Friday, October 23, 2009
Julia’s Apple Turnover
I think my first memory of Julia Child was her voice. And her arms. A strong husky voice and long animated arms that punctuated nearly all of her sentences. Oh, and the pearls worn with her shirtwaist dresses. The way she swayed when she was delighted, each word pronounced with exaggerated flair. I’d never seen or heard anyone like her. Every episode, every dish was an imaginative voyage across cultures and habits.
Although Julia is now gone, her legacy surely endures. We still celebrate her birthday and still ponder her recipes. The release of Nora Ephron’s film this year had everyone waiting in anticipation of how Meryl Streep might act out this great woman’s bigger-than-life ambition. There is still so much fun that surrounds her extraordinary life.
When I received a review copy of award-winning writer Laura Shapiro's Julia Child: A Life from Penguin, I was definitely curious to know more about how she spent her time in Paris and what she thought about how her life unfolded in the limelight. What was her real relationship to food and how did she reflect on her training? How did she handle her fame? Why do we feel so much affection for her?
The book follows Julia’s life from her early days to the end of her life. It chronicles her many trials and tribulations and reveals all the exciting developments that eventually spawned an industry. Although the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was what possessed her for so many years, it wasn’t until Julia began her cooking shows on PBS that she came into her own in the public eye. She started with an omelette on the Today show and wound up with several television series, nearly all acclaimed for their own unique sense of exciting yet accessible adventure. Her audience flocked to her precisely because she was natural and unpolished. Julia's insatiable desire for good food was boundless and it was infectious.
As I turned the pages, what I found interesting about Julia’s robust life was her journey from absolute devotion to French cuisine to an eventual embrace of other ingredients and techniques. But she remained very opinionated about food and how food culture evolved over the course of her lifetime. Although some of her views are quite puzzling, in the end, what mattered most to her was that cooking should be taken seriously and the appropriate preparation time taken to honor the integrity of the ingredients. She shifted the American emphasis from time to taste, from convenience food to long hours over the stove. For her, it was never about opening a box, but about touch, taste and smell.
Since I had the great opportunity of working behind the scenes on a PBS food series a few years ago, one little aspect of the book I especially appreciated was the sense of detail that goes into preparing for a TV show. Shapiro captures the endless planning and production processes that go into successful food programming and it brought back some of my own memories of the intensity of that experience. And Julia’s penchant for her brand of perfection are on full display.
Julia’s legacy is about expanding our idea of what it means to be in the kitchen and to share the fruits of our labor. If the film piqued your interest in Julia’s life, this book unpacks the phenomenal story of how Julia pursued what every cook in the kitchen dreams of: proficiency and style. Shapiro carefully unfolds Julia’s rather pivotal journey and its overarching theme - that along with good instincts, it takes discipline, passion, love and time to produce soul-soothing results. The book also reveals some interesting secrets about her personal life. And one thing is certain - her strong sense of pride just about leaps off of every page. Julia’s work reminds us how we think about the consummate enjoyment of food and why we read and write cookbooks and, at this interesting moment in time, blogs.
This is Julia's Apple Turnover. It’s the one she’s holding on the cover of Julia Child and Company. It begins with a pâte brisée dough that is simply folded over a tidy bundle of thinly sliced apples. It's rustic yet elegant, a true and delicious harbinger of fall.
- Use your favorite baking apple. I happened to have fujis.
- I omitted the shortening. If you don’t have cake flour, you can go with all-purpose.
- Another version of an apple turnover is the magnificent Chausson aux Pommes.
Julia’s Apple Turnover
adapted from Julia Child and Company
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C cake flour
1/4 t salt
2 T sugar
6 oz cold butter
2 T chilled vegetable shortening
1/2 C ice water
2 – 3 large apples
3 T sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T melted butter
1 egg + 1 t water for egg wash
Chop the cold butter into small cubes.
Put the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and blend. Add cubes of butter and pulse a few times to break up the butter. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/2 C ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times. The dough should be soft, pliable and will just hold together when you press a clump between your fingers. Be careful not to overmix.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form a press it into a disc. Wrap tightly and chill thoroughly.
Let the chilled dough rest on a lightly floured piece of parchment for a few minutes so it can soften just a bit to prevent cracking. Then roll the dough out to about 18” by 10” rectangle, moving the dough and keeping the parchment lightly floured as needed. When you have the desired rectangle shape, trim the edges with a sharp knife. Save the scraps if you’d like to make a design on top of the turnover. Lift and slide the parchment and pastry onto a sheet pan. Chill while you prepare the apples.
Place the lemon juice and zest in a bowl big enough to hold the apples. Peel and core the apples. Slice them fairly thin and toss them in the lemon juice as you go to prevent browning. Add sugar and toss thoroughly. Set aside.
Take the rolled out dough from the refrigerator and place it in front of you so the short side is closest to you. Make a slight mark at the halfway point on the long side so you know where the fold will be. Line up about 3 – 4 vertical rows of sliced apples on the lower half of the rectangle, leaving a 3/4” border along the 3 sides. Brush the apples with melted butter. Brush the borders of the dough with water. Fold the upper half of the rectangle over the apples and press to seal. Turn up the edges to make a small border and press again to seal. You can decorate with the tines of a fork or pastry scraps. Cut some air vents (along the sides of the pastry scraps, if using). Chill the finished turnover for 1/2 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the turnover with egg wash and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to be sure it isn’t browning too fast. Cool on a wire rack.