Any way you slice it: A fall treat and a fond memory of home

Fran Sun / Photo

Fran Sun
RUTLAND BITES

I feel like I do an awful lot of nostalgic reminiscing in this column. Maybe it’s because I’m so often reminded of dishes from my childhood or from my homeland, and then my urge to share food with people takes over and I just HAVE to tell you all about it. Today’s subject is absolutely no exception, in fact it might be the most fond food memory I have. Well, it’s in the top five.

Despite the mild temperatures, I’m sure it has not escaped your attention that it is indeed fall. In this part of the world, that means, among other things, apples. My husband and I took our 9-month-old on his first apple-picking adventure to the wonderful Champlain Orchards Harvest Fest last weekend, and we had an excellent time, despite the dreary weather. We came home laden with six different types of apples, gleefully plucked from branches heaving with perfect, shiny globes bursting with sweetness. I had plans for these apples — well for a lot of them anyway — and one of those plans was apple slice.

Apple slice takes me straight back to my childhood in my home town of Rockhampton, in Queensland, which is the north-eastern state. Unlike the northeast Rutlanders know, it is hot, VERY humid, and rarely dips into the 30s even in the depths of “winter.” Anyway, my childhood home is right near a small, family-owned bakery, frequented very often by my family and still by my father today. Dean Street Hot Bread Shop is a place of many wonders, but today, we’re only going to talk about apple slice.

It’s not so different to apple pie, really. A thick shortcrust pastry base, stewed apples in the middle, topped with another slab of pastry and sprinkled with sugar. It’s more of a snack than apple pie, eaten handheld-style, quickly, before it falls apart in a crumbly mess of deliciousness.

I had never made it from scratch before, what with my proximity to the Real Thing until I moved here, and apart from the pastry itself it was a total breeze.

I used SnowSweet apples, but you could use any that you like and adjust the sugar and lemon juice to get the right balance for your palate.

Here is where I confess that though I love to bake, especially sweets, I HATE pastry. I’m terrible at it. My husband would argue, and I suppose it does always turn out to taste nice and have a good texture, but the process is so difficult and laborious that every time I do it I swear off doing it again. Perhaps you have a recipe or technique that makes things a breeze. If so, do share!

This is the kind of pastry you REALLY don’t want to overwork. I really urge you to resist using the KitchenAid or other stand mixer for this. You’ll get tough pastry and that doesn’t do this recipe any good.

I also think that the recipe from which I adapted is just very bad. I should have clued into that when I saw the “ready in 15 mins” with 15 minutes of preparation despite a 25-minute bake time, laborious dough mixing, and fridge rest for the dough. I’ve tried to adapt it so that it’s a little less terrible. First, the apples.

Stewed apples
(adapted from BBC Good Food)

Ingredients:

  • 7-8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 75 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons water

Place apples, sugar and 1 tablespoon water into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir it all together and let it cook for 3-4 minutes, covered, then stir again. Cover and cook until soft but still retaining shape. Remember to taste and adjust flavor with sugar if too tart and lemon juice if too sweet.

This will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days if you aren’t making your pastry immediately.

Apple slice
Adapted from AllRecipes.com Australia & NZ

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup self-rising flour (or combine 1 cup AP flour with 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder & ½ teaspoon salt)
  • ½ cup butter (one stick), cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 cups stewed apple
  • 2-3 tablespoon granulated sugar to finish

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and line a 12” x 8” baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the flours and sugar, then sprinkle the cubes of butter across the flour.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. This takes awhile. Be patient. Add the egg and mix until it forms a dough ball.

Remove from bowl and knead a few times until dough is cohesive. Don’t knead it too much!

JUST enough to have it come together into a smooth ball. Pop it into the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and, on a floured surface, roll out into approximately the size of the bottom of your prepped dish. I ended up rolling onto the parchment paper itself and lowering it into the baking tray. Spread the apple mixture across the dough. It should sit about ½- to ¾-inch thick on top of the dough. Roll out the second piece of dough, then roll it over a well-floured rolling pin and then unroll it across the top of the apple mixture to cover.

Bake 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle sugar across the top of the slice. Remove from tray (use edges of parchment paper), then cut into squares; I suggest 12. Enjoy!

Fran Sun

Fran is a new stay at home mom who moved to Rutland from Australia in 2015.

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