The apple aisle in my favorite Berkeley produce market is as good or better than most farmer's markets right now—because most of the apples come from the same farmers. I love the cascading availability of crisp and flavorful new crop apples, sometimes ten or twelve varieties, commencing with a trickle in July and going full tilt about now. I make my mother's apple crisp all season long.
I also like to cook apple slices until just barely tender, often skipping the expected cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg to better appreciate the flavor of the apple varieties. Cooled, even chilled, the slices are flavorful and refreshing for still-warm days. Fan them around or under a scoop of ice cream, or top a slice of cinnamon toast with them. You’ll think of other uses, too.
But the most charming thing you can do with baked apple slices is shape them into roses. So pretty, but fussy! you might be thinking. Pretty, yes, but apple roses are easy to make—little kids with (clean) little fingers will adore helping you out. I did a demo at a farmer's market 20 years ago, and my then-8-year-old daughter Lucy did the demo next to me on a toasted English muffin. It was so fun (she thought so too, I promise!). The finished roses can be used to make stunning tartlets, or just to bedeck a platter of toasted English muffins after school.
A microwave is the best and fastest way to make perfectly cooked, but still firm, apple slices. Each rose is made from a half of a peeled apple that has been sliced, baked, and completely cooled before shaping. Apple halves are baked on individual saucers, one at a time, for about 1 minute in the microwave.
Set up your work station right next to the microwave: While each apple half bakes, continue to peel and pare the remaining apples, putting a new saucer in the microwave whenever the previous one comes out. By the time five apples are peeled and pared to make ten roses, nine halves will be already baked and cooling! The whole process takes less time that it would to preheat your big oven (though you can make these an oven if you're without a microwave—more details on that in the recipe).
Whether for tartlets or toast, you can put a smear of apple butter, or jam, or pastry cream under the roses to make a little gooey liaison between crust (or toast!) and fruit—or not.
- 5 small firm crisp flavorful new crop apples
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup apple juice
- Splash brandy or rum (optional)
- Pinch or two of cinnamon
- Pastry cream (1 1/2 to 2 cups; https://food52.com/recipes/35141-vanilla-rice-flour-pastry-cream), thick apple butter (1 cup), or any kind of jam (1/2 cup)
- 10 4- or 4 1/2-inch tartlet crusts, baked and cooled (puff pastry, filo, shortbread or sugar cookie crusts)
Tell us about your favorite kind of fall apple (they're here! they're here!) in the comments below.