My husband has started a new job. He’s a natural charmer, people instantly like him. The thing one might find annoying about him is his constant bragging about his wife. He’d go on for hours telling people about my countless virtues, my exotic Soviet upbringing, my Jewish family, my eclectic career, and so on and so forth… These stories may make people think I am some sort of genius, which is very far from the truth. But he has a way of building people up and telling him so much about me, that by the time I finally meet them, they feel like they know everything about me.
Being the gastronome that he is, he of course mentions my culinary skills more than enough times. Having heard the stories a few times too many, people naturally start wondering when he’s going to back his stories up with some real life samples. So, after three weeks of him starting at the new company, we decided it was time to send some treats to the office.
My choice was something easily transportable, something that keeps well through the day, and doesn’t require heating up or fussy decoration. Some other considerations were to keep it on a “healthier” side, since his office is participating in a wellness program, which encourages them to keep their eating habits in check.
I have thought of a recipe that I found long time ago in a fashion and housekeeping magazine Burda Moden. When Perestroika started, these magazines were available by subscription only, they were scarce, though prohibitively expensive. My mom signed up and we were hooked instantly. Their fashions were impeccable, they came with detailed, carefully designed patterns, their housekeeping tips were always so practical, and of course who could forget those decadent, indulgent recipes! Can’t tell you how many times were were reading them and thinking, where do I buy mysterious “baking powder”, and what is mascarpone? And who in the world has time to completely debone leg of lamb, and then, after putting some incredibly complicated stuffing in it, would suture it shut, and then cover it completely with home made dough, and adorn it with leaves cut out of the dough… And then of course, there were Christmas issues, where recipes were all cookies and cookies galore, one more beautiful and elaborate than the other, and in most cases we felt we shouldn’t even dare to dream about making them. We were poor and limited in our ingredient selection almost painfully, so we treated these recipe sections of the magazine as beautiful stories with pictures.
So one day, for someone’s birthday, I believe, I decided to try one of these recipes. The picture looked so gorgeous, that I decided, enough already. It’s time to try something new.
It didn’t seem that complicated either, just pretty layout and a few fragrant additions, such as cloves and lemon zest. The result was superb. I swear, I wouldn’t dream of making apple pie any other way. The crust is very thin and crumbly, yet it’s holding the toppings very well, and won’t break in your hand. The middle layer is a mix of crushed nuts, lemon zest, cloves, and cinnamon. The aroma that this pie emits while baking is so enticing that you can hardly wait until it’s done. And of course, if you choose the right kind of apple – the tart kind, such as Granny Smith – the apricot jam will balance it very nicely.
The finishing part, flambe, I thought was a bit over the top for our post-soviet imagination, so we never really executed this step. I am sure it’s going to add a nice elegant caramel flavor, but the pie as is without flambe is great. Well worth your time and effort.
So I have sent this pie to my husband’s office and demanded a full report on the feast. At noon my husband called me and said that by 10:30 am, the entire pie was gone.
See the recipe below.
Here is the converted recipe from the Burda Moden magazine.
Apple Pie from Burda Moden Magazine
- 2 cups flour
- 1 stick + 2 tbsp butter, softened
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg
- 5-6 tart apples, such as Granny Smith
- 1 lemon, you will use both juice and zest
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (pecans, almonds or peanuts will do nicely as well)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1 shotglass brandy or cognac (optional for final step)
Sift flour into a bowl, gently stir in powdered sugar, lightly beaten egg and softened butter. Make dough, knead until smooth and chill for at least 2 hours covered with plastic
Meanwhile, peel, core, quarter, and evenly slice apples. Sprinkle the slices with fresh lemon juice to prevent them from getting dark.
Chop walnuts coarsely. In a separate bowl toss together cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, lemon zest and walnuts and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Grease 1/4 sheet baking pan.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately the size of the pan, it will be about 1/2″ thick. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, carefully transfer into the baking pan and unwrap. Smooth the dough out and create low borders using your fingers. Pierce the crust with the fork at 1 inch intervals all over.
Spread the walnut mixture evenly over the crust.
Arrange the apple slices in rows, slightly overlapping one another (see photo).
Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes. Apples will be slightly browned on top, this is normal. Just don’t let them burn.
While the pie is still warm, spread warmed up apricot preserves all over the apples. Let cool
Final step is optional. I never tried it:
Cut the pie into 16 rectangular pieces.
Pour cognac or brandy into a steel ladle, warm up without boiling, and carefully set on fire. Pour burning cognac over the slices of pie.