Berbere-Spiced Ombre Apple Tart

I’ve had my eye on ombre apple pies since I saw the New York Times recipe for Apple Ombré Pie last fall. James and I went apple picking with our friends Carol and Jon this weekend, at Terhune Orchards, in Princeton, NJ, and with a haul of hand-picked apples of a different colors, I figured it was finally time to give it a go. We picked Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples right off the tree in the orchard, and  I picked up a few Red Delicious ones from the farm stand to round out the color palette. We also picked some delicious Cameo apples right from the trees in the orchard, but James used those to make a traditional apple pie.

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For the crust, I used a recipe that James got from his mom. Note… this recipe is for a two-crust pie; I used a little more than half of it for this tart. It included:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 sticks of cubed butter, one at room temperature butter, one cold butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 5 Tbls cold water

I used a pastry cutter to first mix in the room temperature butter into the flower, then cut in the cold dough with the salt and water. I formed a little more than half of the dough into a ball, then rolled it out into a circle. I should have let it rest for a bit in the fridge, but I was on a roll and just wanted to keep going!

I put the crust in a greased pie pan, trimmed the edges, pierced the bottom a few times with a fork, pressed some foil loosely over the top, then par baked it at 425F for about 10 or 12 minutes. I let it cool while prepping the filling.

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For the filling, I used:

  • 2 each of Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Red Delicious apples
  • Some lemon juice
  • About 1/2 C. white sugar,
  • About 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Enough cinnamon and Berbere spice blend to really season the sugar
  • A tablespoon or two of butter, cubed

I started by mixing together the two kinds of sugar, salt, and generous sprinklings of cinnamon and Berbere (an Ethiopian spice blend – the one I have has cayenne pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and paprika) until you could really taste the seasonings coming through the sugar. Berebere spice may not be a traditional apple pie flavor, but it is very cinnamon-forward, and I think the warm, savory flavors mixed with the heat of the peppers is actually quite lovely in a sweet dessert like this, to mix it up.

I moved on by cutting up thin slices of each of the apples. I use the technique of cutting two sides of the apple, leaving a thin strip with the core in the middle, and using a spoon to scoop out the core section left in the middle of each of the large round pieces, then cutting the two remaining sides, leaving just a square of core left, and using a spoon to scoop out the core part left in the middle of those smaller pieces. I then slice up what is remaining. I put each type of slices in its own bowl, and tossed them with a sprinkle of lemon juice to keep them from browning.

I sprinkled a little bit of the sugar mix on the bottom of the crust, then tossed the rest with the separate bowls of apple slices. I layered the seasoned slices into the pie crust by color. It took a little creative jigsawing, but I was able to squish a lot of slices in – I still had leftovers in each of the colors, though, for snacking.

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Before putting it in the oven, I dotted the top with a few cubes of butter, and brushed the crust edge with an egg wash.

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I cooked it at 375F for about half an hour, until the apples were really tender and jammy. The ombre definitely faded, but I was still delighted with how it looked, and loved the taste as well. Overall it was a little more work than a regular pie, but it was so beautiful that it was worth it!

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