The Apple Thingamajig

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

Ingredients

  • 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
    • sugar
    • butter

Directions

  • For Pie Crust
    1. Add flour and salt to the processor. Pulse it a few times to mix the 2 ingredients.
    2. Add the very cold butter & shortening cubes.
    3. Pulse the machine 3 times, with each pulse lasting a 3-count. Your ingredients will now be lightly mixed. If need be, pulse again.
    4. 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.
      1. If so, turn the dough until a very lightly floured service, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
      2. 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.
    5. While the dough rests in the fridge, prepare the filling.

  • For Apple Filling
    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple slices and lemon juice. Stir to coat the apples.
    2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
    3. Add the spice mixture to the apples and gently stir until the apples are coated evenly.
    4. Set aside until the pie crust is ready.


  • Assembly
    1. Roll the dough as if making a bottom crust for a 9 inch pie.
    2. 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.)
    3. Carefully lift the border, working your way around the filling, crimping as needed. You are creating the crust for your open-faced thingamajig.
    4. Dot the top of the apple filling with small bits of butter.
    5. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the exposed crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the sugar.
    6. Place in a pre-heated 375* oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.
    7. Should not be served piping hot but may be served warm.

*     *     *

Variations

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.

*     *     *

Notes

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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68 thoughts on “The Apple Thingamajig

  1. You’re so funny!! I do believe they refer to these Thingamajigs as a crostata!! or rustic pie as I’ve also heard it called. I love making my pies this way too, being a swinging single myself I don’t need a huge pie and that I think it just looks way cooler this way!! Not so stuffy as a traditional pie…and I guess you can take that literaly. While I have my go to apple pie recipe, I simply must try yours as after all that testing and eating this has to be one awesome apple thingamajig!!!

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    • You say crostata and I say tomata! After calling ’em thingamajigs for 2 years, we’ll never get used to a new name. I certainly hope you plan to share you pie recipe. The World needs more apple pie recipes!

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  2. From now on I shall call them thingamagigs too. it is a common word around here as i do not have an active memory.My variation on the thingamagig is called a thingamebob, this is the one with the raisins! Just so’s you know. Now are you going to make us some Whatchamacallits next week? I love them. c

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    • No Whatchamacallits next week. It’s Christopher Columbus week. I’ve something else planned and Zia just approved the recipe. Not to worry. Whatchamacallits, thingamabobs, and doohickeys will all make an appearance, guaranteed. It’s only a matter of time. (sigh)

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    • Thanks, Greg. cheddar cheese & apple pie wasn’t something Mom served either. Uncle, Zia’s husband, liked it and I tried it because of him. I liked it, although I also liked apple pie with ice cream and/or whipped cream. Let’s face it: I just love apple pie and thingamajigs.

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  3. John, thank you for your kind words. Since I am new to this commenting, I had few blogs to pass it along to, and I apologize that I had to duplicate the award Kristy just gave you. Not that it was less deserved. I really loved your little known facts…still wondering about the prison thing 😉
    This is exactly my type of pie. I am not a big crust eater, and this rustic rendition with a thinner crust has my attention! I also love it that you don’t add a lot of sugar AND that you use granny smith apples (my all time favourite—in fact, I have one here for lunch!). It’s difficult to get a scale on your thingamajig (oh my, that sounds very bad, sorry) but I bet these would be wonderful as smallish individual servings. A perfect ending to an Autumn meal.

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    • Certainly no ned to apologize, Eva. For all the tens of thousands of blogs on WordPress, we are a remarkaby small community. These things are bound to happen. As for individual thingamajigs, they can easily be made. It isn’t a runny dessert so you have plenty of leeway with the crust. Needless to say, I love ’em!

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  4. This looks beautiful! I keep meaning to try one of these thingmajigs. I think I’ve seen them as galettes. Love your tart to sweet apple ratio, and how you don’t add a lot of sugar. Can’t wait to see your pie recipe!

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    • See, Stephanie? Crostata, gallettes, open-faced pies, open-faced tarts, and/or rustic pies. This is where the confusion began and where thingamajigs were born. I’m with Zia now and tomorrow we’re baking apple pie. Once last run-through for pictures and to get her final approval of the recipe. Fingers crossed!

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  5. Lovely, lovely! And perfect for me and Big Man. I think both Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith copied your idea and did a series of pies like this too…such a great idea and you don´t end up with too much pastry. You also get a perfect spot in the middle for a big blob of vanilal ice cream (but I expect you designed it that way didn´t you?!)

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  6. I’ve never added cheese to my apple pie crust. I’m intrigued! Look forward to seeing your recipe. I figure it’s just better to call this a thingamajig, as I can never remember that they’re called crostadas. Congrats on the awards!

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    • Thanks, Caroline. Cheddar cheese with apple pie was something Zia’s husband, Uncle, liked. I put it into the rust because it is much more subtle. In fact, I’ll be baking a pie tomorrow for Zia. She is the Supreme Judge in such matters. 😉

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  7. Thank you so much for the eloquent shout-out John! It’s truly appreciated. 🙂 And your apple pie looks amazing!!!! I too do the mix of tart and sweet apples, leaning more heavily on the tart varieties. I’ve never tried an open-faced pie like this before, but it does look so darn good. I have no doubt I would have to sneak a pinch each time I walked past it! And speaking of apple pies…I believe there’s an apple pie contest in Bucktown next weekend. 🙂 YUM!

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    • You’re welcome, Kristy. I truly appreciate what you’re doing, introducing your children to different foods by getting them involved in its preparation. My parents gave me that gift and I’m forever thankful. And, yes, the problem with one of these thingamajigs, being open-faced, is that it is nearly impossible to walk passed it without snagging a slice of apple off of the top. Then you need to take another to “even it out.” Then another ….

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  8. You had me at thingamajig…classic and it totally makes sense to me. Great looking recipe and I like the creativeness of the cheddar cheese. I’ll be sure to share this one with the now ‘resident’ baker in the house Liz.
    Cheers!

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    • Thanks, Jed, but I feel congrats are in order for he “now ‘resident'” phrase. Good for you both! Now, make the baker some spaghetti aglio e olio! For many, it’s the glue that binds the home together.OK. That’s a bit much but the dish is really good and she will love it.

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  9. What ever you call it…’thingamajig’ will do fine…I’ve never added the cheese to the crust dough..interesting! I make an apple cake more than anything else..easy peesy! But this is a great idea!

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    • Although I do enjoy cake — it wouldn’t be a birthday without one — I very much prefer pie. It must be the fruit. Whatever the reason, this being apple season means I’m in heaven!

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    • Thank you! Sorry if I’m a little behind with my replies and comments. I’m with Zia and the internet is not as accessible as it is at my home. It may take a while but I’ll get caught up.

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  10. Oh I love your thingamajig – just heavenly! Oh my, saying it like this sounds a tad wrong but hey you know what I am talking about…right?
    If this is how good your thingamajig is, I can only imagine how good your whatchamacallit it like!
    Lovely post and recipe!
    Have a great day ChgoJohn.
    🙂 Mandy

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    • Thank you, mandy. I’m visiting my Aunt and we’ve both had a good chuckle at how popular our thingamajig name is. If either of us had a good memory, we’d be dangerous!And you, too, have a great day!

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  11. Your photographs of the apples and the thingamajig in stages are just wonderful. You really capture a nice light that enhances the subject, making everything enticing! I am taking a bag of apples from the Farmer’s Market to the grandchildren this weekend. Your recipe inspires me to try something new!

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    • Thanks, Ruth. Sounds like you’ve got a weekend of fun planned. I think God invented baking just to make sure that a Grandmother’s place is secure in her grandchildrens’ eyes. Cookies! Don’t forget to bring or bake cookies! And have a wonderful time!

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  12. John, this looks gorgeous – rather like the crostata I make. I’ve never used vinegar in my crust – is that part of a secret family recipe? We bought a peck of apples at, well, the Apple Festival in Liberty a week ago. I believe some will turn up in a Thingamajig! Hm, Ritchey will come in tired and hungry tonight and that cinnamony smell will greet him at the door!

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    • Thank you! I have an apple pie in the oven. I’m visiting Zia and we’re expecting other family members to drop in. Just moments before I read your email and the “cinnamon smell,” we commented about how nice the kitchen smelled. There’s just something about the smell of cinnamon & apples being baked. Ritchey will be putty in your hands. 😉

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    • In some areas here, it’s common to serve apple pie with a slice of apple pie. This is just another way to add cheddar cheese flavor to a pie. I made one for Zia and both she and her son loved it. That’s a good enough recommendation for me :).

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  14. We had grandma’s slab apple cake in my family. I’ll have to try your “Thingamajig,” even if I’m embarrassed to say it. It reminds of that IHOP breakfast special, the Rooty Tooty, Fresh ‘n Fruitie!

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    • Well, in the comments, people have called it a crostata, rustic pie, and gallette, while I’ve also heard it called an open-faced pie or open-faced tart. Calling it a thingamajig ended the confusion between my 89 year-old Aunt and myself. You, on the other hand, may call it whatever you like. I promise we won’t mind. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!

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  19. John, I hope you don’t mind; I am going to reblog this on my new reblog page : )
    It is such a delicious recipe, and speaks of your talents!

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  20. Just made your thingamajigger today and it was great! I used my go to pie crust recipe from Cook’s Illustrated when I made it but next time I’ll give yours a go. Thanks for the recipe!
    Laura

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed our “thingamajig” and thank you for coming back to tell me. It is easier to assemble than a pie and there’s less of it. Living alone, a pie lasts me a full week; a thingamajig lasts a few days. What I like most about this pie crust recipe is that it is made in a food processor — a must for me. I’m not at all a baker. 🙂
      Thanks again.

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  21. Your post is why I love cool weather. A warm house & the smell of apple thingamajig 😉 (Although whenever I read “thingamajig” I can’t help thinking “Thing 1 and Thing 2” lol) I must admit I’m intrigued by the vinegar in the crust. I read somewhere that acid makes the crust more tender and flaky?

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    • As cold as our weather can get, a pie or casserole in the oven makes it easier to endure. The kitchen smells fantastic.
      The reason I started adding vinegar to the pie crust because somewhere along the way, either a TV chef or recipe book stated that vinegar does make the pie crust more flaky. It is supposed to prevent gluten from forming. I don’t make enough pie dough to know just how much of a difference it makes — but I’m not about to stop using it to find out. 🙂

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