“Thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes”*
“As American as apple pie” is what we say now but there were no apple trees when the first settlers arrived. There were crab apple trees but it was up to the settlers to bring along their favorite fruits and plant them. What also held up the apple was a lack of bees for pollination so early yields were slight. Fast forward (very fast forward) to 1905 and the publication of The Nomenclature of the Apple with its listing of 17,000 apple varieties found in 19th Century America. Oh, the steely determination of Americans!
This type of filling is often my “go to” recipe because it works well for almost any fruit. I usually make it with almonds but here I wanted something that would complement the apples.
You will need to toast the walnuts and let them cool before you use them. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts into a small pan and roast them for 10 to 12 minutes until fragrant. Remove the walnuts from the oven and let cool completely.
Just as walnuts pair with apples, if you wanted to do a variation using pears, hazelnuts would make a good pairing.
Apple Walnut Tart
For one 9“ tart
You will need one recipe pate sablee
3 apples (your choice)
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces (½ cup) unsalted walnuts, toasted
¼ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup, optional
1 teaspoon confectioners sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Roll out the pate sablee and fit it into the tart pan. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell for 20 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove tart pan from the refrigerator or freezer and place it onto a baking tray. Line the shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill the foil with dry beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; carefully remove the aluminum foil and pie weights. Return the tart pan to the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Remove partially baked tart shell from the oven and let it cool before continuing. (Keep the oven on for the final baking).
3. To make the walnut butter filling, place the walnuts and the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is as fine as you can make it. Place the butter into the bowl of a mixer and mix the butter with the sugar/ walnut mixture until combined. Mix in the egg and flour until blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup until combined. (This can also be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon). Set filling aside.
3. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4“ thick pieces. Spread the walnut butter filling into tart pan. Arrange the apple slices in the filling forming concentric circles around the tart pan. Return the completed tart to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling has set and is golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool. Before serving, mix the confectioner’s sugar with the cinnamon and lightly sift it over the tart.
*from, “Arcadia,” by Robert Greene, 1558-1592, Elizabethan dramatist. This is probably the first mention of apple pie in literature. Greene was also outspoken of his jealousy toward that Shakespeare fellow, too. Greene moved to London after his marriage failed and it was there that his reputation as a playwright increased and according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, his life was “a feverish alternation of labor and debauchery.”
As for apple pie, it was eventually banned in 1644 by Oliver Cromwell, declaring it a “form of pleasure for pagans.”