One of my favorite things to make for dessert is pies.
Well I must digress for a moment.. to crust. Anything with a crust is my favorite thing to make. No matter what filling might be inside, it serves for me as an accent for the crust. You can have crust without anything, golden brown and straight out of the oven, and it’s terrific. So start with the crust, then when you fill it with something, you are adding to the fun. Of all that you can do with crust, my favorite thing is pies… and of all the pies, my favorite is apple. Slightly sweet, slightly tangy, a fruitiness with a hint of cinnamon, and that juiciness when you bite into it.
Apple filling is just one small but important step above applesauce – it’s that combination of smooth, sweet apply juiciness and crispy, buttery, slightly salty crust that gives apple pie its glory. Not too great a focus on the apple portion; it needs to be ‘just right’. This means a thin pie, with just enough filling to zing it up. So I started making hand pies, or tarts, to limit the amount of filling. These turned out great, but they are a lot of work, rolling out a top and bottom crust, wetting the edges and crimping, pressing and folding under – and holding you breath while it bakes, hoping there will be no leaks.
This is where the kringle comes in. Just recently I discovered a way to make tarts that takes a lot less time and a lot less effort, and they turn out even better! It’s the kringle. New to me, but they have been made for generations in northern Europe, and for nearly as long in American homes in the Midwest and Northeast, where northern Europeans settled. It is made with one crust that is rolled out wide and cut into slits on the sides, which are alternately folded across the top of the kringle. It ‘self-seals’ so no need for the wetting, crimping, pressing and folding under.
Here’s how to make a kringle. It takes time. The more you make, the better you get, so don’t be discouraged if your first attempt is not brilliant. You are brilliant for starting on the kringle adventure!
• 1 cup butter
• 2 cups flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/3 cup ice-cold water
Put some ice cubes in a glass and fill it with water. By the time you use it for the recipe, it will be ice cold. To use, remove the ice and measure out until you have exactly one-third cup of water.
It is important that you work the dough as little as possible, because when you rub the flour together with stirring and kneading, you are lengthening the bonds in the gluten, making it tough.
It is also important that you keep the crust cold at all times in the process, so the oil in the butter doesn’t melt into the flour. This way it will have layers, and it is the layers that create steam that makes the crust flaky. If your crust ends up being not flaky, it will be tender instead. This is also delicious!
Measure the flour and salt into a large bowl. Pre-cut the butter into small chunks and toss into the flour mixture, like tossing a salad. Refrigerate for about a half hour. Remove from refrigerator and, using a pastry cutter, cut up the butter/flour mixture into small pieces about the size of rolled oats. Return to refrigerator for another half hour.
Measure out 1/3 cup of ice water and pour into the flour mixture, then stir with a large spoon quickly until it almost holds together. Press together with floured hands until it holds into a ball. Cut the ball in half and form into two discs, flouring your hands as needed. Refrigerate the disks, covered, for about an hour. Do not allow to get completely firm. If you need to roll it out at a later time and the dough becomes so cold it is rock-hard, bring it out of the refrigerator and allow to set for a short time until it is just soft enough to work; even five minutes is sometimes enough. You don’t want to allow it to get too soft.
Make Into A Kringle
Roll out the dough into a rectangle. Use a pastry roller to cut slits on the left and right sides. Place filling in the middle of the dough. Fold the top down over the filling, and the bottom up over the filling. Then, alternating strips from the right and left, lay the dough strips across the top of the filling. At the bottom, tuck in any loose strips of dough.
Spray top of kringle with water, or brush with a mixture of an egg yolk lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water. Cover the top completely with the water or egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle turbinado sugar crystals or Swedish pearl sugar generously over the top.
The kringle can be baked immediately, or frozen to be baked at a later time. In either case, to bake: Preheat the oven to 425 and bake for 15 minutes.
Turn down to 350 for the remainder of the baking time. A frozen kringle will take longer to bake than a fresh kringle. Bake until you can see bubbling coming from the middle, with steam coming out from under the strips. Be sure not to underbake it. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.
I decided to package up my Kringle to give as gifts. I wrapped each unbaked pie in brown paper and string. I added personalized labels with baking instructions and a matching gift tag. This way the lucky recipient can pop it right in the oven or place in a freezer for another day.
More homemade gift ideas from Jeanne:
Russian Tea Mix Marshmallow Kisses Crispy Cinnamon Toasts Spa Gift Basket
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