I’d planned to start this post by extolling the apple and its many uses but it’s hard to sing a fruit’s praises when there’s a thingamajig dangling atop your blog, metaphorically speaking, of course. So, I might as well explain the name of this dish and get it over with — in a minute or two.
I’ve been busy elsewhere the past few days, so, these acknowledgements are a tad late. Last Friday, Kristy, of Eat, Play, Love was kind enough to pass me the Versatile Blogger Award, as did Eva of Kitchen Inspirations the very next day. Kristy’s blog is a family affair, featuring 2 gourmands-in-the-making, Mr. N and Miss A. Her recipes come from around the World and the blog’s stars are adorable. 4 spoons all the way! Eva’s blog is a treat, as well. Visit her blog and you may find yourself having brunch in a Montreal café or sharing a Moroccan feast that she researched and prepared herself. And every post is beautifully photographed. If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and visit these 2 wonderful blogs. And as for the award itself, I am very thankful for the honor but, having just received this award a week ago, I won’t be passing it along. (As I mentioned to Kristy, I fear putting us all into some sort of infinite loop.) I will, however, refer you to my post of a week ago. Now, about that thingamajig …
Several years ago, at about this time of the year, my cooking shows were all featuring apple pies. Now, I love apple pie but had shied away from making them because my pie crusts were terrible and the poor apples turned to mush. That Fall, I decided to teach myself how to bake a pie and, every week to 10 days, I baked an apple pie. Well, with parents who were children of the Great Depression, we learned very early on that one never wastes food. Period. So, if I made a pie, I ate a pie. True, eventually my pies got better and I was confident enough to share them with friends — but I ate a whole lotta pie before then. Still, even though I eventually settled on recipes for both crust and filling, one pie is a lot if you live alone, as Zia and I often commiserated. As a result, neither of us baked apple pie because we didn’t want to be greeted by the same pie every time we entered our kitchens for the next week or so. That was until 2 years ago. It was about that time that we both saw cooks on television prepare apples in a form that was part pie and part tart. They called them “open-faced” pies or tarts but, to our minds, they’re neither. So, we started calling them apple “thingamajigs” and the confusion ended, at least between the two of us. Best of all, an apple thingamajig is half the size of a pie and, therefore, better suited to our swinging single lifestyles.
Now, there are plenty of recipes around for thingamajigs and mine is based upon my apple pie recipe, with one notable exception. I include cheddar cheese in my apple pie crust but not here. Being a thingamajig has only one crust, the cheddar cheese flavor is too mild to be noticed and adding more cheese to the recipe only serves to make the crust unmanageable. So, the cheddar is reserved for double-crusted pies and it’s probably just as well. (My apple pie recipe with a cheddar crust is forthcoming.) A thingamajig, being open-faced, is less “runny” than a normal pie due to evaporation during baking. (See Notes.) As you’ll see and much to my liking, the apple slices remain firm and more apple flavor retained. As for the apples themselves, I always use tart apples, preferably Granny Smith, but I also add a sweet one — Fuji or Honeycrisp — to the filling, usually in a 3 tart to 1 sweet apple ratio. That way, you get an occasional taste of sweet among the sour. Raisins or currants will do the same. To that end, I don’t use a lot of sugar nor a number of spices in my apple filling. Why use tart apples if you’re going to add a ton of sugar and spice to the filling? For me, when it comes to apple filling, less is more.
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The Apple Thingamajig Recipe
- For Pie Crust
- 1 1/2 cups AP flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and well-chilled
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes and well-chilled
- 3 tbsp ice water
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- For Apple Filling
- 3 Granny Smiths (or similar, tart apples) peeled, cored, and sliced evenly
- 1 Fuji (or similar, sweet apple) peeled, cored, and sliced evenly
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp AP flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- For Pie Crust
- Add flour and salt to the processor. Pulse it a few times to mix the 2 ingredients.
- Add the very cold butter & shortening cubes.
- Pulse the machine 3 times, with each pulse lasting a 3-count. Your ingredients will now be lightly mixed. If need be, pulse again.
- With the machine running, add the vinegar and then slowly add the ice water. Do not add so much that a ball of dough forms. Remove the lid and, with your hands, test the dough to see if a ball of dough can be formed.
- If so, turn the dough until a very lightly floured service, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- If a dough ball will not form, add a little more water, pulse the machine a couple of times, and test it again. When you can form a ball of dough, follow step A above.
- While the dough rests in the fridge, prepare the filling.
- For Apple Filling
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple slices and lemon juice. Stir to coat the apples.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Add the spice mixture to the apples and gently stir until the apples are coated evenly.
- Set aside until the pie crust is ready.
- Roll the dough as if making a bottom crust for a 9 inch pie.
- Place the apples in the center of the dough circle, leaving a 2 inch border around the filling. Creative types may wish to carefully place the apples in a circular design. (That is soo not me.)
- Carefully lift the border, working your way around the filling, crimping as needed. You are creating the crust for your open-faced thingamajig.
- Dot the top of the apple filling with small bits of butter.
- With a pastry brush, lightly coat the exposed crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the sugar.
- Place in a pre-heated 375* oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.
- Should not be served piping hot but may be served warm.
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Just like its cousins the tart and pie, you can add ingredients to the filling to suit your own tastes. In the past, I’ve added raisins, currants, and chopped walnuts to the filling and enjoyed each. And, of course, you can change this dessert completely by selecting different apples. I like tart; you may prefer sweet. Lucky for us, there are plenty of apples to choose from.
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Because there are fewer pie juices to contain, this pie crust can be rolled thinner than you would for a pie and, as a result, you can easily make 2 thingamajigs — as I often do and did today. I keep one for myself and give the other to a friend. I believe it was Confucius who said, “It is easier to give someone a thingamajig than it is to give half a pie.”
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