October is here and apples are in season and a little bit cheaper, which means that it is time to bake an apple pie, Romanian style. I have to confess that writing this recipe, as easy as it looks like, it kind of kicked my butt. With my recipes, I always try to do the best work I can when it comes bringing my own culture into the American one. American apple pie is not the same as the Romanian version, therefore, I had to do a lot of research and figure out how to name the pie. Most Romanian pies are baked in trays, cut in squares and served with powder sugar on top. They look more like bars. However, it came out that the right English term for these type of pies is a slab pie. For the ones who do not know what a slab pie is, the answer is here: A slab pie is simply a shallow pie that’s made in a rimmed baking sheet, usually a jelly roll pan. It feeds a crowd and it takes less time to prepare, as you don’t have to hand shape a bunch of pies. However, as the slab pies are very traditional and standard in Romania and also in most eastern European countries, I guess this is the right name for my recipe.
This recipe comes from my German grandmother who lived in Transylvania. The apple filling is slightly sweet and also cooked before assembling the pie. We like to cook the apples first, with butter, sugar and spices, until the juices from the apples are reduced to almost nothing. There is no corn starch, flour or other ingredients to thicken the filling. We sometimes add raisins and walnuts, like I did in this recipe. It is not mandatory, but it is really delicious and different. The slab pie can be filled with anything, farmers cheese, apples, berries, quinces or pumpkin. We take advantage of what is in season and make a pie. These pies are awesome for potlucks, parties and other events with lots of people. Call them rustic, I think this is a good word for them.
There are many recipes out there to make a pie crust, but this one in particular was very interesting to me because of the ingredients required. My grandmother writes that for the dough you can use different combinations of liquids: 6 tablespoons wine, OR 1 tablespoon rum(yum!) and 5 tablespoons water, OR 1 tablespoon vinegar and 5 tablespoons water. Basically you have three versions of the same recipe that will taste slightly different. I tried all of them but I loved the one with the wine. Obviously, there is no alcohol left after you bake the pie, but the crust had a subtle taste which I liked a lot.
You can make the dough by hand or use a food processor. Make your life easier, if you can! Also, use any apples you want. I remember the women in my family making apple pies with left over apples, cheap ones, small and slightly ugly. Nothing was wasted and the pies were great! Also, you can grate the apples with the skin on. There is a lot of nutritional value in the skin, but if you don’t like the skin, feel free to peel the apples before you grate them .
Have fun making this apple pie version. Call it bars, slab pie or, placinta cu mere( in Romanian) and let me know what you think! See you next time!
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- 3¼ cups/400g all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons lard/cold butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 6 tablespoons white wine OR
- 1 tablespoon rum +plus 5 tablespoons water OR
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 5 tablespoons water
- Apple filling:
- 2 pounds apples(any type you like)coarsely grated
- 4-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- To finish: 2 tablespoons milk or 1 egg beaten
- 1-2 tablespoons of powder sugar to sprinkle on top before serving
- In a bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Cut in lard/butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Incorporate the egg and the sour cream.
- Add the liquid and incorporate. The recipe requires 6 tablespoons of liquid that can be: white wine, OR 1 tablespoon rum plus 5 tablespoon water, OR 1 tablespoon vinegar plus 5 tablespoon water. Use the combination of ingredients you have available.
- Shape dough into a ball; chill for 30 minutes.
- TIP: If you use a food processor, start the same, pulsing together flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add lard/butter and pulse few times until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg, sour cream and liquid and pulse until a dough is formed. Shape it into a ball and chill for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, grate the apples. You can peel them first, but it is not necessary. I prefer to leave the skin on—it contains most of the apple's nutrients, but if you don't like the skin, feel free to peel the apple before you grate it.
- In a cooking pan, melt the butter and add the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Mix and cook the apples for about 10 minutes until the juices are reduced.
- Set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- Grease and flour the baking pan. Set aside.
- On a floured surface, divide the dough in two parts.
- Roll one piece of dough the size of the pan. Place it on the bottom of it.
- Add the apple filling and spread evenly.
- Roll the other half of the dough and cover the apples.
- To finish, brush the surface of the pie with milk or an egg wash.
- Use a fork to pinch the surface of the pie.
- Bake at 350/180C for about 45-50 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, place the pan on a metal rack and let it cool for an hour.
- The traditional Romanian way is to sprinkle powder sugar on top. It is served cut in squares.