I can’t say I’m sorry. I enjoy the warmth, but I also relish a cup of coffee by the fire, clear cold days and nights curled up under layers of blankets. The fourth season is often a short one in Georgia, but I’d miss it if it chose to bypass us altogether.
The warm temperatures we’ve experienced up until now have led to some confusion in the garden. I went out yesterday to cut back the asparagus ferns, brown and dry except for a few red and green berries that are still hanging around. As I cut the stalks off close to the ground, and pulled weeds from around the bed, I noticed a couple of tender, fresh spears poking up through the dirt. One of them was nearly white from having been covered over by a patch of chickweed, while the other was bright green tipped in purple. I carefully cleared the space around them and left them to bask in the bright January sun. I’m not sure they’ll survive the hard freezes we’re having overnight, but hopefully this bodes well for our spring asparagus crop.
The true onset of winter is signaled by a dearth of fresh fruits at the market. There are still some varieties of storage apples available locally, but for the most part we’re seeing fruit that’s been flown in from far-flung places. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to dry a bunch of apples back in October. When we received an invitation to dinner from some friends the other day, I knew just what I wanted to take as my dessert offering.
I had seen a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baking Banter Blog for an Apple Slab. I was intrigued by this combination pie/bar/cookie concoction, so I pinned it on one of my Pinterest boards. I used it for inspiration, but as usual I also made the recipe my own. The original calls for fresh apples that you layer with bread crumbs and sugar and cinnamon between two pie crusts. This appears to result in a firmer textured filling. I was looking for something slightly more pie-like, but that could still be sliced into neat little squares. Enter the dried apple.
prep time: 1 1/2 hours (allows for filling to cool and crust to rest)
bake time: 1 hour
- 2 pie crusts (you can use store bought, or your favorite double-crust pie dough recipe)
- 2 quarts dried apples
- Apple cider to cover apples (approximately 1 quart)
- 2 tablespoons sucanat (can use brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons water (to form a slurry)
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup honey granules (can use granulated sugar)
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place dried apples in a large saucepan and cover with cider
- Cover and bring to a boil, allowing apples to rehydrate.
- Remove apples from the pan and place in a heat-proof bowl, leaving the cider behind in the saucepan. Add the sucanat and cinnamon to the cider and return to a boil. Slowly pour the corn starch slurry into the boiling cider mixture, whisking to avoid lumps.
- Boil to reduce slightly and thicken. Remove from heat and pour over apples. Refrigerate to cool.
- While the filling cools, make your pie crust dough.
- Preheat your oven to 350F
- Roll 1/2 of the pie dough out to a 9×13 inch rectangle. Place it in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.
- Pour the cooled apple filling into the pan.
- Roll the second 1/2 of the dough out to a 9×13-inch rectangle and place on top of the apple filling
- Bake for 1 hour.
- While pie is baking, make the caramel.
- Combine the evaporated milk and honey granules in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil. Allow to boil until it reaches the firm ball stage.
- Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla, whisking to combine. Continue whisking until it begins to thicken and loose its sheen
- When pie has finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the caramel over the top. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
- Allow to cool, then slice into 12 squares.
What results is a juicy, tart filling between two flaky layers of pastry, and a creamy rich caramel glaze on top. The fact that there’s only two tablespoons of sugar in the filling means the true flavor of the apples really comes through. I had dried a combination of Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Arkansas Black, so the apples were all quite tart. They balanced quite well with the sweet, buttery caramel. We ate ours plain, but I imagine it would be especially delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
Or maybe even for breakfast with a piping hot cup of coffee. Curled up with a good book in front of the fire, that sounds like an excellent way to spend a cold winter morning.