Something To Sweeten Your Year
Here, in all its heady glory, is the Cognac Sorbet our friend Barbara made on New Year’s Eve. With its mint leaf and lemon zest décor, it’s a minor miracle, blending the warmth of the Cognac with the wintry chill of the smooth ice crystals. And you don’t even need a sorbet maker to produce this lovely confection. For the party, Barbara made it to accompany
Katherine’s Dutch Apple Pie, with its tender buttery crust, tangy apples, and sweet raisiny bursts. Now there’s a knockout combination, a Franco-Hollandais tour de force if there ever was one.
Barbara’s Sorbet au Cognac
1 litre/1 quart of non-bubbly mineral water (use your favorite, but not tap water)
500 grams/2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 liter/1 cup Cognac (you can use less, even just half this amount if you don’t want it too strong)
mint leaves for garnish
Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the juice of the lemons and the Cognac. In the sorbet I tasted, Barbara used only half the basic amount of Cognac, and the flavor was delicious and subtle. Freeze for 1 hour in the bowl you mixed it in. When slightly frozen, beat with a mixer or in the blender. Freeze for another hour, beat again. Do this one more time, as each successive freezing and beating will help to give the sorbet a slight fluffiness. Line the bottom of a mold with plastic wrap and decorate the bottom of the mold with mint leaves and curls of lemon zest. Pack the partly frozen sorbet mixture into the mold and freeze until time to serve, preferably at least several hours.
And now for the apple pie. Katherine, being Dutch, has access to a packaged base for the crust of her pie, to which she adds butter, sugar, and egg. I’m assuming that you don’t have an Albert Heijn store near you, although I think you’ll come very close to her crust with this version. But here’s a case where you really need to use a kitchen scale, since flours vary widely and European and American flours are not much alike. You need a scale for successful baking in any case, so if Santa didn’t bring you one, now’s the moment to stuff your own stocking, as it were.
Dutch Apple Pie
For the crust:
300 grams self-rising flour
150 grams sugar
175 grams soft butter
1 egg, beaten, divided use
For the filling:
4-5 firm and sweet-tart apples
35 grams sugar
70 grams raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Mix the dough ingredients together with a wooden spoon, using only 3/4 of the beaten egg and saving the rest for brushing the top of the pie. The dough will be quite soft, but don’t add additional flour.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F. Butter a springform tin, the same kind you’d use to make a cheesecake, and in the buttered pan make a crust by pressing about 3/4 of the dough into the pan, lining the bottom and up the sides. This is a messy operation with the soft dough, but just pat and press the dough into place as best you can.
Peel and quarter the apples then slice the quarters crosswise, not too thin. Mix the apples in a bowl with the other filling ingredients. Place the filling on top of the crust in the springform pan. Roll the remaining dough into little snakes between your palms and decorate the top of the pie with a lattice-pattern of dough strips. Brush the top with the remaining 1/4 egg. Place the pie on the rack of the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until it’s golden and looks done. And then, although it’s not very Dutch, but is very south of France, serve with French Cognac sorbet.
It also occurs to me that the sorbet would be wonderful made with Armagnac or Calvados, although I haven’t yet tried those. If you do, let us know how it turns out. The sorbet would also make a great palate-cleanser between courses.