Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New York State Apple Cobbler

Welcome to my new kitchen in Pontlevoy, France! This is where I'll be attempting to produce American desserts for the next 6 months or so. It won't be quite as easy as it was in Mississippi. Take a look at my (already messy) kitchen.

See the shelf over the microwave (which doesn't work)? That's my pantry. A far cry from my walk-in pantry. Also note that under the microwave is the fridge. Rather tiny by American standards. It's already full of yummy stuff--cheese and yogurt and such.

See the foot of space between the stove and sink, where the boiler and coffee maker are? That's my counter space. I'll have to get creative. But at least the oven works well. However, this is an old house with "creative" wiring. That means that when I use the oven, I have to turn off the heat and perhaps also the lights so that I don't blow a fuse.
But why am I complaining? I'm living the dream--cooking in my own kitchen in France, using all those fabulous French ingredients. There's a producer of chèvre a 10-minute walk from our house, and a winemaker 2 minutes away. I can join an organic CSA, buy chicken and eggs from the local chicken lady, and go to the weekly market. I have crème fraîche in my fridge! Life is good.

Look! Local butter. Yum.

I love this picture. It's a preview of the recipe to come. The first dessert I made here was one of the desserts in the book I feared. Maybe the picture will tell you why.
My grandfather, Grandpete, was from upstate New York. Most of the time I knew him, he was suffering from early Alzheimer's, but he was a kind and gentle man who enjoyed his apricot orchard and being bossed around by my grandmother. One of my last memories of him was one I didn't even experience. It was a story told by my grandmother, who had just been to visit him at the hospital. He wasn't very verbal by that point, and he couldn't really recognize his visitors. But for some reason she said to him, "Apple pie without the cheese..." and he mumbled, " like a kiss without a squeeze." Funny what you remember.
Thus the New York State Apple Cobbler. Apple cobbler with cheese in the crust. I was skeptical. I like fruit with cheese--apples and cheddar are awesome together--but I wasn't sure how this dessert would go over. My husband believes that apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without a slap. Sweet and savory do not go together, in his opinion. To top it off, we were having a French-American couple over for dinner and I was serving this for dessert. The pressure was on.
But it was OK. First, this was a great dessert to start with because it involved no special equipment. I don't have a mixer or anything at this point, though I'm hoping to expand my equipent soon. I could mix this with my bare hands, which have been quite reliable for many dishes lately.
Second, everyone loved this dessert! They ate almost the whole thing, and Claire ate the rest for breakfast this morning. They called it a "crumble," which has become a popular dessert in France. I kept my mouth shut about the cheese thing, and no-one seemed to notice it. I noticed a slight cheesy edge to the topping, but it was pretty much overwhelmed by the spices and apple filling. I think that if you don't fear the apple/cheese combo (and I know Natalie loves it), you want to go with a really sharp Cheddar. Cheddar is a cheese that's hard to find in France, so I went with something called Mimolette, a Dutch cheese that looks like Cheddar but tastes pretty mild. Also, I recommend serving this with ice cream. I really dislike French industrial ice cream, so I made a custard sauce to go with this, which turned out well, if a bit liquidy. But if I had the option, it would be good vanilla ice cream all the way.

Here's the oven-ready crumble. I didn't take a picture of the finished product, because it looks weird to take pictures of your food in front of guests. At least I think so...

Here's the recipe:
New York State Apple Cobbler

6 oz. Cheddar, grated
4 oz. butter, room temperature
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) brown sugar

Mix the cheese and butter with an electric mixer (I cut the butter into small pieces and smooshed it together with my hands). Then add the flour and sugar and mix into a crumbly mass. Set that aside while you get the apples ready.

2.5-3 lbs. tart apples (I didn't have enough, so I threw a pear in there as well), peeled and sliced
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. grated nutmeg
2 T. bourbon or brandy

Heat the oven to 350 (or if you want to assemble the cobbler ahead, don't.). Get out a 2-quart baking dish and butter it. Put the apples in the dish and sprinkle them with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and booze. Toss all that together with your hands. Then sprinkle the apples with the cheese crumble mixture. Press down on the crumble to make it nice and flat and even. You can let the cobbler sit on the counter for a while until you're ready to bake it. Just remember to preheat the oven. So, now or later, bake the cobbler for 45 minutes or until the apples are bubbly and the topping is golden-brown and crisp. Serve warm with ice cream. Serves 6-8.


  1. Wonderful! I love seeing your kitchen and hearing about the ingredients available to you is great fun. Welcome back!

  2. The story about GrandPete brought tears to my eyes. It sounds like you are making the best of your tiny French kitchen. The crumble sounds tasty!

  3. that sounds amazing!!! i can't wait for it!