September 18, 2014



Join me for Apple Tasting Pie Baking
Mill City Farmers Market - October 11
Seed Savers Apple Tasting

Oh the apple galette is a gallant pie. This rustic French tart exposes just enough of the apples so caramelize, while the crust bakes to a golden, buttery crisp. Apple season is upon us so get rolling. 

Look for a mix of apple varieties, blending softer sorts that will fall apart as they cook with those that hold their shapes. Balance very sweet apples with tart, mouth puckering fruit for depth of flavors, too. 

Dan Bussey, Seed Savers Orchard Manager, (and Pommologist, or apple geek), is rediscovering heritage apples, caring for the heritage orchard that now sports over 550 apples varieties. He's devoted his career to reintroducing the most interesting and delicious varieties and helping to make them available to us cooks. 

Swing by Mill City Farmers Market, October 10 around 10:00 am for a sampling of these new old apples and a celebration of pies!  

Meanwhile, check out the apples coming in to market, like Summer Gold, Bonnie's Best (Sweetland Orchard), chestnut crab (a lovely, tiny sweet crabapple), Connell Red, Harlson (my personal favorite). 

Recipes? Here are my picks:

Mile High Apple Pie
Makes 1 double crust 9-inch, double crust pie

1 Basic Butter Crust Recipe (see below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch cloves
Pinch salt
¼ to ½ cup sugar, to taste
2-1/2 to 3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch wedges

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. whisk together the cinnamon, allspice, salt and ¼ cup sugar. Add the apples and gently toss, taste and add more sugar if necessary.

Roll 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12 to 13-inch round. Fit this into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges leaving a slight overhang. Turn the filling into the shell.

Roll out the remaining piece of dough on the floured surface with the floured rolling pin. Cover the pie with the second dough round and trim, leaving a generous overhang. Press the edges of the dough together, then crimp. Sprinkle the piecrust with a little more sugar and cut three steam vents into the top of the dough.

Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. and continue baking until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 45 to 50 minutes more. Remove and cool the pie on a rack before serving.

Rustic Apple Tart
Serves 8

1 Basic Butter Crust Recipe (See below)
About 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut 1/8-inch thick
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
¼ cup currant or apple jelly
1 tablespoon Calvados or apple brandy

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

On a lightly floured work surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 16-inch round. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet. 

Mound the apple slices over the dough and fold the edges of the dough over the filling, partially covering he apples, pleating the dough as necessary. Dot the apples with butter.

Bake the galette until the pastry is golden and the apples are tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. 

While the gallette is baking, put the jelly and Calvados into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring, for about 1 minute.

Remove the baked gallette from the oven, brush with the melted jelly. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with Calvados Whipped Cream.

Calvados Whipped Cream
Makes 2 cups

1 Cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Calvados or apple brandy

In a medium bowl, whip together the honey and cream until the cream holds stiff peaks. Beat in the Calvados or brandy.

Basic Butter Crust (for double crust)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Blend together the flour and salt. Using your finger tips or a pastry blender (or in a food processor, fitted with a steel blade) cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles a lumpy meal. Drizzle in the ice water while gently tossing with a fork (or pulse into the food processor), until the water is incorporated.
            Using your hands, gather the dough into a ball. Turn it onto a work surface and divide in half. Lightly flour your hands and a work surface and flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap each disk and refrigerate until fir, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Apple Walnut & Honey Bars
Makes about 2 dozen bars

¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 cups roughly chopped walnuts
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the Base: In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the butter, flour, brown sugar and salt. Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan and press evenly onto the bottom with a spatula or lightly floured hands. Bake the base until golden, about 20 minutes.  Remove.

To make the topping: In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, melt together the butter, brown sugar and honey over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and stirring occasionally, cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the walnuts.

Spread the apples over the base, then spoon the topping over the apples, spreading it evenly. Return the bars to the oven and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


September 15, 2014

Hard Cider, Easy Drink

In Brittany, France, Hard Cider is Easy to Find
Easy to Sip


Hard cider is an easy drink. Some like it strong, but I prefer it slightly sweet and fizzy, and served refreshingly cold. When I was in Brittany recently, apples are abundant, and cider is sipped all day long. In the morning, market shoppers snack on sweet crepes lathered with jelly and buckwheat galettes, laden with cheese and eggs. Come late afternoon, bars and bistros, pour cider in wide beer glasses nibbling peanuts and chips. Hard cider is just slightly alcoholic but strong enough for a nice bump.

Hard cider is one of the oldest drinks we know, it was brewed by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and early Europeans. The beverage of choice in Colonial times, it was safer than water, cheaper than wine, easier to make than beer. Just about everyone had access to apples for pressing. 

We're enjoying a cider Renaissance in our Northern Heartland as orchardists, brewers and chefs  rediscover this craft. The best hard ciders balance sweet apples with special cider varieties that are so tart and bitter they're impossible to eat. To ferment these brews, craft cider makers employ wine yeasts or beer yeasts or wild yeasts, for a range of beverages that run the gamut. Some makers age the ciders in maple, oak or walnut casks or use old brandy or whiskey barrels to imbue the brew with rich flavors as the cider matures.

Check out this recent piece on MPR Appetites with Tom Crann as I discuss cider making in this region today. Many of the local orchards sell cider on site. The best way to learn more about different techniques is to try them and ask questions.  Hoch Orchard, in LaCrescent, Minnesota is the perfect place to pick and sip on a crisp Autumn day. Stock up on apples for applesauce and apple butter, pies and for snacks, try the different styles of cider, bring some home. 

As Autumn approaches and daylight thins, hard cider is a fine choice for drinking and cooking -- a natural with sausages, duck, pheasant, and venison, use it in braises, soups and stews. The different styles of cider vary dramatically, so taste before adding hard cider to any dish, better yet, pour yourself a full glass, or two.

Hot Pot of Sausages, Hard Cider and Apples
Serves 4 to 6

Serve with plenty of crusty bread to sop up the juices

3 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
8 fat pork sausages, cut into chunks
3 large, tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into fat chunks
1 cup hard cider
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard, plus more for passing

In a heavy, deep pot, cook the onions in the oil over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and bay leaf. Add the sausages and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Stir in the apples, cook for a few minutes until they release their juices. Pour in the cider and sherry and stir. Add the mustard and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes. 

Serve over rice, noodles or cooked white beans, or serve in wide bowls with plenty of bread and more mustard.