Every fall, I look forward to the reopening of the local orchards and country shops selling seasonal treats. I recently made a run to my favorite spot, Riverview Orchards, and chatted with the owner, Isabel Prescott, who reminded me how fleeting this season is: Only one month remains for apple picking! Over hot cider and apple cider doughnuts, Prescott shared some of her best apple know-how:
- Best apple for a pie: Northern Spy, which Isabel calls “the Cadillac of pie apples.”
- Best apple for sauce: A mix. Using a combination of four or five different apples such as Cortlands, Empires, Golden Delicious, Macoun, and McIntosh will add immensely to the flavor of the sauce.
- Best apple for a salad: Cortland, because they stay white for a long time — tossing the apples in lemon, often necessary with other apple varieties, can change their flavor.
- Apple picking tips: 1) Twist or snap up — don’t pull towards you or they’ll all come crashing down; 2) the larger apples tend to be closer to the trunk, though size doesn’t mean much; 3) generally, the richer the color, the sweeter the apple.
- The best way to store apples: 33 degrees F — as cold as possible without freezing. Store your apples in the fridge in plastic perforated bags. They’ll keep for months.
Most of the apples in my kitchen find their way into pies, butters, and sauces. But recently, while flipping through Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi, I happened upon a striking image: a blistered flatbread topped with layers of glistening, whisper-thin apple slices. Extreme wanderlust is a sensation I’ve come to expect when perusing any of Greenspan’s books, but never have I felt more moved to pack my bags.
I turned the page and read the inspiration behind the recipe, the tarte flambé at Flamme & Co, a restaurant in Alsace that bakes the regional specialty in ferociously hot wood-burning ovens. Classically, tarte flambé is made with fresh cheeses, cured meat, and raw onions, but Flamme & Co serves both sweet and savory versions.
Greenspan’s passage sent me on an Alsatian pizza-making bender. I soon discovered that the union of tangy crème fraîche, sweet onion, and smoky bacon needs nothing more.
But the combination lends itself to countless variations: mustard greens, crisped and charred, provide spicy contrast to the creamy crème fraîche; delicata squash slices, briefly blanched, melt into the dough, their sweetness offsetting the bacon’s saltiness; apples, sliced on a mandoline, soften in a screaming hot oven and emerge with edges ruffled like campanelle pasta.
I’ll still make pies and cakes this apple season, but this savory use has proven to be a welcome addition to the fall dinner rotation. And, more importantly, it has subdued my longing to move to eastern France — for now, that is.
1 to 2 teaspoons grape-seed, canola, or olive oil
8 ounces pizza dough (I use the Lahey no-knead dough)
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 slice bacon, uncooked, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion
1/4 cup grated Gruyère or Comté
1 apple, thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 teaspoons sugar