It’s Saturday. I’m awake too early, still in bed but eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling, too excited to go back to sleep. Today we’re going apple-picking, which, for the joy it gives me, may as well be cookie-eating or treasure-finding, and right now, the sound of Tim’s breathing next to me, all I can think about are the bright blue skies, warm golden sunshine and endless apples that await us when we do.
What can I say about apple-picking that hasn’t already been said? That there’s something wonderful about standing amongst rows of trees, many of them heavy with fruit, the yeasty smell of fallen, fermenting apples in the air? That trekking out with your friends or family to an orchard, a basket slung over your arm, feels like a celebration, just like carving a turkey or chopping down a Christmas tree? Or maybe that picking apples, to me, is one of those activities that’s so quintessentially autumn, so like pumpkin carving or sipping cider, that when you go out and do it, with your roommate or your husband or your friend and her kids, you can count on finding yourself, surrounded by harvest and clutching your cardigan, thinking, this, this!, is why there’s just no time like fall.
It’s easy to sleep in on winter weekends, but on a late-September Saturday with apple-picking ahead, it only makes sense to get up early, pack a few snacks, log a few hours of work nearby and then call a few orchards so you can be on the road. That’s why, a little past noon had us eastbound on the interstate, me in my new Goodwill cardigan, Tim in his thick rugby shirt, and within 30 minutes we were at Breeden’s, 631 Beckwith, Mount Juliet, a modest orchard outside Nashville, past sloping hills and winding roads and thick clusters of trees.
Yellow apples were the only ones available for picking, and there weren’t a ton left, but at $1/pound, the whole situation was still pretty hard to beat. We strolled up sun-kissed aisles and filled our basket, taking seven or so pounds back home with us, along with fruit-sweetened blueberry jam purchased in the adjacent country store.
Back in our kitchen, we washed the apples a little more aggressively than normal, in a vinegar solution, since they were grown conventionally, and went ahead and peeled them, too. The first several became the topping for a dozen rustic apple tartlets, inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest a while ago.
The dough we made with einkorn flour, a new pantry staple we’ve introduced into our regular routine recently, and which I’ve been looking forward to sharing with you here. Einkorn is, essentially, one of the most ancient forms of wheat. (One of the biggest issues with today’s traditional wheat flours is that they’ve been so highly hybridized and hence hard on your body, but einkorn takes us back to the original form. It is considered easier to digest even than spelt, and for that reason, it may soon become the flour we use most often in our kitchen. For more information, see these posts from Nourished Kitchen and Healthy Home Economist)
So far what I’ve seen from einkorn—baking cookies, making pizza dough and turning it into the bottom of tartlets—is that it behaves similarly to spelt except that it absorbs a little more liquid, meaning recipe adjustments might require adjusting proportions slightly.
Anyway, whether you use einkorn or not, the idea for these tartlets isn’t hard to mimic: make a pastry dough and roll it out nice and thin; use a biscuit cutter to slice out 12 rounds, then top them with sliced apples in a pinwheel pattern, drizzling honey and fresh thyme and cinnamon atop that. Bake. Drizzle with honey as a sort of glaze and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts.
By Saturday evening, before sharing dinner with friends, Tim and I were popping these pretty tartlets, heating up leftovers, looking at all the apples in our fridge and feeling pretty thankful for this glorious season that is fall. Oh, apple-picking, you know how to do.
As stated in the above post, these tartlets are made to be rustic and simple, but you could easily dress them up by cutting your apple slices uniformly (and being exact about it). We loved these as they were, but I’d also like to try tossing the apple mixture with a teaspoon of yogurt next time, just to see if that’d change the moisture and the topping’s ability to brown.
Pastry dough (recipe below)
3 apples, peeled and sliced as uniformly as possible, which, if you’re me, might not be uniformly at all
Juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 to 2 teaspoons honey, plus more for drizzling
fresh thyme, to your liking
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix apples, lemon juice, cinnamon and honey and set aside.
Roll pastry dough out on parchment paper or floured surface and cut out 3-inch rounds, using a cookie or biscuit cutter. At the thickness we ended up with, we had 12 little rounds total.
Arrange apple slices on top of rounds, adding a little drizzle of honey and some thyme to each one. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until apples turn slightly golden. Garnish with more honey and chopped hazelnuts.
*Pastry Dough Recipe
Makes enough for one batch of tartlets
1 to 1 1/3 cup einkorn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold, cubed butter
1/4 cup cold water
Combine flour and salt; cut butter into mixture until there are no more big chunks of butter. Add water, stir and then use your hands to work the dough into a solid dough, adding more flour if needed.