Monday, February 2, 2009

The Pie Alternative: Warm Apple Flognarde

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First off, a big thank you and hello to Danie at for linking to our page! We've linked back over to her as well, and suggest you check out her take on life in San Francisco (and lots of other things as well). Rumor has it that she's purchasing a food processor soon. Will it make an appearance at Inquiring minds want to know. :-P

Now, onwards to this week's recipe!

Flognarde. Flog-narde. Doesn't sound appealing, I know. It's actually pronounced "flon-YARD." Does that help?

I suggest you get over the name quickly, because if you don't, you'll miss out on a delightful, versatile dish, appropriate for either dessert or brunch; a fluffy, fruit-filled, half-pancake, half-custard mutation of deliciousness. In short, it turns this... this.

(Is this just an excuse to run more stunning apple pictures? Yes. Do you have a problem with it? Tough.)

I decided to make a flognarde this week because it's been very, very cold outside, and our house has recently been overflowing with apples. As some of you know, we've been regularly receiving a weekly share of the harvest from Keystone Farms, located outside Philadelphia. Every week, we receive a heaping crate of vegetables, gorgeous meat, locally produced cheese, organic granola, and a few fun extras here and there, like small-batch cured bacon.

While what we receive changes from week to week, the one thing we can always rely on getting is at least a pound or three of apples. And sure, you can eat them raw, you can bake them with butter, you can make pie, but soon enough, the well of ideas begins to dry up. And that, dear readers, is where flognarde comes in.

Without further delay, to the recipe.

Warm Apple Flognarde
Fills one 8" pie pan

2 Extra-Large Eggs + two Extra-Large Egg Yolks
1/3 Cup of Sugar

1 Cup Light Cream (or heavy, if that's all you have)
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Tablespoons Calvados (or Cognac, or Brandy)
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract
The zest of 2 Lemons

1/4 Cup + two Tablespoons sifted Flour
Pinch of Kosher salt

3 Cups peeled and sectioned Apples of your choice
(estimated; as many as will fill the bottom of your pan in a single layer)

Butter or Cooking Spray, 1/8th cup sugar + a healthy pinch of cinnamon to coat the pie pan

Confectioner's sugar, thyme sprigs, and fresh whipped cream
(to garnish, all optional)

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Whip the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar with a hand-mixer, on high, until glossy and thick, about two minutes.

Still on high speed, mix in the rest of the wet ingredients (Cream, Milk, Calvados, Vanilla and lemon zest).

Turning your mixer to low (or switching to a heavy spoon or spatula), carefully add the flour until just combined. You want things well mixed together, but not overworked.

Once you're satisfied all the ingredients are properly integrated, set the bowl aside, at room temperature, for 10 minutes, or as long as it takes you to peel and section your apples.

Peel and section your apples. (You saw that coming, didn't you?)

Butter or spray the pan you'll be using to cook the flognarde in. Immediately afterwards, pour a small handful of sugar into the pan, rolling it around until all the buttered surface area is well coated with sugar. Tap out and dispose any extra that does not bind to the coating. As a last step, dust the bottom of the pan with a light dusting of cinnamon.

This process helps create a caramelized sugar crust underneath the flognarde, much like the shell on a traditional French canelé. You have a little room to play here -- a smaller pan, like an 8" pie pan, will give you a more custardy flognarde, but with less caramelization at the crust. Using a larger tart pan, like you see here, ups the toasted sugar levels, but will be a bit fluffier, and more cake like. Experiment and see what you like best.

The batter should be rested, the apples peeled, the pan ready. Let's put it together! Lay the apple sections in a single layer at the bottom of the pie pan. Pack them in well, but be careful not to scrape off the butter/sugar/cinnamon coating you worked so hard to create there.

Once the pan is filled, pour the rested batter over the apples. It's just fine if a few of them peek through to the top, uncoated -- don't worry, that's part of the appeal. Don't mess with it!

Pop the whole deal into your oven for a little over a half-hour. What you're looking for is for the whole deal to puff up, get deep, toasty brown and glazed on the edges, and to be firm and golden in the middle. Don't worry if it takes longer -- if it's feeling stubborn, it may go for an extra 15 to 20 minutes. As before, the more cooked, the more caramelized, the less cooked, the more custardy. If everything's gone right, it should look something like this:

And that's about it! Be sure to serve it while still warm. A dusting of powdered sugar, some freshly whipped cream, and a sprig of thyme all make a nice addition if you've got company over.

This dish gains its brilliance from the interplay between the many layers of flavor and texture -- the sticky caramel on the outside, the fluffy pancake-like layer in between, and the silky, brilliant, lemon-tinged custard in the middle. After all that, having juicy segments of baked apple just seems gratuitous, eh? Best of all, this dish works with almost any kind of fruit -- try it with pears, berries, bananas, and every type of stone-fruit you can think of.

Warm and gooey enough to keep you toasty in the winter, but lemony and fluffy enough to have a second slice, we're hard pressed to think of a better February dessert. Go forth and make it. We'll see you next week. A little music to send you out...

Music: Kamikazee -- "Narda (Acoustic)"

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