Thursday, March 28, 2013

Playing with History, Elderflower Apple Pies with Bacon Lattice Top and Almond Butter Crust

Sometimes being able to do anything that strikes your fancy can put you into a creative rut. It takes a challenge to get you out of it.

I have a Creative Cooking Crew Challenge this month that is something like those on television cooking contest shows. I have a virtual market basket of Granny Smith apples, nut butter, bacon and vinegar and from that I must construct a dish (although I can used other items in my pantry to make it). 

The first thing that came into my head was a salad –– it sounded refreshing. But then I thought that was too easy. I wanted to play a bit and build my dish out of history so I hit my old cookbooks.

I read about a 17th century crust made with almond milk in Robert May's 1660 The Accomplisht Cook that I thought looked interesting. Why not use almond butter with butter for a crust for a pie? Although I ended up using a store-bought jar of almond butter,  I found an unusual recipe for it with rosewater and saffron in a 1591 copy of A Book of Cookrye:

Now, vinegar –– I have really come to love floral vinegars.

Rose and elderflower were popular vinegars from at least the 17th through the 19th centuries –– I can't for the life of me understand how they fell out of fashion since they are so good. I used the elderflower for the delectable early 19th century Dutch Sauce HERE, and the rose and elderflower in a 17th century beef marinade HERE. Both were wonderful. 

Elderflower vinegar is a snap to make with your own elderflowers like the recipe above from 1658's The Compleat Cook, but I actually like the one I made with elderflower tea from the health food store better. When I used the "tea" (only the flowers are in the tea, no green or black tea in the mix), the vinegar was really lovely and more elderflowery.  I just put the flowers in the vinegar for a few hours and strained what I needed. Elderflower vinegar is great on all kinds of things but especially fruit salads. By the way, the International Herb Association has named Elder the Herb of the Year for 2013!

Now I have a great crust and perfumed vinegar, but what goes with them?  With apples in my basket, it's a given that I'm making apple pie but you may wonder, vinegar with apple pie? Not as weird as you may think. Most of the fruit pies I make have a bit of lemon juice in them to brighten the taste. Why not use vinegar? Also, one of the great pies of the American frontier was vinegar pie–– made when there was little left in the larder in the cold winter months. A delicious pie from all accounts.

Now the only ingredient I have left in the basket is bacon. That was easy. The first time I saw bacon used as a woven blanket on a turkey, I loved the look of it and it reminded me of a lattice top on a pie. I didn't want the bacon under or over-cooked or the apples with a bacon fat puddle on top so I decided to do the bacon separately in the microwave (very modern) and pop it on top when the pie was done.

Let me tell you, this is a keeper.  The crust was tender and flaky with just the right almond edge, the apples were slightly tangy and perfumed with elderflower and the bacon was crispy perfection. Because the elements were separate till the end, the crust stayed crisp.  I had it at room temperature but you could pop them in the oven for a minute to warm if you would like.  I loved the sweet and savory flavors together.  This would be good for dessert or an appetizer or even as a side for a meat course. Dr. Lostpast gave it a rarely bestowed A grade.

Sometimes playing with your food is a good thing!

Elderflower Apple Pies (makes 4 tarts)

Cooked, 3" apple ring
4 slices bacon
4 Almond-butter pastry crusts
1 - 2 T St. Germain liqueur (optional) 
Slivered almonds for garnish

Put the apples on top of the pastry and tuck the bacon into the apples. Brush the bacon and apples with liqueur and serve with almond slivers.

* if you want to make a full pie, double  all the ingredients except the St Germain –– 2 T is enough for brushing the top.  I would cook it for an hour, basting with the remaining marinade.

Cooked Apple Ring

4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2/3 c sugar
1/4 c elderflower vinegar*
4 t butter

Preheat the oven to 375º

Put the apples, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and marinate for 1/2 an hour.

Put the apples, drained, into 4, 3" rings –-wrap the bottom in foil to keep the juices in (or make your own from scratch with a few thicknesses of aluminum foil), arranging the apples in a circle and filing the mold. Spoon a bit of the marinade on top and put a teaspoon of the butter on top. Cover the top with foil.

Cook for about 20 minutes until the apples are transluscent.  Remove the foil on top for the last few minutes.

* To make elderflower vinegar, put 1 elderflower tea bag (flowers only, no black or green tea) in 1 c white wine vinegar for at least a few hours.  Strain to use.

Almond-Butter Pastry

1/2 c flour
2 T whole wheat flour
5 T butter, frozen
1 to 1 1/2 T almond butter
pinch salt
2-3 T cold water

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Put the flours and salt in a food processor and pulse.

Cut the butter into small cubes and throw into the processor and pulse till they are incorporated but still a bit chunky.  Add the almond butter in little bits spread around the mix and pulse a few times.

Dump this into a bowl and add your water, sprinkled and stirred a bit at a time.  You have added enough water when you can grab a handful and it clumps together.

I use my version of the Julia Child method of frissage.  I flour a sheet of parchment, with a few tablespoons in a pile. I grab my dough in about 5 clumps and put each one in the pile of flour one at a time, smearing the dough flat. Then I pile them up. This gives a new coating of flour between each layer. I press the layers down and refrigerate for an hour (or freeze for 15 minutes if you are in a rush).  The roll and use a cutter that is a little bigger than your apple ring. Use a fork to poke some holes into the pastry.  Cook for 12 minutes, then flip and cook for five more or until the pastry is golden.  It will be tender and flaky!


Slice the bacon in half lengthwise. Put the bacon in a lattice pattern about the same size as the ring you are using.  Put it on a paper towel and fold the paper towel over.  Cook on high for 2 minutes.  I did each separately to be safe.

Come by HERE this week and see our great crew's efforts with their baskets.


Joan Nova said...

Oh, Deana, this is great. Why didn't you let me know you were participating? Or post it on our FB page? Anyway, I'll add it belatedly to the round-up that's been published for future viewers.

La Table De Nana said...

Your vintage tag an fairy add a wonderful charm to your post:)

angela@spinachtiger said...

That is clever especially what you did with the bacon.

Faith said...

This really is a charming post and I love what you did with the challenge. That pastry looks divine!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

this sounds AMAZING! Once we're settled in I'll have to try this -all of my favorites - applie pie, bacon and elderflower! We really love the elderflower liqueres, such as st germaine, and have been experimenting with all sorts of cocktails with them.
Thanks as always for such thoughtful, interesting and well researched posts! said...

I am glad Joan is adding you to round up. You are an inspiration and I learn so much fom you. Great desert.

Marjie said...

I made a vinegar pie last fall, and it was good. Your almond crust sounds wonderful.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I'd have to add a couple of exotic (to me) ingredients to my pantry but this sounds so worth it!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow this is really such a step up from a salad! I like the way your mind works :) And I've never seen elderflower vinegar-we don't get much elderflower here but it sounds heavenly! :D

Diane said...

This really does sound good and looks fantastic. I have some quince vinegar, thanks for the ideas of what to use it for :) Have a good Easter. Diane

Sarah said...

Now I will be looking for some elderflower tea. Great job on your challenge. It looks divine!

Lori Lynn said...

This is lovely Deana! Brilliant to make the lattice bacon top and cook separately. I have got to get some elderflower vinegar, been meaning to buy St. Germain too, now that it is the herb of the year, it's time!
Your tart would be a fine ending to an elegant dinner party. Great contribution to the cooking group!

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Beautiful composition. he Elderflower vinegar sounds wonderful and fragrant. I did the same and applied the 'keep apple white' with vinegar. Intrigued with he pastry too. Bacon presentation is great.

Unknown said...

how delicious!! never tried elderflower vinegar, but i'm totally intrigued :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

I would have never thought to have bacon accompany apples. Very interesting!

Jennifer Kendall said...

This is so inspiring!! Elderflower vinegar sounds wonderful! Great post!

LaDivaCucina said...

Another person who thought of dessert, well done! And of course, your posts always come with a history lesson! I'm intrigued by the floral vinegars and am wondering where to get elderflower, I've heard that Ikea (!) actually sells elderflower or brewery supplies! Well done, Deana

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a clever idea. This sounds delicious and it certainly is creative. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. Blessings...Mary

Erica said...

What a wonderful idea! It looks delicious!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Brilliant! I already knew everything's better with bacon, but I'll tell you the thought of bacon, apples and pastry is really making me swoon right now!

Ken Albala said...

The first one is much too young to be the Elder Flower Fairy. It's a very cool dish. Though do give real medeival/early modern almond butter a shot. It is not ground roasted almonds, but raw almonds ground, soaked and strained into almond milk and then fat then left to drain. It works just like real butter for Lent.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos, and inspiring recipe - I love all the history. Most of all, I like the 'Julia Child' dough. Great tips!

Barbara said...

Very cleverly done, Deana! The bacon would have stumped me...and I probably would have gone the salad route.
I saw elderflower something in Fresh Market the other day and stopped to look. Whatever it was, I was amazed to find it. Now I can't remember what the heck it was. (old age) :)
I'll be watching for it next trip.

Frank said...

I love how you've arranged the food so it appears to be an extension of the pattern of the plate. Very pretty!