It’s fall, when we think of drinking apple cider, eating pumpkin and apple pies, wearing cable-knit sweaters, and, of course, romance. Ah, fall romance!
Rake leaves with your significant other and, in slow motion of course, toss them in the air before falling backward onto the ginormous pile. Kiss as you fondly wipe leaves off each other’s heads and shoulders. Afterward, settle in front of a cozy fire, drinking spiked cider or mulled red wine. Yes, it’s the perfect time for romance.
Autumn in New England is particularly lovely; it’s the colorful season before the starkness of the long winter. The heroes and heroines in some of my books bundle up for fall in Boston, the hometown of my fictional Malloy family. They particularly enjoy some Massachusetts delicacies to be had this time of year. On any given fall evening, Reed Malloy and his mother and sisters might enjoy warm crabs with pears preserved in maple syrup, a cup of steaming beef tea, and a tart of ground plums.
Below, I give you the Malloy family cook’s recipe for a delicious apple dessert, which she makes yearly in the kitchen of their Beacon Hill home on Mount Vernon Street.
Hailing from Ireland, their cook Maggie makes an apple tart, rather than an apple pie. It’s served with custard—thinner but similar to that which found its way into the original Boston Cream Pie created in 1856 at Boston’s Parker House (originally called the Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie, by the way). That recipe is a bit tricky. I know because I’ve made it myself.
So let’s stick to traditional fall apples and Maggie’s Irish tart. After the recipe, you can enter the Fall into Romance Grand Prize Rafflecopter Giveaway, a $75 Amazon gift card. And if you tell me your favorite fall food, I’ll enter you in my personal giveaway: a digital copy of An Improper Situation, Book 1 of my Defiant Hearts series.
Note: When all four of the Malloy children had grown to be at least 16 years of age, Maggie added back in to her tart her country’s famed Irish single-malt whiskey, so I’ve included it in the recipe.
Some extra tips from Maggie, passed down to her from her “blessed ma,” are in italics.
Maggie’s Irish Apple Tart with Custard
(Use an eight-inch perforated pie tin so the bottom layer of pastry cooks thoroughly. Always bake until well-browned, no matter how long the recipe says, though a goodly filled apple pie should take about 50 minutes, and less time if you scrimp on the apples. If your pastry is made well, you won’t need to grease the tin as the lard and butter make their own grease and the pie should slip out for cooling on a plate.
For making fluffy pastry:
(Use a smooth wooden board and wooden rolling-pin with handles. Lard makes for a more flaky crust than butter, but butter adds better flavor. I use both!)
1 & 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup lard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cold water as needed
- Wash the butter, pat, and form it in a circle.
- Mix the salt and flour, and work in lard with tips of your fingers or a regular table knife.
- Sprinkle with cold water until dough forms.
- Toss on wooden board scattered sparingly with flour, then pat and roll out.
- Fold in the butter, pat, and roll out. Fold so you’ve got three layers, turn half-way round, pat, and roll out; repeat.
(Use the pastry promptly or you’ll need to fold it in cheese-cloth, put it in a covered tin, and keep in a cold place. Have you got a cellar?)
For the filling:
Splash of Irish single-malt whiskey (maybe an ounce or two)
9 oz. muscovado (that’s fancy for Mrs. Malloy’s favorite brown) sugar
3 lbs. of cooking apples, peeled and cored (tart or sweet or mixture)
small pat of butter (a generous woman’s tablespoon)
1 cinnamon stick, very slightly crushed
few gratings of lemon rind and a tsp. of lemon juice
pinch of salt, pinch of nutmeg (depends how large your fingers are; Reed loves the nutmeg, but I know young Rose would prefer if I used cinnamon and you can, too, if you like)
1 egg beaten, with a splash of milk
- Peel and core the apples, then cut them into large chunks.
- Melt butter in a heavy-bottom pan. (Don’t burn it, for St. Patrick’s sake.)
- Toss the apples in the butter, then add half the sugar, the cinnamon stick, and a healthy splash of whiskey. (That wasn’t healthy enough—give it another splash Go on!)
- Cook the apples for about 4 minutes , then drain any excess juice.
- Add the lemon rind and juice, the salt and the nutmeg and give it a good stir.
(Sometimes, I put about a quarter pound of raisins in a pan with more a couple ounces of whiskey and add 1 tsp of sugar. I’ll simmer it and put it aside. But not if Sophie is going to eat the apple tart, as she despises raisins.)
Putting it all together:
- Roll two-thirds of the pastry to the thickness of a fairly flat biscuit. (We love to have lemon biscuits around the house for the Malloys’ teatime.)
- Prick pastry with a fork, then bake in a moderately hot oven for around 10 minutes. Brush with beaten egg/milk mixture, then return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Repeat this once more, cooking for another 5 minutes.
- Leave the pastry to cool, then add the apple (and if Sophie’s not around the raisin mixture).
- Roll the tart’s topper using the remaining pastry and carefully lay it over the apples. Use a little of the beaten egg to make the top stick to the bottom around the edges.
- Prick the top to release steam, use more of the egg mixture on the top of the pastry (you can use a pastry brush or your fingers) and sprinkle with the remaining half of the muscovado sugar.
- Put the tart in a very hot oven and cook for 20 minutes until the tart’s topper is golden.
For the custard
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup of white sugar
1 & 1/2 cups of milk (make sure the farmer hasn’t skimmed the cream; we want fatty milk)
(You know, as my sainted da used to say, it never hurts to add a little whiskey to the custard, too.)
- Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until a lovely pale yellow color, 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the milk in a pan and bring it just to a boil.
- Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture.
- Return the mixture to the pan and stir until custard thickens (don’t have your stove too hot), about 4 minutes. (Custard should be thick enough to coat the back of a serving spoon. Lick it off!)
(Of course, serve it warm over the apple tart, just like my blessed ma used to do.)
And now for the Fall into Romance giveaway. Grand Prize: a $75 Amazon Gift Card!
But before you go to the Rafflecopter site and enter to win, tell me your favorite fall dish in the comments below to enter to win a digital copy of An Improper Situation, Book 1 in my Defiant Hearts series.
“And where did you learn to dance, Mr. Malloy?”
“I picked it up, here and there. And it’s time to be Reed and Charlotte now, don’t you think?”
She nodded. The intimacy of first names in public sent another shiver down her spine. What would Eliza think of that?
“Tomorrow,” he added, looking around them at the other dancers, “we need to talk.”
“Tomorrow,” she repeated, and his blue eyes met hers. But tonight, she thought, there was no need for words. The next tune picked up the tempo, and Charlotte was soon whirling around the dance floor.
“Everyone is so fine-looking,” she observed as he drew her in close, “like freshly picked flowers, don’t you think?”
Reed shook his head.
“You have no idea that you’re the most radiant woman here.”
She stopped still for a moment, looking up at his handsome face, now grown dear to her. He tightened his hold on her hand and led her off the dance floor, stopping at a quiet spot, next to one of the empty stalls.
“There’s something so vibrant about you, Charlotte, so different from anyone I’ve ever known. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to keep company with you at home. In Boston, I mean.”
He cocked his head at her, and daringly, she rested her palm on his chest, feeling his heart beating fast from the dancing. “Would you become just the same as all the women I’ve known in the endless drawing rooms of Boston?”
She shrugged, unwilling to break his lighthearted musings and at a loss as to how those other women behaved.
He continued, “I doubt that any environment could change the honest reactions of one Charlotte Sanborn. You could never be other than a head full of strong opinions, with the intelligence to garner respect, and the beauty that encourages men’s admiration and women’s envy.”
“Oh, my,” she laughed. “I sound like a paragon, indeed.” If he was trying to persuade her, he was nearly succeeding. She was just about ready to pack her trunks.
“Not too much of a paragon, I hope,” he said softly, changing the mood. His gaze dropped to her full lips for a moment, then to her own hungry glance, making her want desperately to be kissed.
“What are you thinking?” he asked her, leaning his head even closer. She didn’t care that they were only against the rough wooden wall in Drake’s—with every person she’d ever known only feet away. She didn’t care that he’d put his hand on her waist in public or that his leg was close amongst her skirts. She wanted desperately for him to kiss her right then.