Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie

With exactly -13 days to go until Thanksgiving, I am not just reflecting on my menu (apple herb stuffing! sweet potato gratin! corn muffins!) but also a few little things I'm thankful for, which deserve a little acknowledgement. Thankfulness, after all, is the point of the holiday (along with the larger-than-life turkey, of course) and so *clears throat* here are just a few of the many things I am grateful for lately:

-My daily walk to work, where I pass the ancient Pyramid of Caius Cestius and catch a glimpse of Circus Maximus; 
-My early morning breakfast routine, complete with a perfectly made cappuccino, a honey-filled cornetto, and the company of one of my best friends;
-My exceptional teammates, my office with a view, and my hilarious office mate;  
-Earl Grey tea and a good book before bed;
-Re-watching nostalgic movies from the 90s;
-Anyone who reads and likes my blog, which I work a heck of a lot on; 
-The comforting and consistently magical act of baking, everything from cookies to cakes to bread to pie.

So! I'm a pretty lucky girl with a lot to be thankful for, but since I'm willing to bet you've come here for a Thanksgiving recipe rather than my reflections, let's get back to that last, more relevant point -- baking, and pie. Pie is an essential part of Thanksgiving -- the holy trinity being Pecan, Pumpkin, and Apple -- and no Thanksgiving table is complete without it. I'd been set on sharing some variant on pumpkin pie this year, when, in my pie research, I came across this Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from the famous Four and Twenty Blackbirds bakery, which had been baked and raved about everywhere from Smitten Kitchen to Food52 to Bon Appetit, plus countless food blogs in between. I was intrigued; here was a pie, yes, but one that was a little different than the usual Thanksgiving pie, one I'd never heard of. Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie was a pie firmly in Uncharted Pie Territory, and I was downright pumped to bake it (for other food-related things that I am unreasonably enthusiastic about, click here). 

Pumpkin-pie-plans thoroughly out the window, I got to work -- I happily prepped my pie dough, toasted the oatmeal, and melted the chocolate for the base, then tucked the whole thing in to the oven with great anticipation (as one does when making homemade pie). The resulting pie, once cooled, cut, and tasted -- is there anything more agonizing than waiting for a pie to cool, by the way? -- was a marvelous sort of oatmeal cookie-pecan pie hybrid (dreams do come true). The crust was superbly buttery, and perfectly crisp, with a gooey, caramel-y filling, all held together by a heap of toasty, lightly crunchy oats, and below this magical concoction, a layer of melt-y, bittersweet chocolate. The chocolate balanced out the sweetness of the filling perfectly, the pie crust was downright phenomenal (thankful for par-baking!) and I was pretty impressed with my crust-crimping skills, too. My taste testers were beyond pleased, and it have been a rather photogenic dessert, too, as per the message of a friend-colleague of mine who had spotted it on social media: you wouldn't by any chance have a piece of that to bring to work tomorrow, would you?! Bottom line: I was very, very thankful for this pie, and I think you will be, too. 

A couple of notes: You could most certainly use storebought pie crust here, but this one is fantastic and I highly recommend you give it a try. I found my golden syrup at Castroni, for those of you here in Rome. Golden syrup has a lot more salt than corn syrup, so if you decide to use golden syrup here as I did, you will have to reduce the salt -- I cut the salt in half and it was perfect. I know that par-baking is a sort of annoying step here, but I did it and my crust was perfectly crisp. Finally, I bet that pecans substituted for the oats here would be nice, if you want to do a Black Bottom Pecan Pie. Hmmm. 

Looking for other oatmeal-centric desserts? I've got these Apple Crisps with Pecan-Oatmeal topping, and this Oatmeal Cookie Cake, these Best Ever Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Looking for other Thanksgiving-worthy pies? I've got this Brownie Pie, this Peanut Butter Pie, this Pumpkin Pie, this Pecan Pie, this Apple Pie, and this Pecan Pretzel Chocolate Pie

BLACK BOTTOM OATMEAL PIE

Ingredients for crust:
1 1/4 cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea or table salt
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (60 ml) very cold water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed

Ingredients for filling:
1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
4 ounces (115 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt for corn syrup, just a pinch of salt for golden syrup
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (350 grams) golden syrup, or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
4 large eggs

Start with your pie dough! By hand, with my one-bowl method: In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.

With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water. Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively, if you'd like. If not parbaking, place in fridge until ready to fill. If parbaking, place in freezer for 20 minutes, until solid.

If you want to parbake the crust (optional, but will lead to a crispier base!) heat oven 400°F (205°C). Line the frozen crust with lightly buttered or oiled foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or if you're me, rice. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and let cool completely before filling.

On to your filling! Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. To make the black bottom, bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Pour in chocolate pieces and whisk until melted and smooth. Scrape the chocolate into the bottom of the cooled pie shell and spread evenly. Place in freezer while making the filling.

To make the oatmeal layer, in a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ginger, salt, and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and cider vinegar and whisk to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the cooled oats. Place chocolate-coated pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour filling over.

Bake the pie at 350°F (175°C)For 55 to 70 minutes (I baked mine in 55, but every oven is different). The pie is done with the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has a little give. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cold out of the fridge, if you're me.



Rainy Day Apple Tart

Rome has been in a bit of a funk lately, weather-wise -- the past two or so weeks we have experienced not just rain but torrential downpours, not just wind but gusts strong enough to knock down trees, plus chronic cloudiness and persistent grayness. The weather has been deemed so bad that schools have been closed, as has much of our public transport a causa della caduta dei rami (or rather, too many fallen branches blocking the streets and railways) and flooding. In Venice, things are a lot worse -- as evidenced in this video of a water-filled pizzeria,  kudos to the owners who are still keeping their businesses open nonetheless -- and, well, we could certainly do with a little sunshine around here.

In the midst of the bad weather-woes plaguing the country, I made a tart, this Apple Tart, which will therefore forever be known as and referred to by me as Rainy Day Apple Tart. This, for a couple of reasons; firstly, there is no better way to pass a rainstorm-ridden afternoon than baking, at least in my book (extra points given if whatever you are baking makes your kitchen smell like cinnamon and melting butter). Secondly, as happy as I am to have ended up baking this, it wasn't initially what I had in mind. On the morning of yet another non-stop rainy day in the Eternal City, I planned first to make a Sicilian Apple Cake (a dense, pine nut/apple cake) only to realize that I was fresh out of pine nuts (you can relate, I'm sure -- very common problem). My second choice cake -- a caramel apple number, requiring, however, sour cream, noticeably absent from my fridge -- was also nixed. Given my unwillingness to brave the monsoon to go out and buy either ingredient, I looked around for a recipe that would meet my apple-dessert craving, while requiring only the essentials -- flour! butter! water! apples! -- and eventually stumbled across this open-faced Apple Tart.

You could also call this a crostata, or a galette, or an open faced pie of sorts, but however you call it, the idea is this: pie dough rolled out and then folded around a heap of apples -- the less perfect, the better, just chalk it up to a "rustic" appearance -- and then baked directly on a baking sheet, no pie plate or double crust required. It is fairly low-key as far as desserts go, with the most time consuming part being the peeling/slicing of the apples, which, honestly speaking, is one of those surprisingly repetitive/calming kitchen tasks that are welcome on a relaxed rainy-afternoon. Once you've sorted your apples, gotten the whole thing in to the oven, and spent the next hour watching Netflix, you'll find you have a sublime galette/crostata/tart/pie on your hands, delicious in all its superbly autumnal splendor, a mound of cinnamon-y, caramelized, sweet-tart apples, all wrapped up in a flaky, buttery, pie crust, sprinkled with a little sugar for shine. This tart would have been best enjoyed with the classic scoop of melting vanilla ice cream, but, as I was (once again) not willing to brave the downpour in my rain boots I settled for a shower of (very photogenic) powdered sugar. The photos are a bit shadow-y and far darker than I'd like due to all the clouds outside when this was photographed (even after stretching the limits of my free photo editing program!) but hey, this isn't called Rainy Day Apple Tart for nothing. Moral of the story: sometimes very, very bad weather can lead to very, very good desserts. 

Bonus: if you, like me, will be celebrating Thanksgiving on November 22 this year, this would also make an excellent dessert, veering only ever so slightly off the beaten path of traditional Apple Pie, and requiring a little less work to boot! 

A couple of notes: The dough here can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling so that it is soft enough to roll. If you really want to make this in advance, the assembled tart may be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the tart is frozen, then wrap tightly. Bake directly from the freezer. I didn't have turbinado sugar on hand, so I sprinkled regular sugar over the tart and it worked fine. The recipe as written also recommends brushing the finished tart with some apricot jam that has been heated up, to make it a little shiny, but I left this out -- you do as you see fit. Although it may be tempting to use store-bought dough here (and you totally could) the homemade one is sooo much better and not that hard to make (promise!) Finally, I used a really handy apple slicer from Tiger to help me cut up the apples here -- highly recommended! 

Looking for other apple recipes? I've got this All-American Apple Pie, this Best Ever Apple Cake, this Apple Crisp with Pecan-Oatmeal Topping, these Apple Dumplings, and these Apple Muffins. For something savory: these Prosciutto, Brie, and Green Apple Sandwiches and this Apple, Sausage, and Apricot Stuffing.

RAINY DAY APPLE TART
Recipe from Once Upon A Chef

Ingredients for the crust:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons or 168 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons very cold water

Ingredients for the filling:
1-3/4 lbs (790 grams) Granny Smith apples - I used about 4
1/3 cup (about 70 grams or 5.5 tablespoons) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon (less if you don't like cinnamon)
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt

To finish:
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, if you have it

Directions:
Start with the crust. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a food processor, feel free to use it -- in the bowl of the food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the cold butter and process just until the butter is the size of peas, about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process just until moistened and very crumbly, about 5 seconds. If you like me don't have a food processor, you can do this by hand; whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar, and then cut the butter in to the dry ingredients with your fingers, until it becomes crumbly and sand-like. Stir in the water until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times, just until it comes together into a ball. Pat the dough into a disk. Flour your work surface again and dust the dough with flour, as well. Using a rolling pin, roll into a circle 8 to 10 inches in diameter, turning and adding more flour as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling (you’ll roll the dough out further on the parchment paper so go ahead and clean your work surface). 
While your dough is chilling, start on your filling. Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/8-inch-thick slices (you should have about 4 cups) and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, melted butter, and salt and stir to combine.
Take the dough from the fridge and slide the parchment paper onto your kitchen counter. Roll the dough, directly on the parchment paper, into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick (it’s fine if the edges are a little ragged, we're going for a rustic look here!) Place the parchment and dough back on the baking sheet – the pastry should curve up the sides of the pan.
Assemble the tart: Sprinkle the flour evenly over the pastry. Arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles to within 3 inches of the edge. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion, working your way around and creating pleats as you go. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough evenly with the beaten egg. Sprinkle half of the turbinado sugar over the top crust and half over the fruit. Chill the assembled tart in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the center position. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden and cooked through. 
Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool. Use two large spatulas to transfer the tart to a serving plate or cutting board. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if you can. Serves 6-8.