Thirteen weeks ago, Confession Wednesday began and the time has come for me to come clean about it. I borrowed the Confession Wednesday series from my very favorite radio show, Slacker and Steve on Alice 105.9 (Denver, that is).
Three long law school years bestowed upon me some dysfunctional habits, certain neurotic behaviors, and two radio show addictions – morning and afternoon- one each way in my Denver-Boulder commute.
Slacker and Steve are the pm version of my radio talk show addiction. It was soothing to just listen to them ramble on and on while battling traffic on US 36 south and it is still comforting to hear them on my drive home from work.
All that to say that my Confession Wednesday concept is not original. No need to reinvent the wheel, I say on a regular basis and today! I have always loved the confession Wednesday idea so I took it! Theft? Nah. Plagiarism? Meh, not really. Copying? perhaps. I will just call it inspiration with a dash of if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And I will add that I love where my inspiration came from!
When it comes to my cooking, inspiration comes standard. It always did. I used my mom and grandmother as cooking role-models; no one taught me how to cook; no one said this is how you peel a carrot. I watched and watched and learned by doing and experimenting. No instruction and no cookbook for more than, well, mere inspiration once in a blue moon.
My mother still cooks like that. She basically refuses to use a recipe and I am at a point where I measure twine with a measuring tape if Thomas Keller says 3 feet of string for trussing a chicken. My recent compulsion with following (some) recipes conscientiously does not mean I need a recipe to cook. I get by just fine with the mental repertoire of dishes I have, with the ingredient matches I learned, and the ratios that have been ingrained in my head by doing and doing and doing.
The blog, however, has so far featured some 30+ recipes that I made from cookbooks I love. Not entirely original, kind of like the Confession Wednesday series. To break the pattern, I wanted to share a recipe that you probably won’t find on online or in a cookbook since it is my mother’s and since it is Romanian.
This will be (for most of you) entirely original. It may shake your concept of Apple Pie- the American version and probably the only one you thought existed. The apple pie I grew up with is vastly different from the one you think of but it is at least equally delicious.
The quantities for ingredients in this recipe are rather interesting- more ratios than any standard quantity. I told you my mom doesn’t use a recipe; she uses ratios and she does it pretty well.
Romanian Apple Pie
Dough- 15 tablespoons sparkling water (225 ml), 15 packed tablespoons flour (425 g) , 7 tablespoons canola oil (sorry- use your tablespoon!), 4 tablespoons butter (at room temperature) plus 2 (additional) tablespoons flour.
Filling- 6-7 large granny smith apples, 6-8 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Mix together the dough ingredients and work to blend it with a fork. When it comes together into a dough, begin gently working it with your hand for about a minute.
If it sticks to the hands, add a little flour. If it is too crumbly, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time. This is a fun very elastic dough so one may be tempted to play with it and over-work it. Don’t do that.
In a bowl, bring together with a fork the butter at room temperature (you want it to be soft, but not runny) and the additional 2 tablespoons of flour. This is a sort of liquid-less, uncooked white roux sauce. Well, not really but it does use the same ingredients, sort of.
On a lightly floured surface, spread your dough into a ¼ sheet with a rolling pin. Transfer the butter/flour mixture onto your now dough sheet. Distribute it evenly on the sheet with your hands then roll the dough sheet with the butter mixture inside into a log then bring it together into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but no longer than a day.
In the meantime, make the filling. Grate the apples coarsely, peel on. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix together. Put the apples mixture into a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Adjust the heat down as it comes to a simmer.
Your goal here is to allow the juices from the apple mixture to evaporate. If they don’t evaporate enough, the bottom sheet of your dough will get soggy and will not bake properly. The grated apples will turn caramel dark brown and will cook down probably in about 25-30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375ºC.
Break the dough into 2 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, work both of the halves into equal size thin dough sheets- the size of a 9 x 7 pan. Because this dough is so elastic, you will need to make it slightly bigger than the pan and you will see it draw itself back in.
Lather your 9 by 7 baking pan with butter then sprinkle lightly with flour. You want to get a thin layer of butter then one of flour in the tray. I use a little piece of paper towel to spread the butter on my pan than I shake the flour around until it sticks to the butter evenly and discard any excess flour.
Place one of your dough sheets into the pan. Spread the apple filling over it evenly and top with the other dough sheet.
Put it in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, likely closer to an hour.
Take it out of the oven and sprinkle generously with powder sugar. Cover it with a dry clean cloth. This creates a little steam and moisture. Don’t skip this step or the crust will get so hard you will not be able to cut it without it breaking it into a million crumbs.
Give it time to cool down then cut it into 2 inch squares and enjoy your (likely first) Romanian treat.
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