Sunday, October 08, 2006

Easy Delicious Apple "Pie" (or Torte), but is it Swedish?

I’ve been making, and occasionally teaching, a wonderful apple and nut torte that became a repertoire item of several medical student friends who like to cook. It is shamelessly simple, has no crust, and you virtually throw everything into the dish and bake.

And it’s not “mine”. Rather it’s something I adapted from a “Swedish Apple Pie” learned from my sister-in-law Carol, and called it “torte” since it is not a pie in the traditional sense. But who knows if it is actually Swedish. My sister-in-law, who grew up in Massachusetts, has Japanese and German ancestry on her father’s side and her mother is from Vienna. No Swedish there.

I have not found anything like it as a Swedish dish in the eight Swedish and Scandinavian cookbooks I consulted. (Swedish “apple cake” repeatedly shows up, but it’s made typically with zwieback or rusk crumbs, and very different from the dessert we’re discussing.) On the other hand some internet searching reveals dozens of basically similar American recipes for “Swedish Apple Pie” which are characterized by no pie crust, a simple batter spread on top of sliced apples in a pie pan and topped with nuts. None of those show a credible connection with Sweden. In fact one Swedish cookbook viewed on line attributed a similar recipe to Switzerland.

But who cares? With an easy, almost fool-proof, yet totally rich and luscious dessert made with the apples which are now plentiful, just worry about how good the vanilla ice cream or the fresh whipped cream is that you eat with it and not where the torte originated. For greatest elegance and to care even less, make heavy whipped cream, beating in a little powdered sugar, and then at the end fold in – don't beat in – a little dark rum or bourbon.

“Swedish” Apple and Nut “Torte” Carol

4-5 cooking apples (Rome or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, in 1/2-inch slices
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup butter, unsalted preferred
1/3 cup oil
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Large pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie pan.

Put the apples in the pie dish as you slice them. Mix the tablespoon of sugar with the cinnamon and grated lemon zest. Sprinkle it evenly over the apples. Melt the butter (in a glass or stainless steel bowl in the microwave, for example -- yes, you can use a stainless steel bowl in a microwave). Add the oil, flour, sugar, egg, salt, and nuts. Stir with a fork until combined. Spoon the batter over the apples, and spread it out evenly.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature, either alone or topped by whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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