Even though I’ve completely saturated myself with sweet indulgences this holiday season, I’ll never deny a good pastry. My oh so lovely friend Donna sent me a link a few week’s back to an online zine that featured a couple of pies from the famed Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. She’d made a pear pie with juniper berries that sounded fantastic. You can find the link, here.
Once I saw the recipe for a salt-studded honey pie, I knew I had to make it mine. It looked simply stunning. And yet…I thought I could personalize it a bit with a few enhancements. I’d recently been gifted a jar of fabulous local honey. I wanted to do right with it, and this pie seemed like the perfect vehicle to transcend it into something extraordinary.
The recipe called for vanilla paste. I thought I could do a bit better by using whole vanilla bean. I scraped the seeds out of the bean and set them in sugar, with a bit of freshly-grated lemon zest. I love the sensuous feeling of using my fingers to combine the sugar with aromatics, the sugar crystals unlocking the essential oils and perfuming the air with vanilla and lemon-scented goodness.
I added sliced almonds to the top, to accentuate the crunch of salt and contrast the silky filling. This pie and baked went from a pale sandy yellow to a dark caramel brown; the almonds developing a tan as the crust bubbled and spit.
Drizzled with a bit of thyme and vanilla-infused honey, sprinkled with flaky Maldon salt and crunchy toasted almonds, this pie is pure heaven. Probably one of the flakiest pastry crusts I’ve made in some time, which I attribute to a bit of old-school pastry cutter technique. A quick blitz in the food processor flirts a bit too much with the gluten in the flour. If nothing else, this crust inspired me to go back to my humble ways of tactile experience with the dough. When you work with your hands, the hands become the intuitive barometer of when something is near completion. The bits of butter strewn throughout the dough formed delicate air pockets that left layers of flaky, meltingly-tender crust.
Oh! And the flavor! The filling, similar in consistency to pecan pie, but without the cloying, one-dimensional sweetness of corn syrup. The elements of buttery pastry, crunchy almonds, and sweet honey reminded me instantly of baklava, the incredible Turkish sweet.
I am already dreaming of when I’ll make it again.
Honey Almond Pie
Note: I used a basic recipe for pate sucree; you can find recipes and techniques in previous blog posts, however I encourage you to try to make the crust without using a food processor. There are excellent tutorials for basic pie crust techniques available online.
For the filling:
1 tsp lemon zest
Seeds of one whole vanilla bean pod (reserve pod for later)
1/4-pound (one stick) butter, melted
1/2-cup cream (not half and half)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornmeal
2 tsp white vinegar
You will also need:
1 prepared pie crust, frozen
~2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 c honey
Several sprigs fresh thyme
Vanilla bean pod
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, rub together sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds until aromatic. Set aside.
- Combine honey, salt, and cornmeal; whisk together, then add melted butter, cream and eggs, one at a time, whisking until well-incorporated.
- Add scented sugar and whisk again well, then pour through sieve into prepared crust.
- Bake for ~35 minutes, then sprinkle with slivered almonds. At this point, you may need to cover lightly with parchment to prevent excessive browning. Bake for another 20 minutes until set. This is best tested by giving a gently nudge to the pan; it’s okay if the filling is slightly jiggly; it’ll continue to cook once removed from the oven. However, if it’s sloppy, keep pie in the oven and check at ~5-minute intervals until set.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with a flourish of sea salt and let it cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
When ready to serve, warm honey with a few sprigs of thyme and the vanilla pod, then let steep for ~10 minutes. Strain into a jar, then drizzle over pie and garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves.
Remember those classic confections? You know; the ones that stuck to your teeth and left you with no choice but to lick your fingers clean? They were a favorite of my father’s. Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve outings to the Pike Place Market, followed by a stroll along the waterfront and a visit in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, ending the day with some fish and chips at Ivar’s. It was customary while at the market to pick up a box of aplets and cotlets, which rarely made the trek home unopened.
So that’s what I thought of when I envisioned this tart. I’d received a special request for apple pie, however I was thinking I could do a bit better and really wanted to “wow” with presentation. Tarts are fantastic that way, as the fruit is really the star, all caramelized and glistening to perfectly baked perfection. I’ve made many pies, and have gotten the basics of a good flaky pastry down. Always, always start with ice-cold ingredients, minimal handling, and appropriate rest. It’s like nurturing a new relationship: love the pastry. respect it. don’t interfere too much.
It’s quite simple really. I used a basic recipe for pate sablee ( you can find a link here), which I proceeded to roll out and tuck into a fluted ceramic tart pan, brushed generously with melted butter. It could easily be rolled out flat; placed directly on a cookie sheet, folding up the edges for a bit of rustic appeal. A tart pan with a removable bottom is also an option.
I then coated my apples with bits of butter and a mix of sugars for caramelization, along with lemon zest for fragrance and brightness. The perkiness of apricots complement the apples wonderfully; I found several examples that combined apples and apricots in turnovers, or using apricot jam as a glaze. Another consideration would consist of a simple glaze made with a reduction of honey, lemon and fresh ginger, though I would use a sweeter apple as the base.
Something to keep in mind: the crust may start to get a bit brown, and that’s okay. an interim solution is having strips of foil at the ready to fold around the edges. If you have a piecrust protector, then you’re a bit ahead of the game. Laying the dough flat and covering with apples end to end will also alleviate the concern for excessive browning, however, the perfectly browned, fluted borders really make a statement. In any case, this crust is cookie like, buttery, crisp and perfectly lovely in every way. Enjoy!
For the tart:
1 recipe pate sablee
4 tart apples (example: granny smith)
1/4 c each granulated sugar and brown sugar (muscovado is nice)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. butter, frozen and then grated or chopped into small bits the size of peas
For the glaze:
~1/2 c apricot jam
2 tbsp. apple juice, liquor, or water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, or if you are using a mold, brush bottom and sides generously with melted butter.
Measure the diameter of the tart pan you’re using. I used a pan that was ~8″x11″ at the base.
Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and press into pan, allowing the dough to come up the sides. Pierce several times with a fork, then let rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
Mix the sugars and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant; set aside.
Peel and core apples; slice into 1/4 inch lengths.
Fan apples onto the tart dough in rows, or if using a round pan, fan along the outer edges, working toward the center.
Sprinkle apples generously with sugar, then dot with butter.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Note: About mid-point in the baking, warm jam and liquid over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Strain into a bowl or measuring cup (I use a sieve to remove the fleshy bits of fruit). Set aside.
Remove from oven and brush with apricot glaze.
Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or crème fraiche.
It’s good to get a girl out of the city. Just a couple of days, immersed in the awesome wonder and beauty of nature.
- Preheat oven to 375
- Butter a 9-inch tart tin with removable bottom (line bottom with parchment, if you prefer).
- Combine all dry ingredients in medium-sized mixing bowl.
- To a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, lemon zest and extract, then whisk in melted butter.
- Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the wet mixture, stirring until just combined.
- Spread batter into tart pan. Fan peaches on top, leaving small amount of space between the slices. Toss the blueberries casually over the top, allowing them to roll into the crevasses.
- Sprinkle either a bit of Demerera sugar, or other granular sugar over the top (~3 teaspoons)
- Bake for ~30 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.
Upon our return home, we made yet another of Yotam’s recipes for Cauliflower cake. You can find the recipe online. A savory cake, reminiscent of something between a quiche and a custard, this dish packs tons of flavor and is an excellent source of protein. I served it with a salad and a simple vinaigrette. So good!
With love (and full belly).