Let's face it, God broke the mold when he created apples. Consider this: What other fruit can claim it tempted Eve out of guaranteed immortality? That distinction alone separates it from the rest.
Come to think of it, apples have been objects of temptation in fairy tales too. . . just ask Snow White. Once again this fruit is depicted as an irresistible force, often shiny and red, causing the heroine to cast aside all good sense for the promise of one crisp, juicy bite.
Apples have even been compared to patriotism and maternal love--as in "American as Mom and apple pie.” We've also imbued them with the ability to heal, since everyone knows "an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
With this kind of reputation, is it any wonder we adore them? We eat them raw, baked into delectable pies, crisps, and cakes, or simmered down into a caramelized sauce. When listing off the many delicious ways to prepare apples one begins to feel a bit like Bubba in Forrest Gump: "plain apple, baked apple, candied apple, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple dumplings, apple pan-dowdy, apple cake. . ." You see where I’m going with this.
Now is the season for Gravensteins, the coveted green and red streaked heirloom variety sought after by bakers for its perfect sweet-tart-crisp balance. Generally not available commercially, it is a favorite of local growers in nearby Sebastopol (see below for resources).
Gravensteins have a short harvest during August, so get them while you can at farmers' market.
For me, Gravenstein is synonymous with pie; the perfect vehicle for showcasing this heirloom beauty at its best. The combination of flakey pastry encasing sliced apples, sugar, and spice sprinkled with crumb topping makes for a dessert that is transcendent in its sublime simplicity. The aroma of baking apples will always be reminiscent of home and comfort food. Served warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, apple pie is the stuff dreams are made of. Having a bad day? Nothing a slice of apple pie can't cure, right? It just makes you feel better.
In celebration of Gravenstein season, I’m serving up my favorite recipe for apple pie. This stellar dessert is sure to garner raves and ovations. Enjoy!
KAREN’S GLORIOUS GRAVENSTEIN APPLE PIE (Serves 8)
1 single pie crust pastry
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 pounds Gravenstein Apples; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (8 cups)
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
¼ cup whipping cream
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
7 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into small chunks
½ cup chopped pecans
*Preheat oven to 375.
1. Prepare pastry and transfer to a 9” pie dish, crimping the crust. Chill in refrigerator.
2. Peel, core, and slice apples. Set them aside in a large bowl.
3. Prepare crumb topping by mixing all ingredients in a large bowl. Use your fingers to work butter into the mixture until combined and crumbly. Set aside.
4. In another large mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Add apples and toss to coat.
5. Gently layer apples in the prepared pastry crust. The apples will cook down during baking so it’s OK to mound them up a bit.
6. Dot the apples with butter and pour whipping cream over the filling.
7. Sprinkle apple filling with the prepared crumb topping.
8. Bake on the center oven rack for 25 minutes. *Check to see if crust is becoming too brown; to prevent further browning, cover pie edges with foil.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, until fruit is tender and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Serve with vanilla bean ice cream and accept applause!
If you’re not sure where to source local Gravensteins, look no further than Devoto Gardens, http://www.devotogardens.com , and Hale’s Apple Farm, 707-823-4613—both located in Sebastopol. Call ahead or visit their website for more information on availability and farmers’ market locations.
*HOT TIP OF THE WEEK: For a great weekend outing, head out to Sebastopol, California on Saturday, August 10th (10:00AM-6:00PM) & Sunday, August 11th (10:00AM-5:00PM) for the 2012 Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park. This annual event is fun for the whole family! Admission is $12/Adults, $10 Seniors, $8 Students, $5 youth. Children six and under free. For more information and a list of festival activities, visit: http://www.gravensteinapplefair.com.
For more farm to table news in Marin/Sonoma counties, "follow" Karen Pavone's Food For Thought at www.karenpavonesfoodforthought.com and "like" her facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/northbayfarmtotable.