Ok, first: this weekend B made blueberry pancakes, yum, and along with it a peach sauce from the last of the peaches we froze. Ahhhh! When we were drowning in peaches we did some research and the Internet World was like “straight up peaches frozen without syrup are not good.” But I am not really into syrupy things so we just froze them anyway and endeavored to use them all up in smoothies. But one container escaped our attention! And it’s true that when you defrost plain old once-frozen peaches they are a little wilted. For pie, maybe not. But for peach sauce? Just cooked down on the stove until they are so peachy you can barely stand it? The absolute best. And now, armed with this new knowledge, I hereby commit to freezing even more peaches, sans syrup, next year. Amen.
But whatever, peaches are yesterday’s news. It’s apple season. North Carolina is seventh or eighth in apple production in the country and the county south of us is where most of them come from. This weekend we drove out to a farm stand nearby that mostly specializes in sustainably grown meats, but they also have apples this time of year. All kinds of apples. Matsus (Crispins), Ginger Golds, Cameos, Cortlands, Jonagolds, Winesaps, Romes… They gave us two big bags and for $20 we filled them both to the top. And, bonus, fed one to a goat, which is hilarious and everyone who is grumpy should have to do this because life just can’t be annoying when you are feeding a goat an apple. Anyway. The plan is applesauce for most of them, but pie for some. Last night I made the “Rethinking Apple Pie” recipe from the latest Cook’s Illustrated, a take on apple pandowdy. God, they are such nerds, I am so fond of them. It’s a crust-on-top recipe that you can make in a cast iron skillet (my favorite, although I did not get to do it this time because B was cooking something beefy in our skillet at that very moment), and let me just say that I was totally sold at the point where they tell you to sauté the apples in butter. Who doesn’t think that’s a great idea? People, it was so yum. Make at once.
Cook’s Illustrated Apple Pandowdy
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter (they called for 6 butter, 2 vegetable shortening)
3-4 tablespoons ice water
Assemble as you prefer (note: I think my food processor might be on the way out, which I will cry over because it’s been the best food processor ever, especially considering that I bought it at some janky store down on Mission Street in SF where you can buy underwear and a fishing rod and a sombrero and fresh limes).
1/2 cup apple cider
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (ok, I just shook some in there, along with some nutmeg and ginger)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds sweet and tart apples, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges (chickens love apple scraps)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees (that is not a typo).
Whisk cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and spices together until smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet (ideally this is what you will bake it in, but if yours is not heatproof, just transfer apples to a 9 x 13 baking dish after cooking them on the stove). When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring two or three times until apples begin to caramelize (about 7 minutes**). Do not fully cook apples. Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture, and stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.
** A favorite reader mentioned that her apples could have been a little more cooked in this stage of the process, and I agree; mine did ok because I accidentally let them sit on the off-but-still-hot burner while doing 900 other things, but I think if I had taken them right off and proceeded they would have been undercooked too. Just keep in mind that you will bake this sucker at a very high temp and thus not have a lot of room to extend the cooking time before your crust gets burned or tough...
Roll out dough to fit either skillet or baking pan and place over apples. If you are ambitious, brush top of crust with egg white or milk and sprinkle sugar on top. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into six or eight squares. This is so all the liquid will bubble up and caramelize deliciously around the crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is browned and apple are done (mine needed another 5 minutes to get there). Let cool for at least 15 minutes, serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.