Fall into apple season: Welcome autumn with my recipe for individual apple pies
We're just days away from the beginning of autumn on the calendar. (Even though the warm days of Indian summer that arrive with it and often stay through October can sometimes make us feel like the season hasn't changed yet.) Still, I don't usually rely on the calendar or the weather to tell me what season it is. One stroll through the farmers' market, and I know that fall is here.
Apples are beginning to fill the stalls. And that means my chefs and I start thinking about all the many delicious ways we're going to use the signature fruit of the season.
I like to feature apples in every course of the meal. They're delicious in salads, whether shredded with cabbage in a slaw or cut into bite-sized pieces and tossed with spinach and crumbled blue cheese. I also like to saute apples as an enhancement to other savory dishes, using them to garnish butternut squash soup, for example, or serving them alongside pork chops.
Of course, I can never resist using apples in desserts. I love baked apples, and I also include the fruit in all kinds of cobblers, crisps, cakes and bread puddings.
My favorite recipe of all, however, is apple pie. To me, that dessert captures the very essence of autumn apples: sweet and tart, crisp and tender, earthy and deliciously perfumed.
My chefs and I will be making all sorts of pies over the next three months, culminating with my traditional Christmas apple pies abounding in dried fruits and sweet spices. At the start of the season, however, I like something simpler; a recipe that captures the essence of the fruit at its finest. My individual apple pies, as we served them for many years at my flagship Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills.
As you'll see from the recipe, the apples themselves are definitely the stars here, highlighted in the filling only by butter, caramelized sugar, and the smallest splash (just 1/2 tablespoon per serving) of Calvados or cognac. (If you can't resist, you could also add a touch of ground cinnamon.)
For the crust that lines individual tartlet tins or flan rings (which you can find in any well-stocked kitchenware shop), I use my easy sugar dough recipe, a version of a classic pie crust. But, to top each pie, I prefer lighter, flakier puff pastry, easily found in the freezer case of supermarkets, which lets the flavor and texture of the apples beneath really shine.
SPAGO'S INDIVIDUAL APPLE PIES
Makes 8 single-serving pies