Sunday, December 7, 2014

Brandied Apple, Raisin & Date Slab Pie…a modern twist on a traditional favorite

I mentioned in my last post that Mincemeat Pie was the traditional dessert at my family’s Holiday table. My siblings and I grew up eating—and enjoying—this old-world dessert that seems to be a bit of a stretch for the modern American palate. One of my brothers has been on a mission to convert friends and co-workers to the love of mincemeat. He has even gone so far as to learn how to make it so he could take a mincemeat pie as his contribution to his holiday office party. I don’t think he has too many takers, but since the mincemeat I taught him to make is pretty fine, those who can be induced to sample it usually like it.

I think it's wonderful that he tries. A well-made mincemeat pie is delicious.  I don’t know if mincemeat is in danger of anything like extinction, but I almost never hear people talking about it when the discussion turns to classic and favorite holiday foods. So, a few years ago when I was gathering recipes for a holiday baking class, I decided that I wanted to include a mincemeat-style pie…or tart…in the slate of recipes. But since I didn’t want to discourage people from attending the class, I decided I would make a “beginner’s” mincemeat….something that anyone who loves apples, dried fruit and spices would love…and call it something else…. The Brandied Apple, Raisin & Date filling in the pie I’m posting today is the recipe I came up with for that class. 

The brandied apple filling in this pie isn’t really all that different from the mincemeat I make for my family. The mincemeat I grew up eating did in fact include beef suet (I’m pretty sure I have never had mincemeat that actually included chunks of beef), but the mincemeat I make today doesn’t have any. Mince pies—like a lot of foods—have morphed over time. They were originally a savory meat pie that included sugar—along with wine and spirits—as a preserving agent. I think some people still add beef suet…for texture and richness….but I don’t think the pie needs to be any richer. And, I think that the texture I get from the addition of Medjool dates (which dissolve nicely into the filling) is just right. 

I suppose that the main difference between my brandied apple filling and my mincemeat filling is balance of ingredients. Mincemeat has a high proportion of dried fruit. The brandied apple filling has twice the volume of apples as dried fruit. The flavor profile of my apple filling is also different….it is decidedly apple-y (besides apples, I include cider in the mix). Mincemeat has a pronounced orange-citrus flavor, mainly derived from the presence of candied peel. I love the citrus flavor, but unless someone is making their own candied peel, mincemeat that includes it should be avoided. The candied peel commonly available for sale in the States is simply awful (no wonder no one likes fruitcake). 

The final update I gave to my pie was to make a large turnover instead of a traditional pie. My purpose in doing this for my class was twofold. It gave me the opportunity to teach a different style of pie. But more importantly, it provided a way for anyone new to a mincemeat-style filling to taste it in a more palatable filling-to-crust ratio. A traditionally shaped and filled pie has a much greater proportion of filling.

I loved this way of serving the brandied apple filling so much that I have begun to make my mincemeat pies in this same turnover style. The large turnover is versatile and super easy to make—I’m certain you can fill a slab pie with any kind of thick, compote-like, cooked fruit filling that you like. Best of all it is easy to slice neatly in any size your guests prefer….allowing for elegant service to those with lighter appetites…or those who want “just a sliver” so they can sample more than one kind of pie.

Brandied Apple, Raisin & Date Slab Pie

3 cups peeled & diced (1/2-inch) sweet/tart apples—Jonagold, Braeburn or Jonathan
1/2 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. apple cider
1/2 c. golden brown sugar
1/2 c. dark raisins
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. pitted, chopped Medjool dates
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
a pinch of mace
1 1/2 T. Brandy
1 recipe Pâte Brisée (see below)
1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water to make egg wash
Turbinado or coarse decorative sugar

Place the first ten ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the apples are tender and the liquid has thickened—about 30 to 45 minutes. Let the apple-raisin mixture cool. Add the brandy. Chill. You should have 2 2/3 to 3 cups filling. The filling is best if made a day or two ahead to allow the flavors to blend.

To build the pie, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up for a moment or two. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle that is about 1/8-inch thick and is at least 12-inches by 15-inches. 

Brush off the excess flour and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for at least 30 minutes. 

Slide the parchment with the pastry off onto the counter and trim the pastry to an 11-inch by 14-inch rectangle. Turn the dough so that the long side runs parallel to the edge of the counter. 

Spread the apple-raisin filling evenly over the bottom half of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border. 

Brush the border with the egg wash. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling, pressing firmly along the edges to seal. Press around the edge with a fork to secure the seal, being careful not to press so hard that the fork pierces the dough.

Brush the turnover with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut 5 equally spaced 2-inch vents in the top of the turnover. 

Slide a baking sheet under the parchment and place on the lowest rack in a pre-heated 400° oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and continue to bake until the pie is golden brown and fully cooked on the bottom—another 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer the pie to a rack to allow it to cool completely. To serve, cut with a serrated knife. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 8. 

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200g)
1/2 t. salt
11 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (150g)
1/4 to 1/3 c. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 1/4 c. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. If, when you squeeze some of the mixture it holds together, the dough is finished. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes.


Anonymous said...

I am definitely making this because I love mincemeat pies! And you are so right about it not being as popular as it once was, although I can't imagine a Thanksgiving or Christmas without one. This looks delicious.

Paige said...

Thank you! If you love mincemeat, I'm pretty sure you'll love this...