Illuminated by an extensive research on the topic of best apple-picking destinations around Manhattan, we embark on a two hour drive up north to the town of Warwick, New York, the home of the Maskers Orchards, where the cell signal is spotty but the apples are plentiful. “With 14 varieties of apples ripening throughout the season at Masker Orchards, you're sure to find all of your family's favorites,” says the guide to the orchards; that is exactly where cell phone reception would have come handy to us poor city dwellers in a desperate need of googling to ascertain the difference in appearance between Empire and Jonagold, or say Macintosh and Cortland. At one point, I manage to get hold of a tiny precious ounce of the signal, and vehemently search for “macintosh apple” only to get pages and pages of, well you are already guessing, latest Apple Mac products and accessories. By the time I realize I should have typed Jonagold, although I was not quite sure how to spell Jonagold, the signal is gone and we are left to our own devices. Only later we realize that Masker’s management had kindly labeled each lot with the corresponding apple variety, except that, like true explorers, we have taken the road less traveled and approached the orchards from the back.
Eight hours and twenty five pounds of unknown apples later, we are back at home, and I kind of scratch my head with what to do to our precious cargo. A part of me wishes that we could keep it forever, as a testimony to our brave adventure. A part of me sees “apple pie” written all over it, although a different part of my persona screams “for Heaven's sake you cannot post yet another apple pie recipe, the Internet is already crowded”. But come to think about it, there is only one apple pie that really matters, at least for me, and it is the Serbian apple pita (pie), the truly one and only. I conduct a quick google on it, and very few recipes come up, therefore I am officially granted the permission to release yet another apple pie into the cyberspace.
Old Fashioned Serbian Apple Phyllo Pita
* one 16 oz package phyllo dough (you might not use all the dough, but make sure that it has at least 15 sheets)
* 8 medium baking apples (about 3 lb), peeled, cored and shredded
* 4 handfuls of Thompson raisins
* 4 tbsp granulated sugar
* 1-2 tbsp confectioners sugar
* 3 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
* one 9x13 inch baking pan
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Grease the baking pan with oil, or line with baking paper.
3. Cut the phyllo sheets into 9x13 inch rectangles.
4. Line the baking pan with three phyllo sheets, spread one quarter of shredded apples uniformly over the phyllo and throw in a handful of raisins. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar and cinnamon according to your liking.
5. Cover with three phyllo sheets, again spread one quarter of shredded apples uniformly over the phyllo and throw in a handful of raisins. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar and cinnamon according to your liking. Repeat two more times. You will have four layers of apples.
6. Cover the pie with three phyllo sheets.
7. In a small saucepan heat three tablespoons of sunflower oil until medium hot. Drizzle the oil on top of the pie and place the pie in the oven. Bake for about an hour until it is dark golden and crispy.
8. Remove the pie from the oven, drizzle with a tablespoon of water and cover with kitchen towel. When the top layer has softened a bit, remove the kitchen towel. When the pie has cooled completely, dust it with the confectioners sugar, cut into squares and serve.
Makes about 16-20 squares
p.s. It would be very unfair to give the Serbs the complete ownership of this pita. It is equally Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Bulgarian or Greek, as all these folks have a wonderful habit of using the phyllo in a number of wonderfully special ways, and stuffing it with all kinds of wonderful things, including cheese, spinach, walnuts, mushrooms, cherries and occasional pumpkin.
p.s. p.s. If you would like your last layer super crispy, do not drizzle with water and do not cover with the kitchen towel. Just let it cool and then dust it with sugar.