October 5, 2016

Dear friends,

The last time I made an upside-down apple tart I used the wrong kind of apples and ended up with pie dough topped with applesauce. When you bake with apples, variety is crucial.

I don’t remember from year to year which variety is good for what, so I usually fall back on Golden Delicious. It is good for pies and tarts because the apple slices retain their shape when cooked.

When I want to branch out, I do not consult the Pollyanna charts from apple growers, which pretty much say every apple is good for everything. That’s where I went wrong in using Gala apples for a tarte tatin. Instead, I Google cookbook author Nancy Baggett. She tested a bunch of apple varieties in all kinds of preparations and has reliable recommendations.

The best choices for whole baked apples: Empire, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Braeburn and Rome.

Some good choices for pies and crisps: Stayman, Rome, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Pink Lady and York.

Nancy likes to punch up the flavor of pies by using three kinds of apples. I bought just one kind, but you may want to follow her lead if you make a pie this month. I won’t be making apple pie. Earlier this week I made dumplings, the preferred treatment for apples in my youth, when my mother would make a big batch each autumn for an all-dessert supper.

You can’t get away from apple dumplings in Ohio in the fall, which is a good thing. Just about every small market and farm stand sells them. Often they are the whole-apple kind consisting of a cored apple filled with cinnamon-sugar and butter, wrapped in pie dough and baked. They are good, I’ll grant you, but I prefer the sliced-apple kind I learned to make at my mother’s kitchen counter.

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Sliced apples are mounded on squares of dough and topped with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. The pastry is drawn up around the apples and pinched, and the dumplings are baked on cookie sheets.

I baked some for Tony using half Splenda and just a smidge of brown sugar. I plunked my warm dumpling in a cereal bowl and topped it with cold milk. For a moment, I was a 8 years old again.

1 recipe Mom’s Pie Dough (recipe follows)
6 medium apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
16 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. chilled butter, cut in 16 pieces

Divide each of the balls of dough in half, to make 4 pieces of dough. Working with one piece at a time (refrigerate the others), roll on floured waxed paper into a 12-inch square. Cut into four 6-inch squares.

Peel an apple, cut into fourths and remove the core. Cut into thin slices and mound about 1/3 cup in the center of each dough square. Work with one apple at a time to prevent browning. Sprinkle apple mounds with a pinch (1/16 tsp.) of cinnamon. Mold 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar over each mound of apples. Top each with a piece of butter.

Gather dough around each mound of filling, pinching to seal. Place on rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and pastry starts to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 dumplings. Recipe may be halved or cut in fourths.

4 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 tbsp. vinegar

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add shortening by teaspoons. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until the bits are pea-size and evenly distributed.

With a fork, beat together water, egg and vinegar. Drizzle into the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to moisten evenly. Cut briefly with knives or a pastry blender to work in any remaining dry flour. Do not stir or knead. Gather dough into 2 balls, wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 days. Dough also may be wrapped well and frozen.

From Suzanne Y.:
Did you mention that you were a fan of the Post House Restaurant located on the corner of State Routes 585 and 57 near Orrville? If so, you may want to make a trip before the end of February 2017 — they are closing their business.

On Facebook, Suzy West wrote, “As a family member of the Post House Restaurant, I would like to thank you all for your kind comments and walk down memory lane. Yes it is becoming common knowledge that we are closing… “

Evidently they had some code violations and it takes boatload of money to fix. Mainly sprinklers. It’s an old house.

Dear Suzanne: Yes, I did write about the Post House and its terrific omelets (the eggs are mixed with a bit of pancake flour in a blender). I’m sorry to hear the restaurant is closing. Those who want a good homespun meal should visit soon. Hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

From O.R.:
I managed to miss out on the kataifi at this year’s Annunciation Greek Festival!  It’s one of my favorite Greek pastries.  Do you or any other readers know of local bakeries that routinely carry it?  Many thanks.

Dear O.R.: That’s a tough one. Kataifi, for those who are wondering, are pastry logs made from shredded filo dough wrapped around a nut center and soaked in syrup. They look like little shredded wheats. Since Western Fruit Basket in Akron closed, I don’t know of a bakery that carries Greek pastries other than baklava. All is not lost, though. Athens Foods, the Cleveland company; that makes filo dough, sells ready-made, frozen kataifi. Check out the website, http://www.athensfoods.com, then contact the company to find a store near you.

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