High Altitude Baking: European-style apple and blueberry torte (recipe)
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Good luck ordering a piece of pie in a European bakery … there aren’t any. But you can find some very appealing alternatives, and this torte is an example. A filling of apples, berries and nuts is wrapped in a flour crust. Sounds like a pie, doesn’t it? But, here’s what’s different: The dough is made with butter, egg yolks and sour cream, making it softer to work with than most of our pie doughs and, when baked (in a springform pan instead of a pie pan), a bit richer and more tender.
The apples are grated, rather than sliced, and provide a soft, sweet textured background for the taste of the berries and nuts. There’s the same lovely play between fruit and crust that we find in our pies, but the overall effect is more refined and elegant.
European-style apple and blueberry torte
(Make in an 8½-inch springform pan. Yields about 10 servings)
2 cups bleached, all-purpose flour, spoon and level
½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
¼ cup sour cream
3 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 beaten egg for glazing 2/3
3 large Golden Delicious apples
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
Scant ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen
2/3 cup chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to blend. Cut the butter into 28 pieces, add them and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few larger pieces of butter. In a 2-cup measure, whisk the sour cream, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Add to the bowl, and pulse until the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened and large clumps of dough form. Dump out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, knead gently a few times and divide into two portions, one with two-thirds of the dough, the other with the remaining one-third. Form both portions into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the lower third position. Grease the pan with a flour-vegetable oil spray. Remove the larger dough disc and, unless the smaller one is very firm, move it to the freezer. Roll the larger disc (I do this between sheets of floured waxed paper) into an 11-inch circle, about ¼-inch thick. Fit it into the prepared pan, gently pressing it into the bottom and up the side. If necessary, trim the dough on the side so it’s even in height and thickness. Lightly brush with the beaten egg (you won’t use it all) and refrigerate.
Make the filling: Peel the apples and, using the large holes of a box grater, shred them into a mixing bowl, stopping at each core and discarding it. Add the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and flour, and gently stir/toss with a silicone spatula until well blended. Add the blueberries and nuts, and stir/toss until distributed evenly. Give it a taste, and add more sugar if needed.
Remove the dough-lined pan from the refrigerator, and spoon the filling into it, stopping when it reaches the top of the dough. If any dough extends beyond the filling, gently turn it down, so it lies over it. Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the remaining dough disc over the filling, covering all of it. If the dough softens too much as you grate it, return it to the freezer (and the filled pan to the refrigerator), and chill until it’s sufficiently firm. You may have a little left over. Dab the dough shreds with the beaten egg.
Place the pan on a cookie sheet (to catch drips), and bake until the filling oozes a little juicy liquid and the top is baked through and colors slightly. Start checking at 45 minutes, though it may take longer.
Remove from the oven, and cool completely on a rack. Wait at least three hours or overnight before cutting and serving. Store, covered, at cool room temperature or refrigerate. Remove the pan side, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve at room temperature or slightly warmer (not hot, or the crust will start to soften and/or melt). A blueberry sauce is the perfect accompaniment.
The dough recipe is a variation of one from Kaffeehaus. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds,” is a chef instructor with Colorado Mountain College’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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