Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Apples and Grandmothers (TWD)

While I live in Texas now, I grew up in Pennsylvania, for the most part.  My mom's mom lives in upstate New York.  When I was a kid, we would often drive the 3 hours to spend a weekend at Gramma's.  I especially enjoyed it in the fall, because there was an apple orchard a few miles from Gramma's house, and we would often head home with a whole bunch of apples.  Apples and fall foliage are two of the things I really miss down here.  Central Market carries New York apples in the fall, but while they taste good, they just aren't the same.  

One of my favorite things to make with apples is pie.  So I was excited to hear that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake, chosen by Jhianna of Burned Bits.  The recipe took me out of my usual routine, since I pretty much never make a double-crust pie.  I much prefer to top my apple pie with crumbs.  I was happy to see that raisins are added to the apples in the filling.  My favorite apple variety is Macintosh, but they tend to give off a lot of liquid when they cook.  I've found that raisins in the filling suck up some of that liquid, resulting in a nice overall texture.

The pie-cake was pretty easy to make.  I didn't want to make a 13 x 9 pan, so I halved the recipe and made it in an 8-inch square pan.  I ended up making the dough pretty late Sunday evening, and then realized that it needed to chill for at least two hours.  So it ended up in the fridge until Monday night.  Once I got the kiddos to bed on Monday, I was able to make the filling.  I didn't bother to add the lemon juice to the apples, since I was using a tart variety, and I added a bit more sugar.  I also put in the full amount of raisins (instead of doing half like everything else), since I really like raisins.  The dough rolled out nicely.  Having been forewarned by comments from some of the other TWD bakers, I really watched the time while the pan was in the oven, since the edges have a tendency to brown too much.  I only ended up baking it for 30 minutes, since the edges were getting quite dark, and the top was nicely browned at that point.  

So, how did it turn out?  The corner piece that I ate Monday night seemed kind of dry.  The apples were definitely cooked, but I was expecting the filling to be juicier.  Dorie suggests waiting until the pie-cake is pretty much cool before cutting it--did I get into it too soon?  Obviously the solution was to try another piece for breakfast.  I liked it better this morning, and Gillian liked it just fine too.  I see why Dorie recommends waiting--the texture is a lot better.  Just don't tell my husband--he gives me a hard time about eating pie for breakfast.  =)  I keep trying to convince him that there's nothing wrong with it--fruit, pastry, what's the problem?  It could be worse, I could be eating chocolate cake for breakfast.  (Maybe next week.) Wait until he sees that I've been teaching Gillian to eat pie for breakfast too.  =)

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
(adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

For The Dough
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
5 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji , Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome ) (I used Macintosh)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice (I left this out)
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting (I used turbinado sugar)

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. (My dough pieces weighed about 8 /12 ounces each.)  Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch square baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. (I didn't bother with the baking sheet.)

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.


  1. Not that my filling was particularly juicy, but maybe the lemon juice would have helped with that?

  2. Mari--I thought about that. But I never bother with lemon juice in my apple pie filling, and normally it turns out fine. I think I didn't bake my pie-cake long enough for the apples to really start giving up juice. I'll have to try it longer next time, and just tent the top with foil so it doesn't get too dark.

  3. I found mine a bit dry as well. Good though. I did use the lemon juice. I countered the dryness of the filling with a healthy scoop of Haagen Daz Vanilla and a nice drizzle of maple syrup! glad to know that I am not the only one who likes to eat pie, cake, cookies for breakfast! Love the little cutie at the bottom!

  4. Mine didn't get juicy and bubbly either, but I still loved it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with cake OR pie for breakfast ;-)

  5. My three gentlemen and I liked the pie, they asked me to do it again, but not for breakfast ;-)

    Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  6. I think you are one of the few TWDers that used the raisins! :) Absolutely agree with you about pie-cake for breakfast. Fruit right?!! haha. Great job! ps your little one is adorable.

  7. Yours looks great! Even if it wasn't everything you hoped it would be, I'm glad you still liked it!

  8. Mine filling wasn't very juicy either but I'm glad it wasn't because I was petrified that the juice from the apples would make the bottom layer of the cake impossible to remove from the pan. And I certainly don't see anything wrong with eating it for breakfast - how else can you bake something at night and pass up the morning light for the pictures?? ;) Great job!

  9. I added more sugar too and used brown sugar instead of white sugar. I also ended up making mini pie-cakes. Yours looks fabulous!

  10. Lovely! Mine was dry as well - maybe it's the dough?

    I don't usually use raisins in my apple pie, but I did with this recipe. I liked the little punch they give to it!

  11. Pie for breakfast is a great thing!

  12. I see nothing wrong with pie for breakfast! I've been eating my turnovers for breakfast and it's made from the exact same ingredients. Tell your husband to shut his mouth. ;)

  13. great job! i prefer a crumb topping for my apple pie as well! :)

  14. Looks delicious! I see nothing wrong with pie for breakfast (and apparently your little one agrees)!

  15. I think many people thought it would be a bit juicier than it turned out, but it was still tasty. I think pie for breakfast is absolutely acceptable! I do it all the time!!!

  16. i had apple pie-cake as breakfast too, it's just fruits and a bit of carbs... no worries! :-D

  17. Is eating dessert for breakfast? Not in my book. Great job on your pie-cake. It looks like your little resident taster enjoyed it as well.