Writing in a recent post about the beneficial relationship that fennel has with apples in the garden made me think about how they might make great companions in the kitchen, too. I don’t think I’ve experienced the combination much before, if ever. Recipes for the two together seem to be fairly thin on the ground outside of salads and roasts, and I was imagining them together in something baked. So I decided to experiment, and came up with this Fennel and Apple Crostata, which turned out to be delicious.
Fennel is a year round crop, while many apples, including Fujis, will store well into winter. Though our small harvest of apples didn’t make it through fall last year and our fennel only got started in that season, I’m looking forward to making this again in years to come with our homegrown produce.
I love the simple, rustic quality of a crostata versus a more formal-looking pie, and how it comes together in snap. So I started with an apple crostata recipe from Bon Apétit, added the fennel, and made some other changes. Slices of this pie have been nice as a breakfast pastry, as well as a dessert. The fennel was far from overpowering — it melded with the apple flavor to give it a deep complexity — making added maple syrup and ice cream totally unnecessary to achieve a great taste sensation. Keeping the peels on the apples and adding the fennel also helps to up the nutritional benefits of this sweet treat.
Fennel and Apple Crostata
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp flake sea salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 medium Fuji apples
- 1 fennel bulb
- half a lemon
- 1 egg
- more sugar for sprinkling
- butter for dotting
Mix flour, flake salt, and 1 tsp sugar together in a large bowl with a fork. Add butter, and cut into flour mixture using a pastry cutter until clumps are pea-sized. Drizzle cold water over mixture, and draw into the center of the bowl from the edges with a fork to bring the dough together. Squeeze dough together with hands and sprinkle with more water if too dry, until a ball forms. Flatten into disc, wrap in plastic, and chill in fridge for at least one hour. If chilling for longer, take the dough out to warm for at least 15 minutes before rolling.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Roll dough out on floured board into rough circle until about 15″ wide and about 1/8″ thick. Transfer dough to a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, by gently folding (not creasing) the disk in half before lifting onto sheet. Unfold.
Mix together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Quarter, stem and core, then thinly slice unpeeled apples and add to the bowl. Remove the root from the fennel bulb and thinly slice, discarding any stem. Add to the bowl and stir thoroughly until apple and fennel are well coated with sugar and spice mixture. Sprinkle juice of lemon over mixture and stir again.
Pile the apple and fennel mixture into the center of the dough, flattening slightly with the back of a wooden spoon. Fold the edges of the dough inward over the filling, like an envelope, leaving the center open. Beat the egg with a fork and brush over the dough. Sprinkle dough with sugar.
Place pan in oven on center rack and bake for 30 minutes. Dot exposed apple and fennel with butter and bake for another 30 minutes. Immediately slide crostata, using two spatulas, onto cutting board to prevent pie from sticking to parchment paper. Slice and enjoy warm or at room temperature.