happy things for grey days

I’m home sick. I think I caught some kind of nasty upper respiratory infection from my choir director and/or his family. I’m praying I don’t get laryngitis. I canceled my rehearsals for today. And I took the opportunity to redesign the blog! It’s brighter, much easier to navigate, cleaner, more readable, and just in general better. I hope you like it.

Also, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite recipes. (Fear not! I’d never turn this into a recipe blog.) I got this recipe in Switzerland, while I was staying with a family outside Zürich for a few days. My host-mother, as it were, took me on a tour of several of the cantons in northern Switzerland during the morning. She asked her next-door neighbor to watch after her husband while we were gone. We returned several hours later to a late afternoon lunch/snack. My host-mother brought out a piece of Zuger Kirscht0rte we bought the night before. It was good – it was a sweet white cake soaked in cherry liqueur with a light white frosting, from what I remember. The neighbor had made an apple tart for my host-father while we were gone, joking, “He didn’t get his lunch, so I made him something full of calories to make up for it!”

They offered me a piece, and I was about to decline it, after having just had this cake, but I thought, Heck. I’m in Switzerland. I only live once. And oh my goodness, it was amazing. It tasted like apples and butter, light and simple. I asked the neighbor how she made it, and after pressing her for details on every step of the process, she offered me the recipe. I gratefully accepted.

She gave me two photocopied sheets. The dough recipe was from a German cookbook, which she explained and translated to English for me. The filling recipe was typewritten, already in English.

When I got home, I was a little frightened of making it, as I’ve always been a little leery of baking. Cooking, when you screw something up, is pretty easily fixed and almost constantly adjustable. Baking is not – once it’s baked, it’s baked. No going back. But I thought if she can do this, so can I.

It’s come out perfectly every time.

For the dough:
200g flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter
2-3 T of sugar
juice of half a lemon
one egg

Rub the flour, salt and butter together with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it turns mealy. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and egg – mix to form a dough. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450.

For the filling:
6 tart eating apples
juice of a lemon
2 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg or allspice

For the streusel topping:
6 T brown sugar
6 T flour, sifted
zest of one lemon
6 T softened butter

Make the topping by crumbling everything together in a bowl using a pastry cutter or a fork.

Peel, core, and slice apples into eighths. Put them in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice.

Roll out the dough and place it in a tart pan. Or, press it in with your hands. Arrange the apples in the pastry shell and sprinkle them with the sugar and spices. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake an additional 30 minutes.

———-

My only notes on this: for a holiday twist, I’ll change up an orange for the lemon. Sometimes I’ll also add cranberries or mix in pears, but the original is my favorite. I hope you enjoy.

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