Saying goodbye to summer seems to be very difficult for some but so easy for me.
I hope I won’t anger readers by claiming loud and clear that I never look forward to summer and that fall is my summer!
The perfect Indian summer we’ve been experiencing lately seems to operate as a soothing transition between the two seasons when fall-fanatics like me can finally get out of the house and enjoy some nice deserved smoother sun rays with a certain crispness in the air while summer-mourners can ease themselves into the idea of cooler temperatures.
As I am looking at the troubled ocean – summer to my left, fall to my right – the clouds announce that even though we can still go to the beach, fall is coming and there is no way around it.
As a kid, fall wasn’t particularly a favorite because fall meant new school year. However, running in the colorful dead leaves and jumping in splashing rain puddles with patterned plastic boots was always a treat.
What else is fun about fall?
Walking in the forest and making as much noise as possible in the leaves.
First scarfs and wool sweaters – black or brown V-necks of course, si français.
Autumn colors and comfort food – coming home to grandma’s old-fashioned compote de pommes. Not too sweet, with hints of cinnamon and a mix of puréed apples with bigger chunks.
Memories of the kitchen suddenly turned into a delicious place to sit in and observe while surrounded by warm apple scents.
Rainy walks and layering clothes. The more the better.
Reading by the fireplace in Normandy with a warm tea.
Snuggly beds when it’s cold outside.
Grandpa’s apple tart with a firm thin crust.
And since I live in the U.S., apple picking of course!
Fall has this warm soft white light producing endless opportunities for photos.
It almost feels like we’re rediscovering our surroundings and neighborhood seeing them for the first time and experiencing joy at each street corner. Everything seems different yet familiar as we bask in the prolonged summertime and the tranquil beauty of a new season about to settle.
And then there’s la cueillette des pommes – one of my favorite thing to do earlier in the fall.
And you know why? To me, apple picking only lights up deep inside my inner anticipation for apple desserts.
It’s automatic and quite simple: apple + fall = desserts.
Picking the apples is like a soft promise whispering in your ear that there will be lots of opportunities for making apple crisps, apple pies, apple tarts, apple butter and compote.
It’s more than an anticipation actually. It’s a surge of excitement. Un vrai plaisir.
Yes, I have AAD – Anticipation for Apple Desserts.
It’s a quiet place where the apples seem more colorful than any other place.
The bright orange pumpkins already laid out and in display.
Happy chickens running around.
The bright inviting orchards just waiting for hungry visitors.
And smells of baked goods coming out from the cosy barn.
Come prepared to pick. Bags or bushels.
There are so many varieties.
I don’t know about you but I like to pick lots of different types of apples. Mixing them when baking creates wonderful flavors that can surprise you at every bite.
Good question! What are we going to do now that we picked all these apples?
A pie, of course.
A tart, oui.
Et attention!!! A pie is very different from a tart. The crust is different, the preparation is too and it just does not taste the same.
So let’s make both. But with a twist!
One of my all-time favorite thing to use when preparing apples is… and it’s a secret… orange blossom water and ground cloves. Especially for a traditional American apple pie.
The cloves bring out thoughts and memories of India.
And the orange blossom water makes me long for the Middle East daydreaming about far away lands.
Together, they make an apple pie that much more interesting and delicious.
And what about the traditional French apple tart – avec de la crème pâtissière?
Let’s have fun making it and use a traditional French summer concept to delight our palates.
In France, we eat a lot of carottes râpées in the summer: a simple grated carrot salad, which should be picked as the National Summer Dish due to its wide popularity.
The apple tart will be even better with grated apples. And for the gourmands, a sweet chocolate crust!
Orange Blossom-Scented Apple Pie (adapted loosely from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook):
Crust and filling were changed from the original recipe. The baking process is the same.
3.5 cups (350 g) of flour
2 sticks (230 g) of butter
2 Tbsp (25 g) of vanilla sugar
1 Tbsp (15 g) of salt
For the filling:
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp of heavy cream
2.5 – 3 lb (1 – 1.5 kilo) of apples – I like to mix the varieties
1 Tbsp of lemon juice
the zest of half a lemon
1 Tbsp of orange blossom water
1/4 cup (50 g) of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 Tbsp of raw Turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar
For the crust, sift the flour, vanilla sugar and a sprinkle of salt in a big bowl. Cut the butter in small cubes and drop in the bowl. With your hands, mix the butter in the flour mixture warming it until the butter resembles tiny pebbles. If you have a food processor, pulse until you get a coarse sandy mixture.
Dig a well in the center. Add 3/4 cup (180 ml) of cold water + 2 Tbsp. Using a fork or your index finger, stir until the dough is wet and clumpy. Add more water if too dry. Knead the dough with your hands until you can make a ball out of it.
Wrap the ball in plastic and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C).
After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge. With a sharp knife, cut the ball in half. Place one half on a lightly floured surface and the other half back in the fridge wrapped in plastic.
Roll out the first disc of dough – about 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and place in a 9 inch (23 cm) pie dish. Line the dough with the dish, press in the corners, and trim it so that it hangs a bit over the dish by 1/4 inch (0.5 cm).
Place the dish in the fridge for 30 min.
While waiting, peel, core and slice your apples – thick slices.
In a bowl, mix the apples with the lemon juice and zest, the orange blossom water, the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Make sure the apples are well coated.
Arrange the apples at the bottom of the chilled dish, on the dough.
Roll out the remaining dough just like the first disc.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and the cream. Brush the rim of the bottom crust with the egg mixture.
Place the second piece of dough over the apples and trim so that 1 inch (2.5) overhangs. Tuck the dough under. Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers and place the pie in the fridge for 15 min.
Remove the pie from the fridge. Brush with the egg mixture all over the top.
Sprinkle with the 1 Tbsp of raw sugar and the 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar.
Cut 4 openings/vents in the top.
Bake the pie at 425 (220) for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 °F (180 °C) and bake for 25-30 min more until it is golden brown.
Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.
French Grated Apple Tart (loosely adapted from the Recettes pratiques du marché Encyclopedia):
2 cups (200 g) of flour
1/2 cup (80 g) of powdered sugar
6 Tbsp (25 g) of powdered chocolate
1 stick (120 g) of butter
2 Tbsp of lemon sugar
For the filling:
5-7 big apples – I like to mix the varieties
3 Tbsp of apricot jam
3 Tbsp (20 g) of flour
2 Tbsp of ground hazelnuts
6 Tbsp (75 g) of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1.5 Tbsp (20 g) of butter
For the crust, sift the flour, powdered sugar, powdered chocolate, lemon sugar and salt in a big bowl. Cut the butter in small cubes and drop in the bowl. With your hands, mix the butter in the flour mixture warming it until the butter resembles tiny pebbles. If you have a food processor, pulse until you get a coarse sandy mixture.
Whisk the egg with 2 Tbsp of cold water in a small bowl. Dig a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the egg wash in the center. Using a fork or your index finger, stir until the dough is wet and clumpy. Add more water if too dry. Knead the dough with your hands until you can make a ball out of it.
Wrap the ball in plastic and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 415 °F (210 °C).
After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge. Place on a lightly floured surface.
Roll out the dough in a disc – about 15 inches (38 cm) in diameter. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and place in a 11 inch (28 cm) fluted tart pan. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.
Blind-bake the crust by placing parchment paper on top of it and dropping coins, or chickpeas, inside the pan. Bake for 15 min.
In the meantime, peel and core the apples. Grate them with a grater. I use an electric grater so it’s easier. If you don’t have one, you can always cut the apples in tiny cubes or strips.
In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the flour, ground hazelnut, sugar and cinnamon.
Remove the tart from the oven. Discard the parchment paper and the coins (or chickpeas).
Spread out the apricot jam on the crust. Spoon the grated apples on the jam. Even out the tart with the back of the spoon to make it flat.
Spread 1.5 Tbsp (20 g) of butter all over it – small tiny cubes – and bake for 30-35 min.