I wish I could say to you, dear friend, that I spent my college years drinking coffee, or even tea, in a rather sophisticated manner at some off-beat coffee house and reading the “great works of literature” cover to cover. But, alas, that was not to be. No, I was the Coca-cola, Mountain Dew guzzling Cliff Note reader. (Although, now, I find myself going back and actually reading the “great works” to see what I missed out on.) The closest I came to sipping a hot beverage was the cinnamon spiced cider my mother always served us during the holidays.
Cinnamon-Apple Crostata & Tea, Of Course
December 9, 2009 By 3 Comments
Then he sat in his favorite chair, drank a cup of hot peppermint tea and ate a slice of bread with honey on it. The farmer felt very cozy and a bit tired.
“Dream Snow” by Eric Carle
After those proverbial years of intellectual development, two dear friends and I donned our back-packs and trekked across the great continent of Europe. First stop, England. There we sat in a
feed-the-masses tourist trap charming little tea house in London. The white, ornate metal chairs. The red and white patterned table-cloth. The feeling that we were in a glass enclosed conservatory. Like something straight out of Mary Poppins. Actually, now that I think of it, there was something strangely similar between that little British establishment and Burt and Mary’s tea time. But, nonetheless, we felt rawther upper-crust surveying our tea menu and preparing ourselves for the delight that was to come. It was as I was perusing this menu that I came to the realization that the only beverage they served at this “tea-house” was, in fact, tea. “Hmm. What shawll I do?” Now, this did not pose a problem for my much more cultured traveling companions who had, indeed, sipped coffee throughout college around a little table with the ever-present vawwse of white tulips. But they held my hand…ordered me some tea and when it came, showed me how to add a little milk, a little honey, a squeeze of lemon and I’ve never looked back.
Now, I possibly could be referred to as a “tea fanatic”. Never without a mug of it in my hand. I start the morning out with my, of course, english breakfast tea complete with a splash of milk and a teardrop of honey. Later in the morning I find myself moving to a Morrocon Mint green tea or, depending on the day, an “Easy Now” stress relief tea. Late afternoon finds me sipping an Earl Grey and by the time evening arrives, I’ve moved onto peppermint. There’s something comforting to me about tea. Perhaps it’s the scent. Perhaps it’s the way the hot liquid warms me. Or, maybe, it’s the simplicity in the mug that I carry around. Such a humble vessel. Maybe it’s because there’s no filter or pot to clean. Or perhaps it’s that I often find myself curled up on my sun-faded couch, book in one hand, tea in the other. Or, curled up on one end of that same couch, tea in one hand and a friend, a child, my mother or my guy curled up on the other. The two of us talking. (Well, my guy doesn’t actually curl up but you know what I mean.) Just yesterday, I sat in my kitchen drinking a cup of tea with my father, reminiscing about a recent trip together and paying no heed to the stack of dishes in the sink. The tea gives me a reason to slow down. To sit down. To pay attention. To enjoy the quiet moments. To listen. To be present. To be able to say, “Let me finish my cup of tea…and then, I’ll get to it.”
I have this idea that I want my children to learn to enjoy a hot beverage – tea, cider, hot chocolate. I want to show them at least one way, in this frenetic life we live, of how to slow down. Sit down. Breathe. Whenever I ask, they always agree to a cup of tea. The eldest prefers the berry flavored teas, the middle one, peppermint and the littlest one, well, he wants Ovaltine “just warm, not hot”. They don’t often take but one or two sips but they smell it, they wrap their hands around the warm mug and they sit and talk with me.
This morning before sending them out the door into the frigid, below freezing temperatures, I fixed them each a mug of hot (as in scalding hot) chocolate and fed them a slice of Cinnamon-Apple Crostata straight from the oven. Truth be told…I never, let me repeat, NEVER, make them anything warm for breakfast except Quaker Instant Oatmeal but something compelled me to do it this morning. Maybe it was the cold temperatures. Maybe the holiday spirit seized me. Maybe it was our too short of weekend spent together. My not wanting it to end. Trying to keep it going. Maybe it was the guilt I felt for not having put up one Christmas decoration. Whatever it was, I managed to haul my “morning-challenged” body out of bed into the cold, darkness of the house. Our outside thermometer registered at 20 degrees.
With the cinnamon scent of the holidays swirling around them, they sat around that kitchen table, my three children, eating their rather novel breakfast. Sipping their hot drink. Warming up their bodies. Chatting about their school week, the weekend, Christmas. The whole scene was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I almost shed a tear. “Ahh…the early morning hour had been worth this.” And, I turned around to continue making their lunches. My back had been turned for not more than a second when I heard the oldest say, “Oh, baby, don’t do that. That’s where big brother breaks his pencils when he’s frustrated with his homework.” I look over and there’s my littlest one licking his spilled hot chocolate off the table like a dog. The 10-year old then says in his most sinister, bad guy voice, “You ate lead. Now, you’re gonna DIE!” Anticipating the tears that were sure to come from thinking he was about to die, I say, “No, no, you’re not going to die but licking your hot chocolate off the table probably isn’t a good idea. Come over here and get a paper towel.” And, with that, the moment was over. But I had my 30-seconds, didn’t I? Perhaps a glimpse of more to come? Each successive moment lasting a little longer? And, in a flurry of dishes being dropped into the sink, (“Gently! Don’t break the dishes.”) and the rustle of coats being put on, they were gone.
Our grocery store is still brimming with those cheery Honeycrisp apples but my children’s love for them is starting to wane. Here at the tail end of apple season, they are turning their noses up to the plates of sliced apples I place before them so….in an effort to mix-it-up, I decided to try this little crostata number. Generally, I’m not a huge, pastry gal, but done right, with a butter crust and not too much sugar…well, who can resist. And, since, I’m still experimenting with the whole wheat pastry flour I even managed to get a little of that in as well. I tried it once with all whole wheat pastry flour and the crust didn’t hold together very well so, until further notice, I recommend the half and half route. And, if you’re like me, which you probably aren’t, your home is probably completely decked for the holidays, but once again, on the off-chance that you’re like me without nary a bobble in sight, make this little cinnamon number and even if your house doesn’t look like the holidays….it will smell like them.
For the pastry:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, diced
1 – 2 tbsp ice water
For the filling:
1 1/2 lbs Honeycrisp apple (3 med-lg apples)
1/4 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
1/8 c all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
For the pastry:
Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to a day.
For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel, core and cut the apples into thin, wedges. Set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (and orange zest if you chose to use it) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. And, if you happened to make your dough ahead of time and you don’t want to get your food processor out again, you can do all of this with your fingers or a pastry cutter.
Roll your dough out to an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Cover the crostata dough with the apple slices leaving a 1 1/2 inch border or so. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. With tea, of course.
PS: Recently I have been trying out the new line of Smith Tea from Steven Smith of Stash and Tazo tea fame. No. 47 Bungalow is particularly delightful.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009