction sauce.  We tasted the first plate, and I asked if maybe the dish needed another component for some colour, some visual contrast.  He said, “Five shades of brown is a beautiful thing.”

 

Addendum II

If kids love anything these days it’s foams and powders.  With this in mind one of the young cooks in our kitchen put some fistfuls of gangly apple skins into our dehydrator.  Two days later they were perfectly dry, like tumbleweed fragments.  Not quite as satisfying to eat on their own as the fried version, but a few brief moments in a blender and they made a surprisingly flavourful apple powder.  The cook then mixed this powder into a bowl of whipped butter to make “apple’d butter”.  A bit highfalutin for Button Soup, but I thought I’d mention it.

Towards a Sour Cherry Tart

One of the greatest French bistro desserts is tarte au citron, or lemon tart: a rich, tangy curd set in a buttery French tart shell.  In furtherance to ending the tyranny of the lemon in our fair city, I’ve been experimenting with substituting citrus with our local sour cherries.

Background: Classic Fruit Curds

In pastry books there are usually two fruit curd recipes: one for lemon and lime, and another that can be used for almost any other kind of fruit.

Lemon has two traits that let it have its own style of curd: a yellow colour and a very intense acidity.  If you cook lemon juice with enough egg yolks and butter that it sets as a curd when cooled, not only will it have the bright yellow colour we associate with lemons, but the acidity of the lemon juice will cut through the fatty yolks and butter.  If you were to take a lemon curd recipe and substitute, say, blueberry juice for lemon, the fat in the curd would completely overwhelm the weak acidity of the berries, and it would make a tart with an off-putting grey-blue colour.  For this reason there is a second style of curd that is used for basically all types of fruit besides lemons and limes.  To keep a vibrant colour and acidity, the amount of butter and egg yolks must be reduced, which means that the curd must have an additional thickener, usually gelatin and egg whites.

Designing the Sour Cherry Tart

There are three things that I love about our local sour cherries:

  1. Acidity, obviously
  2. Intense, vibrant colours: eg. Evans cherries are the purest, happiest red, Carmine Jewel cherries are deep purple
  3. Distinctive aroma and flavour: eg. Evans cherries have a distinct aroma of almond extract.

An ideal cherry curd would preserve these three characteristics.

In my first experiment with sour cherry tarts I figured that the cherries were sour enough to stand up to the butter-and-yolk barrage of a classic lemon tart.  I simply substituted a strained Evans cherry purée into a class lemon curd recipe.

A slice of Evans cherry tartThe results were this:

  • The final curd was a drab, dusty, sad pink.  I had to add food colouring to make it presentable.
  • The fat of the curd completely blanketed the natural tartness of the cherries.  The final tart had no discernible acidity.
  • Similarly, the more delicate aromas of the cherry (almond) were clobbered and undetectable.  The tart did have a muted, generic cherry flavour.
  • The texture was okay.  Very buttery.  A bit stodgy.

For round two I used Carmine Jewel cherries, and instead of using only butter and egg yolks I used whole eggs and gelatin, with only a touch of butter.

Results:

  • The colour of the curd was fantastic.  Very close to that of the original cherry.  Honestly it reminded me of Beaujolais Nouveau: Purple with a fuchsia tint.
  • While the tart was not fully sour, it did have a pleasant, bright acidity.
  • Still none of the great aroma of the cherries

A slice of Carmine Jewel sour cherry tart

 

So at the very least I know what style of curd the tart needs to use.  One more iteration and I should have a working recipe.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

On the Flavour of Rhubarb

One day I was bored so I made this drawing:

Rhubarb flavour webIt contains some thoughts on the flavour of rhubarb, with the intent of deepening our appreciation of the plant, and broadening its culinary application.

Rhubarb is almost always cooked with a sweetener to balance the sharp acidity of the plant.  Brown sugar deserves special mention.  Honey also works well, which has me wondering if Sauternes would pair well with a rhubarb dish.

Most forms of dairy, whether sweet or cultured, pair well with rhubarb.  Rich dairy tempers the acidity of rhubarb.  Ice cream is especially good at this.  Salty dairy like aged cheddar can be a good counterpoint to rhubarb’s bright acidity.

Eggs work surprisingly well with rhubarb.  Picture a poached egg served on a bed of dandelion greens dressed with rhubarb vinaigrette.  Once again we have a rich, fatty substance (the egg yolk) tempering the acidity.  The subtle sulfur taste of eggs matches rhubarb somehow, too.

Where eggs and dairy meet there is custard.  Custard is a near perfect partner for rhubarb, especially when made with lots of butter and flavoured with vanilla.

We’ve all had rhubarb crumble, which suggests that rhubarb goes well with grains like wheat and oats.  I often add cold-pressed canola to my crumbles to reinforce the natural grassy taste of the oats.  The next time you have a chance to eat raw rhubarb, see if you can pick up its distinctive vegetal flavour.  This “green” component completely dissipates with cooking, but I imagine there are ways to bring it back.  Picture steaming a ham with generous fistfuls of clover and alfalfa, then eating the meat with rhubarb jam.

Nuts, another common ingredient in crumbles, go well with rhubarb.  Spices, too.  A piece of cinnamon is most welcome in stewed rhubarb.  My grandma’s rhubarb relish was infused with cinnamon, clove, allspice, and black pepper.  Ginger is a classical partner for rhubarb in the United Kingdom, usually in the form of rhubarb ginger jelly.  And we’ve already mentioned vanilla, especially in custards and creams.

I don’t often cook rhubarb with herbs, but I bet there are some interesting combinations.  The anise-type herbs like tarragon and chervil come to mind (think: rhubarb tarragon sorbet).  Also I’d bet that the evergreen flavours of juniper, rosemary, spruce tips, and labrador tea could also work, especially in cocktails (NB Three Boars, Woodwork, et al).

Citrus is a friend to rhubarb, but rhubarb is so sour that it doesn’t need the juice of lemons or limes: zest is best. I always smell candied lemon or lemon balm in muscat wines like Moscato d’Asti.  I bet there’s a good pairing with rhubarb to be had.

Of course rhubarb is often used in conjunction with other fruit.  The secondary fruit tempers the acidity of the rhubarb, and the rhubarb adds punch and volume.  I don’t typically use rhubarb with fruit that is already tart, like raspberry.  I prefer low-acid fruit with mellow flavours.  Ambrosia apples with their honey aroma come to mind.  I’ve written about the felicitous connection between saskatoons and rhubarb here.

I often think of allium as a bridge between sweet and savoury.  Cooked onions and garlic are already a pleasing balance of the two, so they can easily be used to link the flavours of, say, fruit and meat.

Pork and rhubarb was a common pairing when my father was little.  Cured meat like bacon and ham work the same magic as the aged cheddar mentioned above.  Ducks and game birds like pheasant and grouse are a good fit, too.

Raw allium can be nice in moderation.  Something like chive blossom works better than, say, red onion. The very bottom left corner of the flavour web may seem weird.  I’ve written this before, but to me wild rice smells almost identical to rooibos tea.  I know rhubarb goes well with tea (see rhubarb iced tea), and so I’m pretty sure rhubarb would go well with wild rice.

Some of the liquor pairings are no-brainers.  I’ve already posited that rhubarb goes well with evergreen flavours, so gin should work.  Rhubarb and brown sugar and vanilla are all friends, so oak-aged spirits like fine rum and brandy and bourbon also fit.  If rhubarb goes well with the smoky flavour of ham and bacon,  I wonder if there is a good smoky scotch pairing out there (NB Three Boars, Woodwork, et al).

In Italy rhubarb is used to make bitter aperitifs like Zucca and Aperol.

Speaking of drinks, Weissbier popped into my head as a good match for rhubarb because of its clove and citrus aromas.  Maybe that’s what to drink with the dandelion, poached egg, rhubarb dish I mentioned above.

I’m pretty confident in the strength of the rhubarb-floral connection.  In Austria I ate an elderberry flower fritter dusted with sugar and dipped in rhubarb compote.  I bet some fancy desserts could be concocted with rhubarb and rose water, or rhubarb and candied lilac.  To me this suggests that rhubarb might pair well with floral wines like Gewurztraminer.

Thoughts?  Corrections?  Additions?

Rhubarb Iced Tea

The Tyranny of the Lemon

I like lemons.  Tarte au citron and lemon meringue pie are two of my favourite desserts.  A quick squeeze of lemon adds friendly punch to everything from salads to roasted chickens and pots of tea.

However.

To me lemons are the epitome of our thoughtless dependence not just on imported ingredients, but imported cuisine.  Every week of the year the happy yellow fruits are shipped by the ton into our city to spread the insidious influence of Mediterranean and Californian food.

What is frustrating about our lemon dependence is that our region and its local plants do “sour” very well.  We are awash with tart, flavourful ingredients like apples, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, and all the cordials, wines, and vinegars that can be made therefrom.  There is a time and place for lemons.  In Edmonton, those times are few and far between.

A glass of rhubarb iced teaA Simple Start to Overthrowing the Lemon

Lemons hold a particularly firm grasp on our drinking habits.  I’m thinking especially of classic cocktails, lemonade, and iced tea.  A tart syrup made from any of the above-mentioned local ingredients would be most welcome in iced tea in lieu of lemon.  Rhubarb, though, is my favourite.  It is tart, flavourful, and adds a pleasant rosy blush to the drink.

Rhubarb Iced Tea
a big barbecue batch

Ingredients

  • 5 L water
  • 34 g black tea bags (about 10 bags)
  • 1 kg fresh rhubarb, chopped (rhubarb varies widely in acidity, so this quantity will have to be adjusted according to your plant and palate)
  • 400 g white sugar (this quantity will also have to be adjusted so that the sweetness properly balances the acidity of the rhubarb)

Procedure

  1. Bring water to a boil.  Add tea bags, reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer.  Maintain simmer for 4 minutes.  Remove tea bags.
  2. Add rhubarb and sugar.  Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover the pot and let stand until cooled to room temperature, a couple hours.
  3. Strain out the rhubarb.  Chill the iced tea overnight in the fridge before serving.

Citron Melon

A citron melonThis is a citron.  Its name is confusing: most hear it and assume it is part of the citrus family.  “Citron,” after all, is the French word for lemon, and there is a citrus fruit grown in the Mediterranean called a citron, or kitron, that resembles a large lime.

The subject of this post is emphatically not a citrus fruit.  It is a type of melon, so it often goes by the name citron melon to avoid confusion.

At first glance a citron melon looks like a small watermelon, except that it is perfectly round, with spackled streaks arching from pole to pole.  If you cut this globe into hemispheres you’ll find an interior that is pale green, crunchy, and almost completely without flavour.  What little taste there is at times reminds me of honeydew melon, at others cucumber, and still others pumpkin.

What interests me about the citron melon is not so much its flavour, but how it got to me, and why it exists.

I first heard of this fruit a few years ago when doing some research on my family history and prodding my relatives for details on what they ate growing up, and what my grandparents and great grandparents grew and prepared on their farms in Ontario.  Citron came up as a common fruit (or was it a vegetable?) that was preserved as marmalade and pickles.  When I pushed relatives for a description, comparisons as diverse as zucchini and watermelon were made.  It baffled me, a professional cook, that I had never heard of a food that was grown by my own family in Ontario.  I had never seen a citron melon in a grocery store, or a cook book.

This fall I visited family in northern Ontario[1] and finally came face to face with a citron.  Friends had recently harvested the the last of their vegetables, and on the front porch was a small stack of the enigmatic melons.  I learned that the fruit is not sold in markets or grocery stores in the area, and seeds are not for sale at nurseries or hardware stores.  In fact citrons only continue to exist in northern Ontario because home gardeners save the seeds from last year’s crop.[2]

Of course seed-saving is how most domesticated plants have been propagated for thousands of years, and of course gardeners continue to save seed from particularly hearty or tasty or pretty plants.  But this practice seemed particularly precious to me because I doubt there is any local seed bank or commercial nursery that has “back-up” seeds of citron melon – only hobby gardeners in rural Ontario doing what their parents and grandparents did before them.  A tenuous existence.

I came back to Edmonton with one medium-sized citron, a baggy of seeds, and a recipe for citron marmalade.  Citron melon often gets treated like tomatoes that haven’t quite ripened, or zucchini that have grown too long and tough: chopped, stewed with sugar, and made into marmalade or piccalilli.  Unfortunately this means that the consumption of citron relies on a cheap and abundant supply of sugar.

A jar of citron marmalade

 

 

1. Ontarians have a bizarre sense of geography.  Directions tend to be expressed in relation to Toronto: southwestern Ontario, for instance, is the long arm of land that stretches into the great lakes, southwest of Toronto, even though it is actually in the southeast of the province.  Northern Ontario comprises any part of the province above Lake Superior and Georgian Bay, even though this is all in the western part of the province and well below the geographical centre.
2. Some quick internet searches suggest that the citron melon is still a fairly common fruit in other parts of the world, notably parts of Africa and the American south.

Really Good Apple Pie

Apple pie, cooling on the deckSome detailed notes on a North American staple.

The Dough.  I take for granted that you already know how to make a superlative, flaky pie dough.  If you don’t, this pie dough is a good start, but you should probably add a handful of sugar to the mix.

The Filling.  The first important consideration for the filling is the variety of apple to be used.  High acidity and firm, crisp texture are key.  Of the common commercial varieties, Granny Smith is probably the best, but there are lots of varieties growing within the Edmonton city limits that make good pie.  Sweetness, of course, is also desirable, but we can balance the tartness of the apples with sugar.  Look for acidity above all else.

It goes without saying that the apples will be cored and peeled, as apple seeds and cores are inedible, and apple skins are practically inedible once they have been cooked.  Once the apples are processed in this manner, we must take pause to contemplate one of the tricky bits of apple pie.  Apples don’t form a semi-fluid, cohesive filling like, say, sour cherries, or rhubarb, or puréed pumpkin.  They remain distinct chunks of fruit, and yet manage to hold together as you serve the slices.  This is the charm of apple pie.

Since we have already selected a firm, crisp apple, the size that we cut the fruit is what will determine the final texture of the filling.  If we cut the apples very fine, the filling will be cohesive, but we risk over-cooking the fruit and making apple sauce.  Leaving the apples in large pieces will ensure that they keep their texture, but will probably result in the filling falling out of the shell when we try to serve individual slices.  Bad grocery-store apple pies tend to leave the apples very large, but then bind them with a syrup thickened with cornstarch.

So we must find a balance.  For my money, it is best to quarter the apples, then slice the quarters across their long axis into pieces no more than 1/4″ wide.

As for the flavouring agents of our filling, it is impossible to talk about apple pie without mentioning cinnamon.  The flavour of cinnamon is so connected with that of apples in most people’s minds that you could, for instance, make a pie filling out of Ritz crackers, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and most people would swear that there are apples in it. Cinnamon is tried, tested, and tasty.

Nutmeg is also good.

We must also sweeten our apple filling.  I like to use dark brown sugar.  Also: a bit of rum.  This is a common flavouring in apple strudel, and I’ve grown very fond of it.

A bit of salt, too.

Building an Apple Pie.  Build it tall, so that the apples at the centre of the pie are piled above the level of the pie dish and the circumferential crust.

How to Eat Apple Pie.  Almost any classic, sweet pie is fine when accompanied by whipped cream or ice cream.  However, I think that acidic pies like sour cherry and rhubarb go best with ice cream, which tempers the acidity of the filling.  Apple pie is lower in acid, and much more naturally balanced. Serving apple pie with ice cream only kills the flavour of the filling.  So whipped cream is preferred, and this is perhaps how apple pie was enjoyed for centuries, before a great, great man decided to eat his apple pie with cheddar cheese.  The resulting balance of flavour is similar to salted caramel.  I suggest Balderson two year old cheddar.  Do this.  It’s part of your heritage.

 

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 kg apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and cut across the long axis into slices not exceeding 1/4″ in width
  • 150 g dark brown sugar
  • 10 g rum
  • 20 g oatmeal flour (Just grind up rolled oats in a blender.)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 kg flaky pie dough (This is more dough than you’ll need, but I hate having to stretch dough to make a pie.  Better safe than sorry.)

Procedure

  1. Toss the sliced apples, brown sugar, rum, oatmeal flour, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Divide the dough in half.  Roll out one half to roughly 1/8″ and line the pie dish.
  3. Pile the apple filling into the dish.
  4. Roll out the other half of the dough and cover the apple filling.  Seal the edges as desired.  Make some small incisions in the top of the dough to vent the filling.
  5. Bake the pie on the bottom third of a 425°F oven for fifteen minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F, move the pie to the top third of the oven, and continue baking until the dough is well browned and the interior is bubbling, roughly another forty minutes.
  6. Let the pie cool to just above room temperature, then consume with cheddar cheese.

A slice of apple pie with Cheddar cheese

Saskatoon Pie and Crumble

A casserole of Saskatoon crumbleWhen it comes to pies and crumbles, I’m usually a purist: I prefer to use only one type of fruit.  Saskatoon pie and crumble, however, pose two problems.  First, the berries are relatively low-moisture, with pronounced pips and skins.  When you cook them down with sugar they don’t ooze moisture like most other fruits, so they don’t produce cohesive pastry fillings without the addition of water, which simply dilutes the flavour of the berries.  Second, they are low-acid when ripe, and on their own don’t make well-balanced fillings.

Rhubarb solves both of these problems.  When cooked down, most rhubarb varieties are fluid, and help make saskatoons into a cohesive pastry filling.  Rhubarb is also crazy tart, balancing the sweetness of the saskatoons.

A felicitous match.

Saskatoon crumble with ice cream