When I was a kid and then a teenager, I spent the first half of every summer at Camp Nor’wester. The pain I experienced when it was time to go back home is something I have rarely felt since. Leaving the intense friendships that were made in that short time felt physically painful. We would be on the deck of the ferry grasping on to each other and crying, and when the announcement came that we had to board the buses because the ferry was about to dock, people would wail. We didn’t have email or blogs or Facebook or cell phones or any other way of staying in touch other than letters and long distance phone conversations. We would say to one another, with hope in our voices, “It’s not goodbye, it is ‘see you later.’”
This past summer, as we were getting ready to leave Seattle, we tried to see as many friends as possible. I decided against having a big blow out party because, although I am sometimes disguised as an extrovert, I am actually an introvert and big parties – even if I know everyone – can be hard for me. I decided I would rather make lots of dates with the people we were going to be heartbroken to leave, and spend our remaining weeks that way. The problem was, we still didn’t have time to see everyone and saying goodbye to the ones we did didn’t make it any easier to leave them. We do have email and blogs and Facebook and cell phones and all of those things make it easier to stay in touch. But we knew we would miss our friends and family. So we made sure to buy a house with a guest bedroom and we encouraged our friends and family to come visit, and we just hoped that they would take us up on the offer. Not goodbye, just see you later.
We’ve been in place for about four months and already we’ve had quite a few visitors. Thankfully. We are learning the places we need to take these visitors. That list was very short when we had our first guest and it has grown impressively since then. It will continue to grow, especially once we start making a dent in the endless list of day trips that are a stone’s throw from our great new city. We’ve fallen into a nice pattern with regards to dinner. Over a weekend, one night out and one night in. If we have three nights, one of them in Oakland, one of them in San Francisco, and the last at home. I love the casualness of a Saturday afternoon spent prepping for a big dinner. When our house is full of friendly voices and the happy hour starts promptly at 5pm on the deck. The kids get nachos for dinner, then popcorn and a movie and extra treats and the adults can just stay put enjoying a leisurely dinner and dessert, then have one more glass of wine or two before rolling into bed.
Some of our best friends came to town last weekend. A man and a woman, a boy and a girl. I have known John and Lauren since the summer of 1996, just after my first wedding and just before their only wedding. I wrote about them here. I visited their boy in the hospital the day after he was born and he was a six month old baby at Randy’s and my wedding. I met their girl a few months after she was born, after we returned from London and while I was pregnant with Graham. We love them all. My boys love them all. When we made the difficult decision to move, this family was at the top of the list of people we would miss. They are easy and fun to be with.
One of my favorite Kid Meets Dessert stories involves John and Lauren’s son. When Randy and I got married, I made our wedding cake. It was a very impressive feat given that I had an oven that barely worked, about 1 foot of counter space in my kitchen, and was not nearly as good a baker as I am now. It had three tiers and would probably have topped any “Least Impressive Looking Wedding Cake” lists. It was towering, listing to one side, a bit greasy because it was warm and there was approximately one ton of butter in the buttercream frosting, but it remains one of the best tasting wedding cakes I’ve ever had. My brother still talks about it. I have re-created it twice, in smaller and non-listing form, and one of the times their son, who was around 18 months at the time, took a bit of his mom’s cake and then just stuck his face in the cake. Like “let’s dispense with this plate and fork crap and just get that cake in my mouth”. This boy, now 11 years old, remains a big fan of my treats. So when I see him, I make sure I have something special to share.
Couple this with his father’s love of pie (the only sweet he really likes), and I knew this Apple Crumb Crostata, which has been rolling around in my brain for over a month, was the dessert for Saturday night. How is a crostada different from a galette? When John asked me that question, I guessed that crostata is Italian for galette and it turns out I was right. They are both free form tarts which means they are not made in a tart pan. The dough is rolled out, the filling is placed in the middle, and the dough is pulled up and crimped around the filling. I’ve never made a galette that I didn’t like but this one was extra special with a crumb topping. I am a sucker for a crumb topping. Galettes/Crostatas are amazing in my opinion because they look kind of sloppy when they are unbaked but come out looking professionally rustic. And I mean that in the very best way. I served this beauty with homemade salted caramel ice cream but a good store-bought vanilla would be terrific too.
One Year Ago: Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Champagne Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago: Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies, Winter Market Soup
Three Years Ago: Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Four Years Ago: Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese
Apple Crumb Crostata
Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts
This wonderful dessert has three parts to it but don’t let that deter you. I made both the crust and the topping a day ahead and just kept them in my refrigerator. You could probably also make the apple filling a day ahead too. Be sure to follow the directions about rolling out the dough and filling it on the baking sheet. It is nearly impossible to transfer a filled crostata to a baking sheet – not that I’ve ever tried. Ahem. Finally, you will need space in your refrigerator to put the finished crostata before baking and if that is a challenge for your kitchen, embrace winter and put it in the garage.
For the crust:
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 large egg yolks, plus 1 large whole egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
3 tbsp. ice water
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling
For the Filling:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 pounds tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ cup granulated sugar
For the topping:
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Make the crust:
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat flour, sugar, salt, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolks, and beat slightly. Drizzle ice water over mixture, and beat until just combined. Form dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Make the filling:
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add apples, zests, and salt, stirring until coated. Sprinkle sugar over mixture, and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, liquid has thickened, and apples are almost golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and let cool to room temperature.
Make the topping:
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and butter just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out dough to a 14-inch round, ¼-inch thick. Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet. Pile cooled apple mixture in center, leaving a 3-inch border. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over apples. Fold edges of dough over apples, overlapping and leaving an opening in the center.
Refrigerate or freeze until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Lightly brush dough with beaten egg, and sprinkle dough with fine sanding sugar. Bake until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.