Now that Thanksgiving is over, the house is quiet again. Or as quiet it can be with a toddler who belts out “Blitzkreig Bop” from the Ramones as he drums his acoustic guitar.
Hey Ho Let’s Go.
Sing with me Mama, sing with me!
I should be thinking about holiday cookies. The truth is, I can’t. Not today anyway. A bowl of Vermont-grown macouns sits in front of me and as rain pummels the pavement. We’ve taken down the folding tables and washed and packed away the gravy boat, platters, carving knives, and linens, so I can finally sit down and tell you about an unassuming apple pie. Or individual pies as I like to bake them.
Sure we had pie on the table for Thanksgiving. Buttery double crust apple and short-crust pecan pies. We also had apple, pear, and blueberry cobbler with cornmeal biscuits. I should have had my fill of fruit and nut pastries. The only one missing was pumpkin pie (which I make with butternut squash for its sweetness) but since I’ve been on a winter squash marathon of late, I didn’t mind—too much.
We served squash biscuits on the table along with sweet potato and Yukon gold potato gratin, buttered cabbage, wild mushroom and spinach stuffing, tahini carrots, mashed potatoes, green salad with tarragon vinaigrette, cranberry sauce, and turkey and gravy (for everyone else). Our table looks little like the one I grew up knowing with stuffed roasted turkey, marshmallow yams, green bean casserole, red-hot jello salad, and plates of olives, pickles, and cheese.
When we cook, we dream through time, stitching narratives with food. “Well Well Well” from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band plays on the stereo. I wash and peel three pounds of apples and I am grateful because we have food and memories and hopes. Sweet apple peels unravel through my fingers. I core and slice the fruit then arrange them on rolled tart rounds and smear with apricot preserves. Dots of butter and sugar cover the apples and pleated dough.
Warm from the oven, these galettes or free-form pies with nubbly sugar crusts and creamed sweet apples mean it’s almost winter in New England. Pair them with a book you’ve been saving for cold weather like “The Collected Short Stories of Maxim Gorky” by Maxim Gorky or “The Red and the Black” by and as along as you have apples stored away, you’re set for the next couple of months.
Yield 6 individual tarts
Premade chilled galette dough or gluten-free tart dough
3 pounds apples
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) apricot preserves or jam, divided
4 tablespoons raw cane sugar, divided
Prepare the galette dough (see recipe below) or gluten-free tart dough according to the recipe.
Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 35-45 minutes.
Peel, core, and slice apples about 1/4-inch thick; set aside.
Remove the chilled tart dough from the refrigerator. Divide the dough into 6 smaller pieces for individual pastries. Shape into balls, and wrap the unused pieces of dough on the counter wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out each piece of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, into about 4-inch rounds. Place each rolled piece of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, 3 tarts per sheet.
Spread each round with 1 teaspoon apricot preserves. Arrange apple slices in a tight circle around the circumference, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Place the remaining slices in the center so each slice overlaps end to end until filled (the apples should be close to 1 1/2-inches thick). Fold the dough border over the apples. Repeat with the five other tarts.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the crusts with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the apple fillings with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the fruit is cooked and the dough is golden.
2 cups white spelt flour or white whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons/ 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted frozen butter
1/2 cup ice-cold water
Sift or whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Grate frozen butter into flour mixture and stir with two knives, your fingers, or a mixer until it resembles a course meal, leaving some of the butter in larger uneven pieces. Sprinkle the ice-cold water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until the dough forms a soft workable ball. Shape the dough with your hands into a ball, wrap with plastic, then flattened into a disk. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or longer.