according to the Farmers’ Almanac (and no doubt other authoritative scientific resources), autumn has officially arrived. to grudgingly usher in the season, i made my annual trek out to Jones Creek Farm in Sedro-Wooley, WA. there, friendly, knowledgeable farmers Les and Talea Price give TLC to their orchard laden with an extensive variety of heirloom apples. while i appreciate Jones Creek’s apple cornucopia, scenic Skagit Valley location and genuinely nice growers, i go out to the orchard for one simple reason: Bramleys.
this year marks the bicentenary of the Bramley apple (i.e., 200 years since British youngster Mary Ann Brailsford planted the pips in her garden that ultimately become the apple tree that bore the fruit that was named after the man who purchased the cottage where the tree was rooted and insisted that the apples be named after him—the abridged version). touted by apple pundits (and by me) as the best cooking apple on the planet, Bramleys retain their tart flavor because they contain more acid and less sugar than their inferior counterparts. and they produce an unbeatable melt-in-your-mouth texture, again, unlike more mundane varieties. somehow, the Bramley apple made it across the pond and to the top of my best-ever-fruits-of-all-time list.
with a bushel of Bramley apples, four sugar pie pumpkins and Elroy in the back of the car, i hightailed it home from Jones Creek Farm. later that afternoon, i made the recipe that follows with only three Bramleys; these guys were mutants.
i dedicate this pandowdy to my dear friend Alex, a true U.K. renaissance man, who tends his own Bramley apple trees. and whose curiosity and thirst for knowledge have led him on many great adventures, from flying and stone henge site exploration to archaeologic digs. a man of generous spirit and an even bigger heart.
a dish concocted by combining a recipe from Sunset and one from Emeril Lagasse/Food Network and an idea or two of my own
for the crust
1 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold butter
4 tablespoons ice-cold water (add more as needed)
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinking
for the filling
4 large Bramley apples (or, if you must, 6 – 7 Granny Smith), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter cut into small pieces
- in a large bowl or food processor, mix the flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and salt.
- cut the butter into the flour mixture, until coarse crumbs form.
- sprinkle water evenly over the crumb mixture, until a dough forms; add more water, if needed.
- turn dough out onto a lightly floured mat and pat into a flat disk.
- wrap disk in plastic wrap, and place in fridge.
- preheat oven to 350F.
- in a large bowl, toss the apples and lemon juice.
- in a medium bowl, whisk all the filling dry ingredients.
- add the mixture from the medium bowl into the large bowl filled with the apples and lemon juice; toss to coat, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- spoon the apple mixture into a 10-inch-deep ceramic pie dish.
- top the mixture with the small pieces of butter.
- remove dough from fridge and let stand at room temperature until pliable.
- with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick.
- place dough on top of apple mixture, rolling edges under (trim off any excess, as needed).
- place pie dish on a cookie sheet covered in non-stick foil, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until crust is golden.
- remove from oven, and with a small, sharp knife, score the crust into 1-inch squares.
- with the back of a spoon, gently press the crust into the filling, so the juice flows over the edges of the squares.
- sprinkle the sugar over the crust, and return to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced and the juices are thickened.
serve warm, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. ok, i even like it for breakfast, without anything on it. well, maybe a splash of half and half.