“Here is a moment of extravagant beauty: I drink it liquid from the shells of my hands and almost all of it runs sparkling through my fingers: but beauty is like that, it is a fraction of a second, quickness of a flash and then immediately it escapes.”– Clarice Lispector, from ‘A Breath of Life’.
I’m currently in Paris. Writing this, in my Marais apartment. Paris is everything I thought it would be. And more. The roric mornings, all mildew and stone-cold softness. The heat of the day, in blood, smoke and flames. The evenings, drenched in old tobacco and glistening with fervor. I’ve learnt to anticipate the arrival of each distinct moment just as I’ve learnt to adapt to living temporarily within different parts of the world. This body, shedding various ulterior skins depending on need. Upheaval, always. It’s the only way for me to keep blossoming. I need continuous change. Never pacification. And beauty. Always, beauty.
Being in Paris and being in love are equally the same thing. The streets, sate the need for life. Every waking moment, a fragmented adventure. Every conversation, a deepening relationship. Every café, a new passion. Every patisserie, nourishing the need for desire. Paris, where opalescent dreams meet smoldering reality. Boudoir cerise morning skies. And puce evenings. People, walking, loving, discovering their own vibrations of language, of being. Joy in the awakened. There’s a deadly softness to the city, something, I’ve only ever witnessed in few individuals. A feeling so far flung from the piercing memory of home, the animalistic rhythm of New York, the sulfuric slow-burn of the Middle East. Air. Breath. And light. An unfathomable dedication to heightened living that exists within those Haussmannian walls, faded shutters and bloom lined sills.
So, here’s the recipe for this Hazelnut Streusel and Brown Butter Apple Pie, accompanied by peonies picked in the morning from Le Marché des Enfants Rouges and a few scenes from Paris. I was asked to create a recipe for Sofia Coppola’s new film, The Beguiled. There’s an apple pie, which, forms part of the story line. It’s not all glory pie, happy pie, it’s not what you think (…you just have to see it!). I’ve always possessed adoration for Sofia’s work, in extravagance, immoderate loves and romanticism mixed with conflicts of woman. The beauty in both physical and mental drowning, beauty. Humanity. Livingness. I cling to the abstracted worlds created by artists, because, the true world is a devouring one. And, to temporarily live within the mind of another, is to temporarily soothe the chaos.
Hazelnut Streusel and Brown Butter Apple Pie. It’s got the most perfectly flaky all-butter crust and an interior of sweetly soft ariane apples coated in the most delicious, nutty, self-forming brown butter caramel. A toasted hazelnut and cinnamon scented streusel too. I usually would serve this pie with vanilla bean ice cream, but, given the heat, I wasn’t game enough to shoot it sans temperature control. Here, lightly sweetened crème fraiche, does the perfect job of cutting through all the richness and providing the most cool, supple and delicately dulcet tone to compliment.
This recipe, it’s forgiving. Baking in the heat, was no easy challenge. Especially when working with something that contains as high a butter content as pie dough. The recipe is quick too. Perfect, for times of sweet need. Do the dough. By hand or by processor, whatever. Cut apples, brown the butter, stir the filling. Do a lattice, a fattice, a quick streusel topping, go on whim. Serve it with a slathering of sweetened crème fraiche. It’s a pie that’s everything and more.
330 g all-purpose flour, 230 g unsalted butter (cubed and cold), 110 ml iced water, 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Place the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add in the cubed butter and use your fingers to coat it in the flour. Using a pastry cutter or metal spatula, begin to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles a coarse meal-like texture with pea-sized pieces of butter running throughout it. Combine the iced water and apple cider vinegar. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the iced water mixture over the mixture with the flour and butter. Use a spatula and the palm of your hand to gently mix until incorporated. Keep incorporating the iced water mixture, adding in a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is beginning to come together to form a ball with some dry and flaky bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch the dough to form a smooth ball, adding a few drops of water if necessary. You have added enough water when you can pick the dough up and squeeze it together without it falling apart. Split the dough into two discs, flatten each and cover the halves in a layer of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before using, or preferably, overnight.
75 g unsalted butter, 6 large ariane red apples (thinly sliced), 150 g light brown sugar, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod, 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Place the butter into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is golden and melted. The butter should begin to foam but will subside as it continues to cook. Increase the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook, swirling the pan often but not stirring it, until the butter is beginning to brown in colour, nutty in fragrance and has formed some solids at the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the sliced apples into a large mixing bowl. Add in the light brown sugar and toss to coat. Pour in the browned butter, then, use a spatula until all the apples are evenly coated in the butter and sugar mixture. Add in the lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds. Add in the flour and use your hands to toss until evenly combined. Set aside for assembly.
60 g all-purpose flour, 2 tbsp. hazelnut flour, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. unsalted butter (cold)
In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add in the butter. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry flour ingredients until fine crumbs form. Then, using a slightly greater amount of pressure, squeeze the mixture together until large clumps form. Set aside for assembly.
1 large egg for the egg wash (lightly beaten), 4 tbsp. raw sugar, sweetened crème fraiche or vanilla bean ice cream (to serve)
Pre-heat the oven to 220 c (425 f). Butter and flour a 20 cm (8 inch) pie dish. Set the dish aside on a baking tray until needed.
On a floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one of the dough pieces into a 30 cm (12”) circle, about .4 (1/8”) thick. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling, if it’s too cold the edges are likely to split. Carefully place the dough circle into the prepared dish and use your fingers to press the dough down and into the edges of the dish. Set in the refrigerator whilst you roll out the remaining dough.
Roll out the other half of the dough into a circle, about the same dimensions as above. Use a ruler to measure and cut out 8 x 3.8 cm (1 ½”) thick strips, using a very sharp knife or a fluted pastry wheel. Set the strips aside on a lined baking tray and in the refrigerator.
Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and pour in the apple filling, spreading it evenly over the base.
Remove the dough strips from the refrigerator. Begin to weave the lattice by laying 4 (half) of the strips horizontally over the pie so that they are nearly touching. Make sure to use the longer strips in the middle of the pie and the shorter strips towards the edges. Next, fold half of those strips back on themselves. Lay one piece of the remaining dough strips vertically over the pie so that it lays over the unfolded horizontal strips. Make sure that this strip is placed in the center. Unfold the folded horizontal strips so that they lay over the top of the vertical strip and fold the strips running under the vertical strip back over the top. Lay another dough strip vertically over the pie, making sure that it’s as close as possible to the preceding vertical strip. Continue this process, swapping the folded and unfolded horizontal strips and adding a new vertical strip each time until the pie is completely latticed.
Trim any excess overhang with scissors or a sharp knife, then roll the edges inwards towards the center of the pie. Firmly crimp to seal. Place the pie on a lined baking tray and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
When you are ready to bake, remove the pie from the refrigerator and brush the top of it with a light glaze of the egg wash. Then, sprinkle over the hazelnut streusel and raw sugar. Place the pie in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 190 c (375 f). Bake, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the pie crust has turned a deep golden brown colour. Remove the pie from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool until it just reaches room temperature before slicing and serving.
This post was sponsored by Focus Features. As always, all opinions stated are, my own. You can follow The Beguiled, here / or using the hashtags #BonAppetite #TheBeguiled.