Antique Apple Pie

Who’s ready for some pie?
antique apple pie |

I am! Thought I share a taste of old Americana with a special pie made from heirloom apples growing in my yard.  Gravenstein, Spitzenburg, Antique Braeburn.  They may not sound familiar as these lesser-known varieties just don’t make it into most national markets unfortunately, given their thin skins (not so good for traveling) and small crop yields. Even for us folks living here in Sonoma County, these historic trees are now far and few between—and the best place to source them is a local farmer’s market. Back in the 1930’s, there were close to 15,000 acres of planted apples orchards throughout the county.

The Gravenstein (or Gravs as they’re affectionately known locally) were planted by Russian Fur Traders back in 1811- so these truly have become this area’s darling of the apple world. They, along with plums/prunes dominated the agricultural scene for many decades. Over the years however, the orchards have slowly been replaced with vineyards, which makes these precious fruits even more sought-after. And to celebrate the preservation of these near extinct varieties, the quaint town of Sebastopol plays host the Gravenstein Apple Fair every August, now in its 42nd year. This huge celebration of all-things-apple is a local institution around here and has inspired me to get in the kitchen and bake-up this delicious Antique Apple Pie.
gravenstein apple |

gravenstein apple |

gravenstein apple

spitzenburg apple | whiskandmuddler.comspitzenburg apple |
spitzenburg apple
collection of antique apples |

I used a my Mama Di’s famous pie crust which is SO good. You may remember it from my Best Peach Pie post……it’s my go-to crust recipe. It never fails to produce a fantastic pie- whether it be sweet or savory. I also love splitting these up into smaller, separate 4-inch pans. You won’t feel so guilty a whole pie that way right?  Plus you can bake what you need now, then freeze the others for when the pie siren comes a calling.

For the apples, I chose to peel them since I needed to remove some worm holes anyway. These are organically grown so they do have a few blemishes and may not look perfect on the outside, but the flavor on the inside is wonderful. Juicy, tart and sweet all at the same time. I tend to like things less sweet anyway, so only a minimal amount of sugar was added. I also went easy on the baking spices too. The trick is to enhance the natural sugars,  but not over-power with cinnamon or nutmeg. Keep the different apple notes as forward as possible. Tip: pack the pans FULL of apples. To the point where you think you’ve over-filled it. The apples will reduce in size as they cook, so a very full pan means you won’t be left with any gaps between the filling and crust.
antique apples in pie |
antique apple pie before baking |

antique apple pie |

antique apple pie |


Now that apples have started coming into season (yikes, that means Fall is on its way, noooo!!!!…) do make the effort to stop by a farmer’s market, or local apple orchard if you are lucky enough to have one near you. You’ll be amazed at how many varieties there are and how unique each one tastes. I’ll be volunteering at the Gravenstein Apple Fair this year, so if you live in the Bay Area, come on up and say hi, sample our county’s pride and joy, and take home a boxes of Gravs so you can bake your own apple pie!

Antique Apple Pie
yields one 2-crust pie (9 inch) or three 2-crust pies (4 inch) | Antique Apple Pie PDF

Mama Di’s Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
1 cup vegetable shortening (original flavor Crisco is best)
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup ice water
pinch of fine sea salt

Put shortening into a bowl. Add salt, sugar, & flour. Blend until mixture looks like breadcrumbs (no big lumps). Add cold water a little at a time, stirring with a fork until you can work the dough with your hands. Different flours and humidity require differing amounts of water. You may not need to add all of it. Mix with your hands lightly until smooth, do not over work. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill dough in fridge for 1 hour.  Roll out on floured surface to desired size/shape.

Apple Pie Filling
4 cups antique apples, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
pinch of fine sea salt
1 egg for egg wash
sprinkle of finishing sugar (raw, demerara or turbinado)

Preheat oven to 375F. Remove pie crust from fridge and shape into desired shape/pan size. Peel and slice apples thinly into a large bowl. Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste, butter and salt; mix gently to combine. Fill pie shells and top with remaining crust. Cut four small vent holes in top and brush with egg wash and finishing sugar before baking. Bake 9-inch pie for 35-40 minutes. Bake 4-inch pies for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream on simply on its own. Enjoy!

*antique or heirloom apples may be hard to find. Try a reputable roadside produce stand or gourmet market. A good substitute is a combination of equal parts Granny Smith (tart) and either modern Braeburn, Honey Crisp or Gala (sweet).

*I love the intense vanilla-flavor you get from a good vanilla bean paste. You can find it here if it’s not in your local stores. Or just use the seeds from a vanilla bean (split the bean in half and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife). I don’t recommend using vanilla extract as you don’t want any extra liquid in the pie filling.

Apple Spice Mini Cakes with Fresh Blueberry Cream

Red apple spice cake + fluffy whipped cream + fresh blueberries = my salute to the red, white and blue.
apple spice cake with fresh blueberry cream |
apple spice cake with fresh blueberry cream |
apple spice cake with fresh blueberry cream |

What could be more American than apple pie. How about taking all the warm baking spices and juicy apples from a pie,  lightening them up into a mini cake, then sandwiching it with fresh blueberry cream? Now that’s a dessert that spells Americana and can be the star of your table this Fourth Of July holiday. Did you know that blueberries are thought to have been around for over 13,000 years and are indigenous to North America? Native Americans called them “star berries” because the blossom end of each berry forms a perfect 5-pointed star. So what better way to honor our country and its homegrown fruits than with Apple Spice Mini Cakes with Fresh Blueberry Cream.

I wanted to create a dessert featuring the ingredients we typically associate with Fourth of July—but, with a twist. Everyone tends to make an apple pie for the Fourth right? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good apple pie. But when I saw these cute little gingham baking cups at the store…and then some delicious looking blueberries…well, the idea hit me to borrow all the traditional holiday flavors, but use them in a slightly different way.
apples and blueberries |
apples and blueberries |
blueberries |
apple spice cake ingredients |

spices for apple spice cake |

spices (clockwise): ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice (center): fine sea salt

You can make the cake (and whip the cream) the night before the big cookout, then easily add in the fresh blueberries to the cream and fill the mini cakes the morning of. Just before serving, top with a small dollop of cream and garnish with a couple of blueberries. Oh, and some patriotic sprinkles for good measure.  Sprinkles are always welcome on desserts….at least I think so! Also, this is not fancy dessert and is meant to be rustic— so the cutting of the cake and piping of the cream doesn’t have to be perfect. These should be low-fuss and something your family and friends will enjoy tucking into at a barbeque or summer picnic. There you have it.  A light, summery, sweet bite that pays tribute to this great nation on its special day. Happy Fourth of July everyone!
apple spice cake with fresh blueberry cream |

Apple Spice Mini Cakes with Fresh Blueberry Cream
yields 18 mini cakes | Apple Spice Mini Cakes with Fresh Blueberry Cream PDF

Apple Spice Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
3 apples, cored and finely chopped ( I used two Honey Crisp and one Granny Smith)

Fresh Blueberry Cream
1 cup heavy whipped cream, chilled
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries, chilled + extra for garnish
patriotic sprinkles (optional, but c’mon, why wouldn’t you?)

For Apple Spice Cake:
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch high pan. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, spices, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla bean paste, continue mixing until well-incorporated. In a separate small pinch bowl, mix baking soda and warm water until smooth and no lumps. Add to butter/sugar mixture and continue to mix on low speed. Blend in flour mixture just until all the flour has been incorporated. Remove bowl from machine and by hand with a spoon or spatula, add in the apples until well blended. Batter should be thick but still have air in it. Pour batter into prepared pan. You may have extra batter (like I did) so spoon it into a 6 slot muffin tin–snack on those later! Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove cake from pan. Set aside.

For Fresh Blueberry Cream:
Place fresh berries in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. You want them to firm up, not become frozen. In a medium size chilled bowl, whip heavy cream until soft peaks. Add in confectioner’s sugar and continue whipping until cream is firm. Using a sharp knife, chop chilled blueberries into halves or quarters. It’s super important to start with ice cold berries, otherwise you’ll have a juicy mess*See note below on fresh versus frozen berries. Gently fold chopped berries into cream just until you see the cream begin to streak the blueberries. You’re going for a swirled look here.

Move cake to wooden board. With a biscuit or cookie cutter cut out desired shape. I used a 2-inch round cutter which was slightly smaller than my presentation cup. But you could totally skip the baking cups and use a star cutter or any other shape.  Get creative!  With a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally so that you have a top and a bottom. Put bottom piece into presentation cup and pipe or spoon blueberry cream onto bottom layer, then pop top layer back on. Use a smaller star tip or spoon to decorate top with more blueberry cream. Add a garnish of blueberries and sprinkles. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Notes: Although you’re going to chill the berries in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes before chopping them, it’s not recommended to use frozen (packaged) berries. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but you need fresh berries for this recipe. Frozen ones contain too much water and will ooze  juice into the cream. The fresh berries, once firm, will hold their shape (and liquid) just enough to swirl the cream. Plus there’s nothing like the taste of fresh blueberries!

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The Perfect Match: Rhubarb & Thyme

My, oh my, this is good one! The combination of rhubarb and thyme in this tart is sooo good. It’s a pairing that I know seems a bit odd.  I wasn’t all that sure myself- rhubarb & thyme? But trust me, once you bake this and then dig into it, you’ll understand. It totally works.

The young rhubarb (which was freshly picked from my garden) is tangy & tart. When roasted, like in this recipe, it becomes even more fragrant and more intense with that unique “rhubarb-y” flavor. The lemony and earthy notes of the English Thyme add a nice depth to both the crust and final topping. The zing of the Granny Smith apple I used keeps with the tart theme (ha! see what I did there) but lends just enough sweetness to tie it all together. Viola! Heaven on a plate. Or well, getting pretty darn close. There are a few steps to making this, but none of them are hard. The end result is worth it!

Roasted Rhubarb, Apple & Thyme Tart

For the crust (Pâte Brisée):
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced into small pieces
1 large egg
4-6 tablespoons of ice water
9.5 inch tart pan with removable bottom

Add flour, sugar, thyme, and salt to medium size bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Work quickly to keep the butter chilled. Add the egg and enough water to bring it to a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured board only long enough to bring it together to form a round. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, even better, overnight. After chilling, allow 5-7 minutes to come back to room temperature before working with it.

Roll out on a floured board to approximately 11-inch round. Fit into a 9.5 inch removable bottom tart pan. Carefully push the dough into all edges of the pan. To trim top, slide the rolling pin over the entire top of pan. This will quickly and neatly remove the excess dough, leaving you with a nice clean edge. Chill in fridge until ready to assemble tart. Or you can pre-bake the tart blind for about 8-10 minutes at 350F to reduce the overall cooking time.

For the roasted rhubarb / fruit prep:
10-15 stalks rhubarb, cut into small dice. Enough to yield 1-1/2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 granny smith apple, cut into small dice

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a standard baking sheet with foil. Trim leaves from rhubarb and discard. Wash stalks well, then cut into small dice. Place on baking sheet and add sugar. Gently mix sugar throughout the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until just tender (al dente). Allow to cool before adding to tart. Cut apple into small dice. Keep chilled until ready to assemble tart.

1/2 diced pieces to roast

1/2 inch diced pieces of rhubarb

For the custard filling:
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk

Whisk all the ingredients in a medium size bowl until custard has become light and frothy.

To Assemble & bake tart:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard baking sheet with foil. Add the roasted rhubarb and apples to the chilled dough in tart pan. Slowly pour the custard filling over all of the fruit, approximately 1 cup. You may not need all of it, so keep an eye on the fill-level of the tart as you go- don’t overfill. Place on baking sheet and carefully move to middle rack of preheated oven. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean from middle of tart. Depending on oven calibrations, you may need to bake a little longer. If so, cover tart with foil when it starts to brown and keep a close eye on it. Allow to cool before removing from tart pan. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and confectioner’s sugar (optional).

DSC_0072-3Makes a wonderful individual tart too!