SHARON ONA (this article was first published September 3, 2012)
Our kitchen was and is both the heart of our home and where my most precious and vivid memories were created. I was so fortunate to have my maternal grandparents living within walking distance of my parents’ house; and when I say our kitchen, I think of my grandmother’s kitchen. So many of our meals, from summertime lunches to holiday dinners, were spent there. Her kitchen was filled with wonderfully delicious smells that permeated throughout the house, coaxing us to the table. She could put together a meal worthy of a pictorial spread in Gourmet magazine at a moment’s notice, a talent my mother has in spades. Thick slices of deep red juicy tomatoes sprinkled with chopped chives, beautifully roasted tender whole chicken with golden brown salty skin, fresh string beans cooked in onions and garlic, simple beet salad flavored with beet horseradish, good Swiss chocolate, and seasonal fruit pies made with Mürbeteig dough adorned her table regularly.
Since commencing my food-writing journey, I’ve become a sort of culinary family historian, learning who gave whom what recipe, where it came from, and documenting our personal memories in print. Some of our more amusing memories include my propensity for taking leftover dough and adding to it copious amounts of pantry staples like flour and black pepper, creating what was affectionately dubbed grouch food. Making grouch food, as in only fit for consumption by Oscar the Grouch (the only person Muppet best suited to eat my less-than-palatable concoctions) was a favorite childhood pastime. It meant hanging out in the kitchen with my sister and grandmother and getting to play with my food at the same time. It didn’t get any better.
As I got older I helped with actual meal preparation. Washing vegetables was one of my regular responsibilities. I can still hear my grandmother exclaim, “There’s so much dirt! I think we brought home half the farm,” as she stood over her sink overflowing with water and leafy greens. I assembled and rolled rouladen, cut out holiday cookies using her vintage cookie cutters, which we still use today, and held the hand mixer to make mashed potatoes. Outings to the bakery, the butcher, and the farmers’ market, where I was treated at each place with a goodie from the nice person behind the counter, are memories I cherish.
My grandmother passed away over thirteen years ago, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. In fact, I think of her even more now that I have plunged head first into my recipe-hoarding (and sharing) preoccupation.
Her Mürbeteig recipe came from her grandmother, my two-times great grandmother in Switzerland. Writing something like that down makes the recipe all the more special and I am happy to say that it has stood the test of time. So here it goes, my attempt at one of our oldest family recipes.
The fresh, floral scent of ripe apricots, a quintessential summer fragrance that I just cannot deny, beckoned me at the farmers’ market. Oh, how I love stone fruit. Those little golden jewels were destined to be baked to perfection on top of lightly sweetened, buttery Mürbeteig, and so I fought the urge to eat them all straight out of my reusable bag.
Now, I’ve never made Mürbeteig before because, quite frankly, watching my grandmother make it didn’t look all that appealing. In order to achieve the right consistency, you must mix the dough vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon. For those of you who want to skip the gym today, make this dough instead and your biceps will never be the wiser. But I promise you, it’s worth the effort.
- ½ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature (it must be very soft), plus extra for greasing the pan and wax paper
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar, plus ½ teaspoon for sprinkling over the fruit before and after baking
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
- 8 ripe apricots, washed, pitted and cut in half
- Whipped Cream to serve (see recipe below)
- Fresh mint for garnish (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the first six ingredients in a large bowl and mix vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon. Don’t try to make this in a food processor or with an electric mixer – it just won’t come out right. The mixture should have a creamy consistency without any lumps.
Place the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, form into a ball and refrigerate overnight. Lick the bowl and the spoon.* Mmmm.
Place the chilled dough onto either a buttered sheet tray or divide the dough in half and place into two buttered 8-inch round pie tins. Break up the cold dough into pieces and with lightly-floured fingers, press the dough into a thin layer into your respective pan or pans.
Cut 8 apricots in half and place on the dough cut-side up. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar. Butter a sheet of wax paper and place on top of the cut apricots.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the dough is lightly golden around the edges and the fruit is soft.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the apricots with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of sugar.
Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream. Any leftovers should be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated and brought back to room temperature to serve.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Confectioner’s sugar, to taste
- ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks begin to form.
Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat.