Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Tweak Here, A Poke There

Maybe it's one of those things that women do when they get together, but in my exercise class the predominant theme of most conversations is food. Especially around the holidays.

Whether we're huffing up the hundred stairs between the reservoirs at Mt. Tabor or doing lunges on the circle around the top of its dormant volcano, the chatter revolves around meals made, restaurants visited or recipes tried. Maybe it's the calories we're expending that has our bodies plotting to overthrow our best efforts, but it's not unusual to come away with a new recipe or recommendation or two.

A week or so ago my friend Madeline was raving the delights of a streusel-topped apple chutney dessert she'd made. Now, anything with the word chutney in the name immediately piques my interest, so after some small amount of begging she sent the recipe to me. I tried it and found the flavor intriguing, but I thought it needed a crust to give it some form, and a different steusel topping to better match the filling.

Some friends coming for dinner provided the perfect focus group to test the new version, so I made it and waited for their reaction. Silence fell over the room, but it was the kind of silence broken only by forks clattering against plates and hushed groans floating in the air. Success!

Update: Just finished the last piece today (1/5) for breakfast and this is seriously fabulous pie. Can't recommend it enough!

Apple Chutney Pie

For the pie crust:
1 heaping cup flour
1 stick frozen margarine
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
2-3 Tbsp. ice water
Egg white

For the filling:
1 lemon
4 c. apples, cored, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. chopped dried apricots (heaped)
1/4 c. dried cranberries (heaped)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. water (or half water, half brandy)

For the streusel:
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 375°.

For the pie crust, put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor, add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add frozen margarine in pieces and pulse until it has the texture of coarse meal. Turn machine on and add water a tablespoon at a time until it clumps together in the bowl. Remove, wrap in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour until thoroughly chilled.

Shred 1 tsp. peel from lemon; set aside.

For the filling, squeeze 1 Tbsp. juice from lemon, add to apples and toss to coat. In a pot, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water (or half water, half brandy), apricots, cranberries and spice. Cook and stir over medium heat until boiling. Cook and stir one minute more. Remove from heat; stir into apple mixture.

To make the streusel, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest in a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the melted butter and mix thoroughly with fork until crumbly.

Remove pie crust from refrigerator and roll out. Place in 9" pie plate and trim within 1/2" of edge. Fold trimmed edges over with 1/8" extending above lip of pie plate. Crimp. Brush bottom of crust with thin coating of egg white (1/4 to 1/2 tsp., just enough to cover). Spoon filling evenly into crust.

Using a fork, evenly sprinkle streusel topping over apples.

Bake pie until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve pie warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream or Chantilly cream.

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