I don’t know how time passes so quickly, but it does. One minute, I’m looking over the Seine, the next I’m daydreaming over a pot of wilting cabbage. I realize it’s not nearly as romantic, and totally unrelated, however that’s where I found myself this past week, trying to maintain a slow(er) pace as I dutifully prepared a batch of Marcella Hazan’s Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup.
The dish exceeded my expectations such that I had to make it twice. I also managed to produce a batch of dulce de leche, since I knew I’d be spending a couple of hours at home.
But back to Paris…
It couldn’t have been a more perfect week. Spring in full effect, brightly-colored flowers demanding my attention, giant blushing cherry blossoms, the freshness that comes after a good Spring rain. Oh! It was lovely.
It began a little like this, with my constant peppering of questions such as “What are we supposed to do today? What’s on the Excel spreadsheet?! What time are we supposed to be at the Grand Palais? If we take time here, we will miss…”
The expectations we’d made, along with our rigid itinerary devolved, quickly becoming an inside joke as we relaxed and settled into full vacation mode.
La fontaine Médicis
Without a rigid agenda, we were free to wander and really experience the city. We peeked into galleries and boutiques, quirky private museums and of course, lots of specialty food and tea shops.
Clockwise, top right: chilled cream of fennel soup from L’epi Dupin, gorgeous heart-shaped macaron’s from Laduree, duck foie gras with fig compote from Le Comptoir du Relais
At one point, I was banned from lugging anything else home. We’d been trying to avoid checking luggage, and as it were, were ushered through with just a bit over the weight maximum and a handbag bursting with chocolates and other treats.
Birthplace of the macaron.
E. Dehillerin, where I spent a good two hours geeking out on all things kitchen.
My heart lies in the kitchen, nestled into a good pastry. And so at the request of a certain young lady and after an intense day at work, I spent the bulk of an evening making an apple almond crostata that is likely one of my most favorite pastries yet.
I’m fairly adept at making pie crust and had intentioned to make a straightforward, simple dough, when a bit of cornmeal in the cupboard caught my eye. I recalled a blueberry pie with cornmeal crust that I’d made over the Summer; the rustic crunch of cornmeal strewn throughout buttery pastry…yet I wanted to make something more than pie; I wanted to make something serious, a pie that wouldn’t crumble or yield too much when pierced with a knife.
Front: Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust top left: apple tart bottom right: apple custard
A layer of frangipane (almond cream) soaked up all of the juices as it snuggled up with each apple slice; providing a cake-like consistency. Leftover odds and ends were folded into a free-form pastry, and the extra egg was poured into a sort of apple custard. I’m so glad this crostata was destined for sharing, otherwise I’d have finished the whole thing off in a few days, unapologetically.
The crostata comes together rather quickly.
Wait a minute – scratch that.
This is going to keep you home for a few hours, however once the nutty aroma of butter and pastry, notes of cinnamon and apple hit your nostrils, you’ll realize it was totally worth it (and probably get a bit of laundry done while you wait).
Enjoy, and much love,
Apple and Almond Crostata with a Cornmeal Crust
*This pie will keep for 1-2 days on the counter, or 3-4 days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
10 tbsp butter
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
Ice water (as needed)
2/3 c almond meal (I used blanched almonds, ground finely in a coffee grinder)
1/4 c sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
5 apples, such as granny smith, honey crisp or pink lady or a combination, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/3-inch wedges
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one-half lemon
1 beaten egg, and 1 tbsp Demerara or other coarse sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Brush insides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter using a pastry brush, or paper towel, if necessary. Set aside.
Using a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
Butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles small peas.
Add eggs, one at a time, giving a few quick pulses to combine.
Pulse another 15-20 seconds until the mixture just starts to come together, adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Wrap in plastic or parchment and allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
While dough is resting, prepare almond paste. Mix all ingredients together using a food processor, stand mixer, or whisk; if the butter is soft enough, it should be easily combined by hand. Set aside.
Sift together the dry ingredients; toss with sliced apples and give it a squeeze of lemon juice. Allow to sit for ~15-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Divide dough into roughly 1/3 and 2/3 portions; you’ll want slightly more dough for the base than the top.
Roll dough into a large disk ~1-1 1/2 inch wider than the diameter of the pan.
Tuck dough into pan, inching up the sides.
Spread almond filling into base, then arrange apples in concentric patterns, keeping them somewhat close together.
Roll out remaining dough to ~1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Cover apples with remaining dough in a lattice-type arrangement (you can find instructional how-to’s here
Brush pastry with beaten egg, then adorn with a bit of coarse sugar.
Bake for ~1 hour, until golden and bubbling.
Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for ~15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Allow to cool for at least 1/2 hour.
Serve either warm, or at room temperature.