Sunday, September 11, 2011
Would you like a piece of apple roll? I'll answer for you. YES.
Fall is just a few weeks away and I freaking love fall. The crisp, cool air and the jackets on chilly nights, the changing leaves, the respite after months of ridiculous heat and humidity.... Ahhhh...... Love it.
I have a very sweet friend, Lindsey, who just started her own company making some delectable creations called cake balls. Remember how I don't like the word balls associated with my food? When balls is preceded by the word cake, I'm totally on board. Besides, check out these things she makes! They're gorgeous! If you live in St. Louis metro area and you need a unique treat for a wedding or shower, please give Lindsey a call. But I digress. I remember from way back when in maybe 5th grade or so, I was complaining about how hot it was in the summer to Lindsey's mom, Bev. Bev was a teacher, and full of worldly wisdom. I remember she said to me, "We live in the Midwest because we love all four seasons." True. Of course Bev didn't mention that sometimes we get all four seasons in one day, but her point remains valid. Every season brings its own special treats, especially in the kitchen. Autumn is an awesome time to cook. Pot roast with root veggies, roasted sweet taters and carrots, maybe some baked acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar, or my favorite, apples. I love to cook with apples. So even though fall isn't quite here yet, I wanted to get a jump on apple cooking with this tasty creation.
I discovered a recipe for something called Apple Roll in an old cookbook called The Victory Handbook for Health and Home Defense loaned to me by my father-in-law. This little cookbook is a World War II era gem which I am sure I will mention again in the future. It's the only cookbook I've ever seen that explains how to properly display the American flag. It also contains a list of ways to help conserve sugar for the war effort, such as to "educate your family in the spoon-stirring club," as undissolved sugar at the bottom of your cup of tea or coffee is wasteful. Can you imagine our entire country being so united now that we would cooperate with having our coffee or our sugar or our gasoline rationed? It's almost impossible to fathom my generation making a cake with honey instead of sugar, or saving a tiny bit of grease from a package of bacon so that it could be used to make explosives. It almost seems romantic. But maybe I say that because I happen to be married to one of the 1% of the population that has actually been asked to sacrifice anything as a result of a decade's worth of war. But again, I digress....
Once I saw the Apple Roll recipe listed in the Victory Handbook, I noticed that it popped up in a couple other places. One book called it Apple Roly Poly. All the books where I found it were of the 1940s and 50s vintage, and they all called for a dough made from biscuit mix. The dough was rolled out into a rectangle, then apples, sugar and cinnamon were sprinkled all over and the entire thing was rolled up and sliced into pinwheels. I loved the idea, I just didn't like the biscuit mix thing. I decided to roll mine up in a flakier, pastry type dough. More like what you might use for a turnover. I also decided to cook the apples a bit first to drive off a bit of their moisture. But to make sure they didn't just turn to mush, I used Granny Smiths, which hold up really well to cooking and have a pleasant tart flavor. After all that, my filling was still a little too juicy, but I didn't want to get rid of all that yummy, sugary, cinnamony flavor. So I separated the apples from the cinnamony goo and put that in the bottom of the baking pan, and then placed my little apple pinwheels into it to bake. After letting them cool for a few minutes, I decided to guild the lily a bit by drizzling them with a bit of icing. The result was a bit like a cinnamon roll with apples in it, and that is exactly as awesome as it sounds. Enjoy!
You'll need to give the dough at least an hour to chill after you prepare it, or you could start well in advance (or even a day ahead) if you like. I actually made my dough and filling in the morning, stuck them in the fridge during the day while I ran my errands, and then assembled and baked it in the evening. An apple corer / slicer is a good gadget to have for a dessert like this, and if you're in the market for one, I suggest this version. It's a great little tool because it can do 8 or 16 slices and it's super sharp.
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, divided use
1/2 cup ice water, +/- a Tbs. or 2 more
3 cups diced Granny Smith apples, about 2 to 3 apples, depending on size
4 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. milk
Cube 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter and place the cubes onto a plate. Freeze for 15 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a food processor and process until well combined. Scatter the cold butter cubes over the flour in the food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly. Pour the flour and butter mixture into a bowl. Add the ice water, starting with 1/2 cup and stir to combine until the dough comes together. If it seems very dry, add a bit more water a little at a time until it just comes together.
Flour your counter top, rolling pin and hands and roll the dough into a 10" x 18" rectangle. The first time you roll it out it will probably be pretty oddly shaped; just get it as close as you can. It will form a better rectangle each time you roll it out. Take 1/4 cup of the remaining butter (half a stick) and place little slices of it all over the dough. Fold one third of the dough over onto itself, then fold the other third on top of that. (See my picture below to see how I positioned the little slices of butter, and to see the first third of the dough folded over.) Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll out again into a 10" x 18" rectangle. Repeat the process with the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, then fold into thirds and roll out again into another rectangle. (It ought to look pretty rectangular by now.) Fold up again by thirds, then fold in half. Wrap your little square of dough in some plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 and place an oven rack in the middle position. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it set at room temperature for 10 or 15 minutes. Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray and then spread the brown sugar / butter sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. Mix the icing ingredients together and set aside.
Roll the dough out into a 10" x 18" rectangle one last time. Lay the dough on the counter top so that the short side is parallel to the edge of the counter and the long sides are perpendicular to it. Sprinkle the apples evenly over the entire surface, leaving a few inches bare at the very top of the rectangle (the short edge furthest away from you). Roll the dough up tightly and pinch the end to seal it as best you can. Use a very sharp knife to slice the roll into 12 equal pieces and place each roll into the baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until dough appears to be flaking into layers. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a serving platter, flipping each pinwheel over so that the saucy part is on top. Let cool an additional 30 minutes, drizzle with icing and serve.