Tomorrow is my first American Thanksgiving and here's what I'm thankful for right now (other than the fact I will get to eat multiple pies tomorrow): I'm thankful for people who aren't afraid to speak up. We live in a pretty messed-up world and I'm really grateful that there are people out there willing to put themselves on the line to make this world a better place and make it so that this planet can continue to sustain us and produce delicious food for us to enjoy.
I'm thankful for the activists working so hard to make sure the Keystone XL pipeline never rips apart some of the best farmland in this country. We can live without oil, but we can't live without food.
I'm thankful for the hundreds of volunteers who put in so much time in Oregon to try to help pass the GMO labelling vote that took place a few weeks ago. Thanks to their work, Measure 92 is now headed for an official recount because (despite millions of dollars in misleading ads from Monsanto & friends) the future of GMO labelling in Oregon has come down to a difference of just 809 votes!
I'm thankful for the courageous folks putting themselves on the line on Burnaby Mountain and facing arrest in order to stop Kinder Morgan from bulldozing through a sacred mountain and conservation area.
I'm thankful for the many people bravely speaking out for racial justice in this world, following the Grand Jury's decision on the Michael Brown case.
And I'm thankful for all the farmers and gardeners out there who are saving seeds, despite our government's best efforts to put seed control in the hands of large corporations.
Sometimes, when I'm surfing Facebook and seeing all the important work my friends are doing, I feel a bit lame that so much of my time these days is spent taking photos and videos of food, or making the same pie 10 times in a row so that the recipe is just right, or pondering new ways to make a plate of shepherd's pie look sexy. I suppose it's quite simply because growing and cooking food feeds my soul and makes me happy, which seems a little selfish. But if in turn it feeds your soul just the tiniest little bit, then maybe I've put a speck of good into the world.
Mostly, I love what I'm doing, but every now and again, I do wonder if I'm doing enough, you know? I guess the questioning is a good thing... I'm sure we can all continuously be finding new ways to do our part, whatever humble form that takes at any given moment in our lives.
And on that note, dearest reader, I offer you a Maple Syrup Tarte Tatin with a Rye Crust, a variation on the classic tatin, which I posted about on PBS a few weeks back. That's what the above video features, the classic version, but aside from using maple syrup instead of sugar and throwing a little rye in the crust, the steps are the same. I love this version because it doesn't have any refined sugar. The caramel is simply made from pure maple syrup and butter coming together and doing their sticky magical thing. My boyfriend prefers the classic tatin (probably because it is a bit sweeter and tastes like true caramel and apples) but in my books, there's nothing that tastes as good as butter, maple syrup, and apples all simmered up and cozy together under a blanket of flaky dough. Have I sold you on it yet? Whichever one you choose, I hope it brings some joy to your day.
MAPLE SYRUP TARTE TATIN WITH RYE CRUST
The Rye Crust
1/2 cup rye flour
3/4 cup white flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp if using salted butter)
1/3 cup cup ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
The Apples & 'Caramel'
5 to 6 large crisp, tasty apples (good varieties include: Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Pippin, and Northern Spy)
3/4 cup maple syrup
6 Tbsp salted butter, cubed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Make the dough:
Make sure your butter is very cold. (I sometimes cut the butter into cubes, and then place it in the freezer for 5 minutes or so). Whisk both rye and wheat flours with the salt in a large bowl. Rub the cold cubed butter into the flour with your fingers, until the biggest pieces are the size of peas.
Mix the apple cider vinegar into 1/4 cup of the ice cold water. Pour this over the flour mixtures and mix gently, gradually trying to bring the dough together into a very rough ball. If the dough is too dry for this to happen, add a bit more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. The ball of dough will be a bit messy and crumbly, but it's better to have a messy ball of dough than to overmix at this point. Wrap the dough and place it in the fridge for an hour (or overnight).
Unwrap the dough unto a very lightly floured countertop and roll it into a rectangle (about 8 x 11 inches). Don't worry about crumbly bits and resist the temptation to add water or flour. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. With the seam parallel to your body, roll the dough into an 8 x 11 rectangle again. Fold it like a letter again. Repeat this folding process one last time and place the dough in the fridge for another 30 minutes to an hour. These folds will give your dough a beautiful flakiness, thanks to the laminated layers of butter.
Prepare the apples:
While your dough is resting, peel, core, and quarter the apples. Place the cubed butter in a large 10-inch oven-proof skillet and begin to melt it down over medium-high heat. Add the maple syrup and lemon juice. Cook for a minute, just until the whole thing begins bubbling. Remove from heat and place the apples, curved side down, as tightly as you can fit them together. Once all the apples are arranged, return to medium-high heat and let the apples simmer away in the caramel for a good 12 to 15 minutes. You can spoon some of the caramel over the apples if you wish. Every now and again, check the apples to make sure they aren't burning on the bottom. Once your caramel is nice and thick (about 12 to 15 minutes, remove from heat. (If at any point your caramel starts to burn, immediately remove from heat and move on to the next step). The apples will have shrunk a bit while cooking so bring them back as close together as you can, making them fit nice and tightly together.
Bake the pie:
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick (not too thin). Place it over the apples, leaving a slight overhang. Tuck the overhang into the caramel, right around the outer edge of the apples, nice and snug. (This pie crust edge cooked in caramel is my favorite part of tarte tatin!). Make a few slits in the dough so the steam can escape during baking.
Place the pie in a preheated 375 F oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and crisp to the touch.
Flip the pie:
Now comes the trickiest part of making a tatin. Some recipes call for cooling the pie for 10 to 15 minutes, and others call for flipping the pie immediately so the caramel doesn't have time to cool and harden. I like to wait for about 5 minutes at the most, just to give the top of the crust a bit of time to cool and crisp up. (Once you flip it, it can get a little compressed and lose its crispness as it cools). If you don't have a plate large enough to go over the rim of your skillet, use a cutting board. Hold the plate or cutting board as tight as you can against the rim of the skillet. Use oven mitts or plenty of tea towels so you don't burn yourself with any hot caramel. Flip the pie over in one swift motion. Uncover it carefully and put any apple pieces that have gone astray back in their spot.
Best served warm, shortly after it is made.
Some final notes:
Some tatins are made by cutting the apples in eighths and placing them cut side down on the caramel. I tried this method but the apple layer was too flat and my crust became soggy from cooking right in the caramel. Cutting the apples in quarters gives the apples pieces enough height that the dough can sit on top the apples and not lie directly in the caramel. I find this yields best results.
(And this... THIS chewy edge of caramel poached dough is what I'm talking about)