Actually, there is no substitute for all American apple pie, with it's
A 10 day trip to Hungary had me in the middle of a "cukrázda" (pastry shop) on more than one occasion...okay, more like every day! Display cases loaded with gloriously fancy squares of every kind will dazzle and drool the most disciplined and resolute health nut. You might as well give in and save your resolve for later. What was so cool was that much of the display was not only recognizable, but brought back memories since my mom had so often prepared the same pastries at home. Of course it became my obligation to taste as much as possible and make sure my mom's recipes were on point. And I'm happy to say that she is very on point with all her baking! And there, in the Cukrázda display case, right next to the strudel, Apple Squares just like Anyu's!
Almás Pite, like most Hungarian pastries, starts with a rich pastry dough of flour and butter that is rubbed together, not cut in like American pie dough. It is the egg yolks and the sour cream that will bind the flour/butter mix together and create a beautifully workable dough that is tender and flaky after baked.
There are several versions of Almás Pite, the double crust version here includes walnuts and raisins that are held together with a bit of flour in the sugar/cinnamon mix. Many recipes do not include flour, but instead, stir sugar into the raw grated apples, let them sit so that the juices extract and then squeeze out the juice. Then bread crumbs are sprinkled onto the raw bottom crust before the raw apples go in, the bread crumbs serving to soak up the remaining juice from the apples and prevent soggy crust. That's the strudel approach. And then another version of Almás Pite has a single bottom crust that is prebaked, the apple filing is cooked stove top and poured in, and the whole thing is covered with whipped meringue and given a final bake, much like lemon meringue pie. That is one of my favorites!
And regarding gadgetry, I used to use a standard box grater to grate apples...a great arm workout! Then I went to the food processor, which is fast, but the clean up time made up for any time gained with fancy electric efficiency. My favorite tool for grating apples is my handy dandy old fashioned walnut grinder, a tripod contraption that uses round cutting discs and has a detachable hand crank. Love this thing! I use it for nuts and cheese, and now apples too!
Almás Pite is served with a simple dusting of powdered sugar. For a fancier presentation, I add a nice dollop of whipped cream on the side. And if you really want to get trendy, a drizzle of caramel on the plate and some candied walnuts on the side...oh my!
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
8 oz unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
3 egg yolks
3 Tbsp sour cream
3 pounds apples
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 Tbsp melted butter, for brushing the top crust
1 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling on top, before the bake
Set over to 350 degrees.
For the pastry dough, measure flour and butter into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt. Rub butter and flour together until blended. Make a well in the center, add the yolks and the sour cream. Incorporate by stiring the yolks and sour cream with your finger and then begin to work the flour into the center. It should come together nicely into a ball. If it's too dry, add a bit more sour cream. Form into a ball and cut the dough almost in equal halves, the larger piece will be used for the bottom, the smaller for the top. Wrap the smaller half in plastic to keep it from drying out; this will be your top crust. Roll out the bottom crust so that it is large enough to go 1" up the side of a 9" x 12" baking pan, about 11" x 17". Place in pan keeping 1" of dough up against the sides of the pan.
For the filling, peel, core and quarter the apples. Grate them using your choice of equipment (see my fancy schmancy speedy disc grater?!) Mix the sugar, flour and cinnamon together. Add to the apples along with the walnuts and raisins. Pour onto bottom crust and even out the depth. Roll out top crust and place over filling. Adjust the top, trim excess dough and press edges a bit to seal together. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Pierce top crust with a fork.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool before cutting into squares. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy with an afternoon espresso!