Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vincent Price's Crostata di Mele (Apple Tart)

This book eluded me for a long time.  I don't remember where or when I first read about Vincent Price and his love of food, but I knew I had to have a copy of the cookbook.  Unfortunately, every time the prices would come down to my cheapskate level, someone in the blog world would write about it and the prices would head back up.  I finally found one I could buy without needing an antacid, so I pounced on it!

While thumbing through the book, this apple tart recipe caught my eye, so I bookmarked it with the handy built-in ribbon bookmark.  Fancy!

It seemed simple enough - a tart crust, apples, apricot preserves and powdered sugar.  And mostly it was simple.  Except for the crust.  Well, the crust seemed simple, until I tried to move it to the tart pan.  It fell into at least a hundred pieces, all over the kitchen counter.

I gathered the crust fragments and re-rolled them.  I veeerrrry gently lifted the crust onto the rolling pin using a lefse stick, but when I moved it over to the pan, the crust broke apart again.  I would guess it was more like fifty pieces this time, so Pollyanna might call that progress.  I, on the other hand, broke out the "magic words" and proceeded to just mash the broken pieces together in the pan (while still muttering some magic words).  I didn't even try to make a lattice top - I just cut the top crust into 2" strips and placed them on the top in something slightly resembling a pattern.  Slightly.

The recipe wasn't terribly clear on how to place the apples in the crust, so I stood them on edge as best I could.  I had three large Granny Smith apples and was able to get almost all of the slices into the crust.  I only had a ten ounce jar of preserves (the 100% fruit type), but that seemed to be a good amount for the tart.

I was afraid that it would be tough after being rolled a second time, but miraculously, the crust ended up being tender and tasty and the combination of apples and apricots is fantastic.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Vincent Price's Crostata di Mele (Apple Tart) (Printable recipe)
from A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (1965)
  • 1-1/4 cup flour
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick butter, sliced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 12 ounces apricot preserves
  • powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F.

Sift the flour onto a pastry board.  Make a well in the center and add the sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt and lemon rind.  Work the center ingredients into a paste, then knead in the flour.  Form dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured board, roll out 2/3 of the dough and transfer to an 8-inch tart pan.  Trim overhanging edges.  Fill about 2/3 full with the apple slices.  Spread with the apricot preserves.
Roll out remaining pastry thinly and cut into strips 1/2 inch wide.  Arrange 10 strips lattice-fashion over filling and trim overhanging edges.  Place a strip all around the edge of the filling and flute this with the bottom layer of pastry.
Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for 30 minutes longer.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve warm.

Friday, August 7, 2015

I've become a cast iron junkie

I have had a couple of Lodge skillets for close to twenty years, which have seen almost daily use. They have suffered through the abuses of new cast iron users not knowing how to care for them and forgetful people who walk away and leave them on a hot burner until the seasoning has burned off. My only complaint about them has been the weight, especially the larger skillet. My useless delicate racehorse wrists just can't reliably lift and tilt them.

After reading about the benefits of older cast iron (a smooth finish on the interior and lighter weight), I started watching for older pieces.  The prices on the cleaned and re-seasoned ones kept my cheapskate heart from buying them, but I have now purchased, stripped and seasoned three older pieces for myself: a square Wagner skillet, a small unmarked griddle and now a Griswold #8 (ten inch) skillet.  The Wagner skillet was in pretty decent shape to begin with, but both the griddle and the Griswold looked about like this:


I couldn't make out some of the writing until I had it in the sunlight

I bet the build-up was at least 1/8" thick in places

The very first skillet I cleaned was a 1930s Lodge for my sister.  I didn't take before pictures, but it was pretty manky.  When I was able to cook eggs over-easy in it, I felt like it was ready to go to my sister's house.  I let it go... reluctantly.

Chambers 90c stove range
Eggs over-easy in a vintage Lodge skillet
While Farm Boy has promised to start working on an electrolysis tank, we currently don't have one available to use for cleaning.  I didn't relish the idea of throwing something so old into a fire or a self-cleaning oven cycle, so that left me with the oven cleaner method:

After about 5 oven cleaner soaks - it was really crusty!

It took 8 sprays/soaks of oven cleaner to get most of the crud off of this poor skillet, then I had to carefully chip the rest off with the back side of a butter knife.  However, it was completely worth the effort.  I was worried that some of the rust that was visible on the outside might have left the iron pitted, but it was in remarkably good shape underneath.  The interior cooking surface is as smooth as glass:

And the outside is in beautiful shape, as well.

I haven't weighed it, but it is significantly lighter than my newer skillets and the smooth surface makes it much easier to season to a non-stick finish. It passed the eggs over-easy test with flying colors and has been working away in my kitchen for a couple of weeks now.  I am in love!