Another week of fall fruit share meant coming up with another way to use apples. A happy problem, if ever there was one. I turned, this time, to Elizabeth David for help and she didn't let me down. In her book, French Provincial Cooking, she offers a couple of paragraphs on Les Bourdaines, or apples baked in pastry. I like baked apples; I love pastry--bringing the two together could only make for something spectacular.
In her recipe the hollowed out apples are filled with plum or quince jam, but I remembered a picture in Farmhouse Cookery in which baked apples are stuffed with mincemeat, so I thought I'd do that instead. You could fill them with just about anything: dried apricots mixed with honey, dates chopped with walnuts and the juice of one lemon, brown sugar and spices, or something of your own device.
I had to try this twice this week, because the first time I forgot to peel the apples before wrapping them. During baking, the pastry simply slid off the apples, leaving them looking more than a little exposed. Peeling the apples gives the pastry something to hold onto and rolling them in the flour/sugar/spice mixture gives you some insurance (and extra tastiness). I didn't seal my seams well enough the second time around, so although the pastry stayed on the apples, the seams did split some, which could be avoided by using a drop of cold water and a bit more care.
This experiment was well worth the effort. The result is part baked apple, part apple pie, part mince pie, altogether delicious.
Stuffed Apples Baked in Pastry
inspired by Elizabeth David
- 1 recipe pie crust for every 4 apples
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- a few grates of nutmeg
- as many apples as people you intend to serve
- a lemon
- 2 Tbs. filling (see note above) for each apple
- a small knob of butter for each apple
- a small egg and a splash of milk
- Make your pie dough, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate while you do the rest.
- Butter a baking dish big enough to fit all your apples and set aside. At some point, preheat your oven to 350°F.
- In a wide, shallow dish combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and set aside
- Cut lemon into quarters. Peel your apples and rub them with lemon juice as you finish each one. That is, don't wait til they're all peeled before coating them with lemon juice. Using a melon baller, remove the core of each apple and scoop out some of the meat so there is room for the filling. Fill each apple with mincemeat, making sure to press it into all the nooks and crannies. Before the apple is entirely full, drop in a knob of butter then put in one more dollop of filling, pressing down firmly. When all the apples have been filled, roll each one in the flour mixture, making sure it is fully coated.
- Take your pastry from the fridge and remove a piece large enough for one apple (about 85g for a small-medium sized apple, slightly more for a large one). Put remaining dough back in the fridge while you wrap the apple. Roll out your dough into a circle wide enough to accommodate your apple. Place apple in the center of the circle and begin to gather the dough around it. Where the dough comes together, cut off the excess and with a little water glue the seam together. Be sure your seams are well stuck, or they will split during baking. If, once you have wrapped the whole apple, there is a hole at the top, use some of the extra dough to cover it. Save extra dough for making leaves. Place pastry-encased apple in the baking dish and transfer to refrigerator. Repeat with remaining apples.
- Once all the apples have been wrapped, take the extra dough you've been saving from the fridge, roll it out, and cut out a leaf for each apple. Remove apples from fridge, make a dimple in the tope of each, and adorn each with its leaf. Beat together the egg and the milk and brush each apple with the mixture. Bake for about an hour or until the crust is golden.
Serve warm with whipped cream.
Elizabeth, who apparently wasn't much of a fan of cooked apple dishes, offers this bit of advice: "First, choose hard, sweet apples whenever possible instead of the sour cooking variety which are used for English apple dishes. And secondly, if the apples are to be eaten hot, cook them in butter instead of in water. The scent of apples cooking in butter is alone more than worth the small extra expense."