Croustade with Apples and Prunes in Armagnac
Source: Paula Wolfert, author of The Cooking of Southwest France.
2 ½ pounds Granny Smith or Pippin apples, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
2 thin strips of lemon zest
30 prunes in Armagnac*, plus about 5 tablespoons pruneau d’Armagnac syrup
⅓ cup clarified butter, melted
½ teaspoon orange flower water
9 or 10 large strudel or phyllo leaves
*Preferably prunes that have soaked in Armagnac at least 15 days
- In a heavy 4 quart pot or casserole cook the apples, covered, with ½ cup sugar, vanilla bean, and lemon peel over very low heat until soft, about 20 minutes. For an intense apple flavor: Slice apples and mix with sugar and lemon peel. With a sharp knife, scrape vanilla seeds from bean and add to apples. Vacuum pack in a boilable pouch. Cook 20 minutes in boiling water to cover. Remove and drop into icy slush until cold. Keep apples in pouch one to two days in refrigerator, if necessary. Drain off liquid before using.
- Pit the prunes. Cut into small pieces and let soak in 4 tablespoons of prune-Armagnac syrup until ready to use.
- Mix 2 tablespoons butter with ½ teaspoon orange flower water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons pruneau d’Armagnac syrup, and 2 teaspoons Armagnac. Set aside to flavor and sprinkle the ‘flowers’. Can be prepared 1 day ahead up to this point.
- 2 TO 3 HOURS BEFORE SERVING, assemble and bake the cake. Place baking stone or heavy baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Lightly brush a 15 inch round pan (preferably with black finish, but a pizza pan will do) with a tablespoon of the remaining butter.
- Unroll strudel or phyllo leaves in front of you and cover with a damp towel. Working quickly (pastry dries out fast when exposed to air), brush top leaf lightly with melted butter. Fold in half lengthwise and brush each side lightly with butter. Place one end of folded leaf at center of pan, extending leaf over side of pan (1). Repeat with remaining leaves, lacing them spoke fashion so that inner ends are stacked in a hub and outer ends barely touch (2 and 3).