Sunday, July 22, 2012

Apple & Thyme Blackbrandy Crostada

In the midst of a droughtish Ohio summer, we recently had one entire day of fake-out fall weather.  Barely into the 60's and cloudy, misty rain, it nearly felt like late October.  The very same day I noticed the mostly lovely organic pink lady apples at our grocery store, so very out of character (and season.)  I grabbed a bunch  and off we went.  The next day we woke up and found ourselves at 85 again, sun a'blazing. 

Everyone, I don't switch gears that easy.

Those pink ladies were still whispering to me of the chill in the air, the smell of fresh rain...they would not be ignored.

I refused to break down and do "apple pie" in July.  Too far entrenched in ways to be modern with the classics, I made myself a list, drawing on some old favorites and trying to meld them into something entirely unique, utterly mine.

This would not be your granny's apple pie.  This would be a walk down a brambly path, berry basket on the arm.  This would be farmer's market honey, thyme from my garden, and a few friendly spices to wink exotic.  Sneak in some blackberry brandy, unlikely pink ladies and my go-to crostada crust, and what you have, my friends, is a garden party with your best girlfriends divulging tingling gossip in the summer sun.

(Ina Garten's pastry recipe - from Barefoot Contessa at Home)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 pound (two sticks) unsalted butter, cold & diced
6 Tbs (3oz) ice water

For the pastry, place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with flour (watch that blade!)  Pulse 12 to 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube.  Keep pulsing to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a well floured board, roll it into a ball & cut in half.  Form each ball into two flat disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.  (For this recipe you only need one disk.  Freeze the other and enjoy this completed step when your friends beg you to make this again...)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the chilled dough into a 10-inch circle on a lightly floured surface and transfer to the sheet pan.

The Sweet Teeth Filling

3 large pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup ripe blackberries, halved
3 Tbs honey (divided 2Tbs and 1Tbs)
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 scant tsp ground cardamom
1/8 scant tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs butter, melted
1 Tbs blackberry brandy
1 Tbs white sugar, preferably sanding sugar

Placed sliced apples in a medium bowl, and drizzle lemon juice, tossing to evenly distribute.  Add blackberries, 2Tbs honey, thyme, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, butter, and brandy.  Toss evenly.  There's no need to be delicate with the berries, you want them to share their lovely bright juices and blush those apples pink again!

Unlikely but troublemaking friends - the best kind!

With clean hands, gently move the apple-berry mixture onto the rolled pastry.  I wouldn't be fussy as this is rustic, but presentation will only be a bigger wow if you hum "Call Me Maybe" while artfully tucking apples hither & yon.  Or whatever song you like...just leave yourself a good 2 inch border of pastry around the fruit.

Once the fruit is entirely fanned, begin turning up the edges of the pastry, manually forming a "crust" around the edge, keeping a roughly circular shape.  Let the pastry hug the fruit filling, twisting here and there where it overlaps.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Like a Summer Slumber Party, Ready for the Oven
Bake for 15 minutes, then drizzle remaining 1 Tbs honey over the fruit to keep it moist.  Continue baking another 10 minutes or until the crust begins to just brown and the fruit is bubbling it's gossipy juices all over the parchment.

Allow this crostada to cool for about 10 minutes, allowing the natural apple pectins to create an oozy sauce inside.  A pizza wheel works wonders to slice this "pie".  Serve with vanilla whipped cream (save the ice cream for another pie, trust me).

What you are left with is poetry.  Floral notes of honey, tart and rosy apples, berries tasting like they were just sun picked, all dancing to the tune spun by intermingling juices, brandy, butter, and thyme: it would seriously put the T-Birds to shame.  Pink Ladies always ruled the summer nights.

You got Crostada?  Call Me Maybe!
Might I suggest a lovely riesling or blackberry wine to accompany your crostada?  Breakfast you say?  Well then try it with a glass of mint iced tea.  You won't be sorry!

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