Enjoy fresh Ontario apples while they’re in season
Fresh Ontario apples can be eaten right out-of-hand as a mid-day snack or prepared in literally hundreds of different ways.
Bushels of these shiny, red beauties can be found at farmers’ markets just waiting for someone to turn them into warm, spicy baked desserts. Especially when they’re bathed in cinnamon and sugar and surrounded by buttery, flaky pastry. It’s simply instinctive to be thinking about freshly baked apple pies, apple blossoms and fresh apple cider at this time of the year.
Apple pie is indeed the benchmark by which all other apple desserts are measured. It seems that every family I know has a special person who is admired for baking the best apple pies. Many make the traditional two-crusted version, some are streusel topped, others claim their “mile high” apple pies are indisputably the best, where a few are loyal to their French-style apple tarts with seductively, wafer thin apples layered circularly around the crust. Large families, like mine, make apple pies in large baking sheets and cut them into squares in an attempt (albeit futile) to have them last longer.
Regardless of the various styles, the mother of all apple pies are the ones with more apples and less crust. In fact, there is a woman I know who claims her apple pie is so high, she has to carefully balance the apples in the shell before putting the top crust on the pie.
If you’re on a quest for the ultimate apple pie recipe, don’t overlook all the other apple-packed temptations along the way. For example, if you’re not very confident with your pastry-making skills or if you’re just plain in a hurry, apple crisps, crumbles and brown betties are practically foolproof and they’ll give any fancy apple pie a run for its money in the flavour department.
All of these desserts start with juicy chunks of diced apples flavoured with sugar, cinnamon and a few other optional spices like nutmeg and cloves. To make a crisp or a crumble, all it takes is a mixture of oats, butter, sugar and flour to make a mouthwatering topping that will turn deep brown and crunchy as the apples get soft and bubbly.
Serve an apple crisp, crumble or brown betty under a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream or assemble them in individual ramekins or custard dishes instead of one big pan. Spoon apple crisp into small plastic containers; they make an easy and appreciated school lunchbox treat.
Markets are piled high with a wide assortment of apples right now so you may want to choose your apples wisely. The most common choice for apple pies are Courtland, Northern Spy, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Winsap. Some expert bakers claim their secret to an exquisite pie is to use a blend of different kinds of apples in one pie. Golden Delicious will hold their shape, Granny Smith adds a tart flavour and for an apples greatest intensity pick up Crispin, Winsap and Jonagold.
One medium apple yields about 1/4 cup (175 mL) of sliced apples so depending if you like your apple pie thin like the French or mile-high like in Ontario, you can always adjust with this basic measurement.
Unlike peaches, apples will continue to ripen after they’re picked making them idea for storing. To keep small quantities of apples at home, put them in the refrigerator away from strong smelling odors (apples absorb odors). Apples will over ripen quickly if left at room temperature.
Fresh Ontario apples can be made into pies, sauce, butter, chips, juice, cider and baked desserts, but nothing beats the crisp taste of a juicy, apple, just picked and ripe for eating.
Apple Flan with Honeyed Apple au Jus
1 1/4 cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 mL) Ontario salt
2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 mL) ice water
6 Northern Spy apples, peeled, cored, halved and sliced 1/8- inch thick
1/4 cup (60 mL) Ontario honey
1 cup (250 mL) water
3 tablespoons (45 mL) Ontario honey
2 tablespoons (30 mL) cold farm fresh butter, sliced thin
Pulse together flour, butter and salt in a food processor until most of mixture resembles coarse meal or small peas. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times, or just until incorporated. Add more water if necessary to bring the dough together. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash the apples well, pat them dry and peel them, reserving the apple peelings.
To make apple au jus, put apple peelings in a medium size pot, add honey and water. Bring to a boil and cook for approximately 15 minutes. Strain and set aside. Your au jus will be a lovely pink colour.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). On a lightly floured surface roll out dough into a 13-inch round and fit into a 10-inch tart tin with a removable bottom and fluted rim, trimming the excess. Brush the bottom of the shell with apple au jus and arrange the apples decoratively around the pastry shell, overlapping them. Drizzle the honey on top of the apples, top with butter slices and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is cooked through and the apples are golden. To serve, puddle apple au jus on a serving dish and lay a slice of warm apple tart over top. Makes 1 tart.
This story first ran in the Food & Drink section of Look Local Magazine. Click An Apple A Day copy to see the entire article including a listing of Ontario Apple Growers and Pick-Your-Own Apple Farms.