apple croustades


With the newest issue of Vegetarian Times to leaf through, we have suddenly found ourselves surrounded by new recipes to try, ingredients that inspire, and of course, an entirely enticing article on phyllo dough (YES) complete with several suggestions to pair with this flakey pastry dough. Naturally drawn to the dessert option first (though the eggplant-potato combination is still something I must try), we decided to attempt the recipe for apple croustades. A croustade (pronounced crew-sta-day) is basically a French way of saying pie, though the term also implies that the crust is on the flakier side: enter phyllo dough. And because these are baked in a muffin tin, it makes for a miniature, personal-sized dessert. Adorable.


1/4 cup of white rum (They also suggest you may use cognac or Armagnac. We found a hugeass bottle of rum sitting on top of the piano. Therefore, rum wins.)
1/4 cup of raisins
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons margarine (Note: when it comes time to brush the phyllo dough, you will definitely need more. I don't know if that means we were a little heavy-handed with the margarine, but 1/2 cup hardly cuts it. Sorry, VT.)
5 large tart apples, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup sugar, divided
18 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Now, the very first thing you should do is remember to take the phyllo dough out of the freezer, following the instructions on the package for thawing. (It's about eight hours refrigerated or two hours straight from freezer to countertop.) We didn't remember to do that, which turned this rather simple recipe into a two-day project. Can't really complain though, because the results were totally worth it.

Next, pour the rum and the raisins into a bowl and let them rest for fifteen minutes. This will cause the raisins to slightly rehydrate and absorb all of the flavor from the rum.

I wasn't kidding about the rum, was I. 

In the meantime, you could begin to peel, core, and dice the apples. We chose to use Granny Smith, one of the best apple varieties for baking as they retain their tart flavor even after being cooked. They also work well when paired with sugar because they aren't a naturally super-sweet apple.

Oh, cute Colin. Now in a large skillet, using the 2 tablespoons of margarine, cook the apples over a medium-high heat until they start to soften, about fifteen minutes. Add the raisin-rum mixture, and coat evenly. Transfer to a bowl and stir in a quarter-cup of the sugar. Let cool.

While the apple mixture cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Now it's phyllo dough time! This is the first time I've ever worked with this tricky pastry (I know, I know, there are a million Greek jokes to be made), but I found the only really difficult part is working fast enough so that the sheets don't get too dry. Otherwise, pretty simple stuff. Vegetarian Times suggests the following method: Melt the remaining margarine (plus more, remember?), brush a twelve-cup muffin pan with the margarine, set the rest aside. Unroll the phyllo dough, placing a damp paper towel over the sheets. This helps them retain moisture while they aren't yet being used.

Place the first sheet on your work surface (ours, a cutting board), and brush with margarine. Sprinkle evenly with a half-teaspoon of sugar. Repeat until you have six layered sheets, but don't put any sugar on the last sheet. (Whoops. I did that. During the first round, anyway.)

Next, cut the six layered sheets into four even squares. Push each square into the muffin pan, letting the edges of the phyllo hang over.

Fill each phyllo mold with 1/3 cup of the apple mixture. Brush the edges of the phyllo with margarine (again!) and fold over the apple mixture. One final time, lightly brush the tops with margarine to ensure the croustades hold together and get perfectly brown on top.

Repeat the last few steps (all involving the phyllo dough) until you have enough squares to fill the twelve-cup pan. Though it seems like a lot of steps, try to work as quickly as possibly to avoid the pastry sheets from becoming too dry.

Lastly, place them in the oven to bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or, of course, until golden brown. The apple mixture is already mostly cooked, so the oven time is mainly to bake the pastry pocket that holds them so they come out looking something like this:

One of my favorite things about phyllo dough (seriously, more jokes, I know) is that you can't really mess it up. No matter how unsure you are of the technique, it most always comes out looking pretty damn good. These little croustades were a surprising balance of sweet and slightly savory, and the bright tartness of the apples was the perfect pair with the buttery, flakey crust. We'll have to try these again sometime with another one of Vegetarian Time's suggested fillings. Pineapple, anyone?