Archive for the 'apples' Category

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The History Dish: Apple Pan-Dowdy

I first made Apple Pan Dowdy way back in July, for the Edible Queens summer issue.  Originally part of an article about a traditional Fourth of July dinner, this dish is also perfect for this time of year.  Apple usage?  High.  Simple? Indeed, because the end product is far from glamorous: a sloppy, delicious mess of baked appleness. I could line up testimonials about how good this dessert is; it’s one of the recipes I’ve made this past year that I get requests for again and again.

You can choose to use either real maple syrup or molasses to sweeten the apples; each adds a distinctive flavor.  The molasses has a strong taste, so if you’re a fan of dark sugars and ginger breads, that’s the way to go.  But for a lighter finish, the maple syrup delivers a surprisingly clean and gentle flavor.

Apple Pan Dowdy

Adapted from American Heritage Cookbook, 1964 and Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery by Juliet Corson, 1886.

1 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade
5 large baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
½ cup sugar
½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup maple syrup or molasses
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In large bowl, gently toss together first six ingredients.

2. Use half the crust to line the bottom of an 8- by 11-inch baking dish. Top with apple mixture. In small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, melted butter and water; pour over apples. Cover apples with remaining pie crust by weaving together wide strips, or by simply scattering torn pieces of crust over the top. Bake 10 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and“Dowdy” the crust by pushing it down into the apples with a knife. Reduce heat to 325° and bake one hour more.

4. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of whipped cream.


Newtown Pippins, Jefferson’s favorite apple.

So back in September, you went on a romantic, fun-filled, country adventure to an apple picking orchard.   Overcome will the jubilation a perfect fall day brings, you picked far too many apples.  Now, two months later, the fruits of your labor are still cluttering up your crisper.

The week, we’ll take care of you problem, with a selection of apple recipes.  Start with the Huguenot Torte, or a few pies, then follow along for more solutions to your apple issues.

How to Cook a Wolf Week, Day 4: Like a Warm Morning in Spring

Breakfast was hot cereal (steel cut oats) with milk and a little brown sugar. Lunch was polenta, a dish I have written about many times, and I think is the ultimate poor food. It’s tasty and about as cheap as it gets. As MFK Fisher puts it:

Polenta is on of those ageless culinary lords, like bread. It has sprung from the  hunger of mankind, and without apparent effort has always carried with it a feeling of strength and dignity and well being.

It costs little to prepare, if there is little to spend, or it can be extravagantly, opulently odorous with wines and such. It can be made doggedly, with one ear cocked for the old wolf’s sniffing under the door, or it can be turned out as a well-nourished gesture to other, simpler days.   But no matter what conceits it may be decked with, its fundamental simplicity survives, to comfort our souls as well as our bellies, the way a good solid fugue does, or a warm morning in the spring.

Bam. I ate mine with a few sautéed veggies.

Dinner was ham. My roommate put it best: “I don’t mind ham, but I don’t…seek it out.” Exactly my sentiments.  Fisher’s describes her recipe for Baked Ham Slice as “One good way to cook meat slowly without feeling completely extravagant…”


Baked Ham Slice
From How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942).

1 one-inch slice of ham (“or thicker if you can afford it!”)
1 sweet potato for each person
1 cup brown sugar
1 handful parsley
2 teaspoon hot mustard
1 tart apple for each person
1 cup hot water (“or cider, or wine”)

I set the ham slice in a shallow casserole, then spread it with minced parsley and the mustard.  I was skeptical about the combination of mustard and ham, but I trusted Fisher (it turned out to be awesome).  I placed sliced apples and potatoes in the casserole around the ham, and poured in the hot water.  I sprinkled everything with brown sugar before sliding it in the oven at 325 degrees, for about 40 minutes (until the potatoes were tender).

The entire apartment was filled with the homey smells of cooking ham.  When it finally came out of the oven, I was so anxious to eat it, I forgot to snap a photo.  Just imagine a delicious ham, swimming in sweet juices, befriending supple apples and potatoes.

No, I don’t seek out ham–but I would seek out baked ham slice any day.

A Revolutionary Menu: Apple Pan-Dowdy

The origins of Apple Pan Dowdy are shrouded in mystery.  Undoubtedly related to crumbles, slumps, and crisps, the recipe I decided to  feature in my Edible Queens article comes from a cookbook published at the same time as the 1964 World’s Fair, The American Heritage Cookbook. However, the first time I’ve been able to find the dessert in print is in Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery, published in 1886.  Her version is a much juicier than the ’64 recipe, a juice the soaks into the pie crust top and begs to be licked off the plate.  After I devoured the dessert, I poured this juice from the bottom of the baking dish and cooked it down into a syrup which I served atop vanilla ice cream.  Oh god so good!

The temperature is going to be pushing 100 here in NYC on Independence Day, so I know that last thing you want to do is heat up your oven and bake.  In fact, I doubt the legitimacy of this dish as an 18th century July Fourth favorite–considering not only the summer heat, but why would you use last year’s old nasty apples to bake when so much fresh fruit abounds in July?  However, this recipe is a great way to use up extra pie crust. Pieces of crust are strewn across the top, then “dowdied” by pushing them into the baking apples; the crust absorbs the juices and becomes soft and biscuit-like.  And it is delicious; so if you have air conditioning, I say bake away.

Apple Pan-Dowdy
From Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery by Juliet Corson, 1886.

5 large baking apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 lb light brown sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 c. cider
1 nine-inch pie crust, store bought or homemade

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Peel and core apples and cut in to ¼ inch thick slices; mix with lemon juice to prevent browning. Toss with the sugar and spices and pile into the baking dish. Pour cider over apple mixture.

3. Cover apples with pie crust by weaving together wide strips, or by simply scattering torn pieces of crust over the top. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of whipped cream.

Cocktail Hour: Cornelius Applejack

I had this Applejack recommended to me by one of the cocktail experts at Astor Wine & Spirits, a store that is an incredible resource for all things drinkable.

Applejack is one of our nation’s oldest alcoholic beverages: Laird’s, the oldest producer of apple jack, is also the nation’s oldest legal distillery.  It received the first American distillery license issued in 1780.  George Washington was producing applejack at his homestead as early as 1760 using the Laird family recipe.  Read some more interesting historical facts about Laird’s here.

Like most things that are old and delicious, there has been an revival of applejack production, particularly in the tri-state area.  New York has always been known for its apples,   and each bottle  of Cornelius Applejack is made from over 60 lbs of apples grown in the Hudson Valley.  It’s made in small batches, and each bottle is carefully hand labled with the batch and bottle number.  It’s a beautiful product, from the shape of the bottle to the intoxicating golden color of the drink itself.

The liqour smells sweet, with a hint of vanilla.  It’s got a hell of a kick to it, but you can taste all the complexity of the apple flavors as it washes over your tongue.  I was told there is someone in NYC who is drinking through all of the artisinal applejacks coming on to the market (are you out there?), and apparently this one is the best.  At Astor Wine & Spirits, they recommended drinking it neat to enjoy the full flavor of the spirit.  But I’ve discovered having it on the rocks with a teaspoon of simple syrup doesn’t hurt a thing.  Neither does a couple muddled mint leaves, or a dash of Angostura bitters.

Cocktail Hour: Apple Toddy

February is the coldest month in New York City.  Although I know that the spring thaw is just around the corner, the bitter wind that whips off the East River makes me die a little bit inside. Every day.

To keep the frigid weather at bay, I’ve been investigating winter cocktails.  Nothing beats the wintertime blues like hot water and alcohol.  I’ve been eyeing up this cocktail for awhile: the Apple Toddy.  It comes from my favorite cocktail book, the first cocktail book, Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks.

For my version of this recipe, I used delicate, little Lady Apples, which I found in my local grocery store.  Feel free to use a large baking apple, cut into slices.  Apple Brandy can be found at most liquor stores or ordered online.  Laird’s has been making apple jack and apple brandy in America since 1780.

Oh that’s good.  I feel warmer already.

Apple Toddy
Inspired by a recipe from How to Mix Drinks, by Jerry Thomas 1862.

Baking Apples: three small apples or one large
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp mace (or cinnamon, if you prefer)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Unsalted butter
2 ounces apple brandy
Hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Core apples and place in a baking dish.  Mix sugar and spices.  Fill the center of the apples with sugar mixture and sprinkle the remainder around the edges.

2. Bake apples for 30 minutes, or until tender.

3. Scoop one apple (or apple slice) into the bottom of a rocks glass or mug.  The bottom of the baking dish should be filled with sugar syrup; add one tablespoon of this syrup to your glass.

4. Add two ounces apple brandy, then fill glass to the top with hot water. Stir gently until the sugar syrup has dissolved.

5. Grate a little nutmeg on top and serve.


Taste History Today: Jefferson’s Favorite Apple

Photo by Brandon Miller

The premiere issue of Edible Queens has a feature on the Newtown Pippin apple, a heritage breed with it’s origin in the New York area. From the U.S. Apple Association:

“Also known as Albemarle Pippin, a favorite variety of Thomas Jefferson. Discovered on Long Island in 1759, this apple is one of the oldest original U.S. varieties, helping to launch the U.S. fruit export industry. Newtown Pippin is a distinctive green, often with yellow highlights. Its aromatic, tangy flesh makes the Newtown great for use in pies and applesauce. Primarilly a processing variety, most U.S. supplies are used commercially. Newtown Pippin is typically available from September through December.”

Jefferson dubbed the Newtown “The Prince of Apples” and grew them on his Monticello estate. The Newtown is making a comeback in the New York area thanks to Erik Baard, a Long Island City–based environmentalist.

“Since 2006, Baard has spearheaded a local movement to plant Newtown Pippin saplings across the city and state. “I’m trying to remind New Yorkers of our agricultural heritage one tree at a time,” explains Baard, the borough’s own Johnny Appleseed.

The Newtown Pippin—a pippin is an apple grown spontaneously from seed—first took root in the Newtown section of Queens, now Elmhurst, in the 1700s, and was almost universally lauded as one of the best-tasting apples ever grown. (Edible Queens)”

You can get your hands on Newtown Pippins in New York at the Red Jacket Orchard stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays. They sell other heirloom breeds including Baldwin, Staymen Winesap, 20 oz pippin and Northern Spy.

I’m going to be featuring the Newtown Pippin at the Old Stone House event this Sunday: stop by to see the apples for yourself and for a taste of apple-rosewater tart.

History Dish Mondays: Huguenot Torte

You are gonna love this torte.

I first heard about the Huguenot Torte when paging through my most recent issue of Cuisine at Home. The photos promised a luscious-looking apple and pecan treat, that “…Hails from the Ozarks, but was popularized in South Carolina by French Protestant immigrants known as the Huguenots.” An apple dessert that also has a historical provenance? Excellent.

Then I came across the same recipe in the pages of The First Ladies Cookbook, who listed it as one of Martin van Buren’s favorite dishes. “Well, if MVB likes it,” I thought, “It has to be good!”

As it turns out, this dish had little to do with the Huguenots, and nothing at all to do with our eigth president.

While researching a little further into the history of the Huguenot Torte, I can across this article in the New York Times. The article is part of a larger feature called Recipe Redux, wherein the author revisits recipes that were printed in the Times in years past. Huguenot Torte first appeared in the paper in 1965: “The Times’s recipe came from “The First Ladies Cook Book,” where it is featured in the chapter on Martin Van Buren — a historical impossibility because the dessert was created nearly 100 years after his term.”

According to culinary historian John Martin Taylor:

“…The torte descends from a more recent Midwestern dessert called Ozark pudding. Huguenot torte, Taylor said, first showed up in print in 1950 in “Charleston Receipts,” a successful community cookbook in which the torte recipe was attributed to Evelyn Anderson Florance (then Mrs. Cornelius Huguenin). In the 1980s, Taylor tracked her down in a nursing home and discovered that she had eaten Ozark pudding on a trip to Galveston, Tex., in the ’30s. After fiddling with the recipe, she renamed it Huguenot torte after Huguenot Tavern, a Charleston restaurant where she made desserts. The tavern became known for the torte.”

I don’t hold the untruths that have been propagated about the Torte against it, because in actuality, this torte is one of the most amazing desserts I’ve ever had. It takes advantage of the fall apple harvest and is incredibly simple to put together. It has very little flour and a lot of eggs and sugar, which results in the most fascinating texture combination after it is baked: the top is the crustiest, crispiest meringue, while the inside is gooey, buttery caramel.

This dessert is astounding and due for a revival; in fact, I bet Martin van Buren would have loved it, had he been alive when it was created.

Huguenot Torte (1930s)

Ingredients taken from The First Ladies’ Cookbook (1965)
Directions inspired by Cuisine at Homemagazine (2009)

1 cup peeled and chopped tart cooking apples
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, mixed with
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

1. Preheat over to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; or line it with parchment paper.

2. Beats eggs and vanilla at high speed. Add the sugar a little at a time, until the eggs are light and creamy, about five minutes.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into egg mixture until just combined.

4. Fold in apple and pecans.

5. Pour into baking dish. Baked torte 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Cool five minutes and serve warm, cut into squares. Don’t get stressed out when the Torte crumbles as it is dished out; that’s its nature. A dollop of lightly sweetened, almond flavored whipped cream is an excellent compliment. This Torte tastes even better the next day, after being warmed a few minutes in the oven.

Retronovated Recipes: 400 Years of Apple Pie — Bonus Feature!!

I want to follow up on my apple pie exploration with this little gem: my roommate reading aloud the 1615 Pippin Pie recipe.


Retronovated Recipes: 400 Years of Apple Pie

I believe apple pie is one of the greatest pleasures of the fall, second only to all things pumpkin flavored. Over the weekend, I baked three apple pies from three different centuries: the 17th, 18th and 21st. In each recipe, the flavours are so distinctive, so apropos of their respective time periods, that I’ve felt an unrelenting urge to make them at once and let my palette travel back through time.

I baked these pies with the assistance of my mother. I hope that through our experiment, you find inspiration for your own fall pies.

To Make the Basic Pie

In preparing these pies, I decided to keep the method for making the pie consistent, and let the flavorings be the variable. This approach is historically accurate: most old recipes are only a list of ingredients; after years in kitchen, cooks would already know how to prepare something as simple as a pie.

Use the crust recipe of your choice, or get a store bought crust. For the filling, use a mixture of softer apples that will break down with cooking, and firmer apples that will keep their shape. I used a combination of Ginger Gold, Gala, and Paula Red apples, about three pounds in total.

To prepare the filling, I followed Pam Anderson’s recipe from her book, The Perfect Recipe.

“Apple Filling: …Heat butter (1/2 stick) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple slices, sugar and (spices) and when they start to sizzle and steam, reduce heat to low. Cover pan and simmer until apples soften and release their juices, about 8 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until softer apples start to fall apart and juices thicken to thin syrup consistency, about 5 minutes longer…Refrigerate of set in a cool place until apples cool to room temperature.”

After the filling is cooled, fill the crust, and don’t forger to cut vents in the top. Brush the top crust with a half and half mixture of cream and egg yolk to get a nice golden brown color in the oven. Bake it for 15 minutes at 375, then 20-30 minutes at 350. The pie is done when the filling begins to bubble up through the crust.

1615: Pippin Pie
The oldest recipe in my pie time machine is from The English Housewife, published in 1615. I came across it in the book 1,000 Years Over a Hot Stove in a chapter on colonial cooking.
The Modern Recipe: The original recipe uses whole apples, whole cloves, chunks of orange peel, and shattered bits of cinnamon stick. In the 17th century, grinding spices would have been a laborious process, and not economical for making an everyday dessert. I updated the recipe by using ground spices and orange zest, which make the pie easier to ingest, while still maintaining the original recipe’s unique flavor profile. I cooked the chopped dates in with the apples; they began to disintegrate and thicken the sauce. A coffin, by the way, is the pie pastry.

3 lbs apples
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Zest of one orange
1 -1 1/2 cups dates
1/3 c sugar

The Results: While the pie was baking, the combination of spices made the house smell like Christmas. But when it came time to eat, the orange and clove made the pie taste exactly like a pomander. I think if I were in the 17th century I would have loved it, but nowadays I hate eating potpourri. On the contrary, my friend Sarah Tea loved this pie. It was her favorite of the three.

1796: Apple Rosewater Pie
This recipe is from the first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.

The Modern Recipe: Mace is an extremely zesty spice and can over power a dish in a large quantities. Conversely, I added a hearty dose of rosewater, which adds a bright, cirtusy flavor instead of a perfumee one. A recipe appropriate to the 19th century can be made by substituting cinnamon with nutmeg.
3 lbs apples
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 tsp rosewater
2/3 c sugar
The Results: My dad thought this pie tasted like Sara Lee, and this was my mother’s favorite. Despite it’s unconventional seasonings this pie tasted the most “normal.”
2006: Bob Evan’s Bourbon Apple Pie
This recipe comes from Amy Sedaris’ book “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.” I won’t include the entire recipe here, due to copyright issues. My recipe was inspired by hers, but stuck to my own methods.
The Modern Recipe:
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar, divided.
1 cup bourbon.
Caramelize 1/3 cup sugar over a medium-low heat. When it is a little darker than the color of honey, remove from heat and slowly add the bourbon. Return to heat to dissolved the sugar, and reduce into “a thin sauce.” Stir into the apple pie filling after the filling has been cooked, but before it has cooled.
The Results: My mom loathed this pie and claimed “the taste was burning her tongue.” This pie was actually my favorite. The flavor seemed the most modern, and was the easiest for my pallet to accept. And I do love a glass of bourbon.
There you have it: Three pies. Three centuries. All apple pie in spirit, but all distinctly different.