One thing which I am often guilty of is buying ingredients on a whim and then not using them. I was in the mood for an apple pie. I had three Crispin apples and refrigerated pie crust. I figured that with whatever else is in the fridge or pantry will be enough to make a pie.
I cored and diced the apples and sautéed them on very low heat with a little butter and cinnamon. Then, I thought of adding a little orange zest and juice to the apples for a little tang, and I’ve always liked the combination of orange and cinnamon. No oranges in the fridge, but I did have a tangerine and several kumquats. Not being patient enough to zest and juice a handful of kumquats, I chose the tangerine. The plan was to add brown sugar to the apples, but then I saw the jar of caramel topping which I bought around Christmastime for a recipe I ended up not making. So, instead I stirred some caramel into the apples and let it simmer on low heat. While the apple filling cooked, I prepared the rest of the pie.
I actually wanted to make a pie with apples and figs, but fresh figs won’t be in season until late summer/early fall. But guess what? I had a jar of fig jam. So I spread the jam onto the bottom of the crust. About 7-1/2 of the 8 ounces from the jar appeared to be enough to cover the bottom of the crust. But instead of putting the jar in the fridge with only 1/2 ounce of fig jam, I used it all for the pie. Next, I thought how fig preserves can be found not only in the jam and jelly aisle but also in the cheese section as one of the recommended toppings or accompaniments for cheeses. Not only that, some people like to have a slice of cheddar cheese on top of their apple pie. Hey, I have some Irish cheddar cheese in the fridge. So, the second layer of flavor was thin slices of this cheese, which I can only best describe as a cheddar which is both sweet and sharp in taste.
Another ingredient I like to use in different recipes, especially desserts is pears. Pears are naturally juicy and sweet, and being the apple’s cousin, would work well in the mix. I had no fresh pears, only dried pears and pear-applesauce, both of which are natural, i.e. no sugar added. I chose to use the pear crisps and laid them on top of the cheese.
Next, the main layer, the apple filling. I spooned out the apples, leaving most of the liquid in the saucepan. I expected the liquid to be thicker from the caramel, but that is not how it turned out. Then, I thinly sliced a few kumquats, adding a little layer of tartness to it all. Finally, I wanted to make a streusel topping. I’ve seen walnuts used a lot in apple pies, but I prefer pecans. All I had in the pantry, though, were almonds, so that is what I used. I crushed the almonds and mixed them with some flour, brown sugar, and room temperature butter. While I made enough topping to cover the entire pie, as I was putting on the topping, I decided to only scatter some here and there, so that the apples and kumquats were still visible.
As the pie was baking, I cleaned up the dishes. As I reached for the saucepan, I notice a good amount of liquid still in there. I turned the stove on to very low, added a little more caramel sauce to the mix, and let it simmer while the pie baked. I removed the pie from the oven after about 30 minutes. The caramel sauce having been reduced but still not as thick as I hoped it would be, I poured some of it on top of the pie, and returned the pie to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Quick recap: the layers of flavor from bottom to top: fig preserves, Irish cheddar cheese, dried pears, citrus-caramel apple filling, thinly sliced kumquats, almond-brown sugar topping, and caramel drizzle.
As I type this, I am eating a big slice of this pie. The fig preserves were sweeter than I expected, and the kumquats were not as sour as fresh kumquats are. I was very pleased with this pie that I “threw together” while looking around the kitchen at what I had. If I make this same pie again, I would use half as much of the fig jam, pecans for the streusel topping, and find a way to make the caramel sauce thicker. Trust me, though, you wish you had a piece of this pie right now!