It might look okay, but it's not. It's really not.

Swing and a miss!  BA is oh-fer-two on desserts in 2010.  This apple torte was a big ‘ol flop, and the worst part is, it’s probably due to technical reasons. 

When I took a good look at the recipe, two problems presented themselves right away.  First, 8 cups of breadcrumbs were called for in the ingredient list, but only 3 were referenced in the directions, with no explanation for how this “new math” would work.  Oops. 

Second, the apples are cooked for quite a long time before filling the crust, and the whole thing is then baked for an additional hour.  Call me crazy, but that sho’ is a whole lotta cookin’ for delicate apple flesh.  When baking the guh-jillion other apple pies I’ve made in my life, the apples are tossed in sugar and spices and then placed into the crust still raw.  Hmmmmm. 

With that in mind, let us begin. 

Lidia’s Problematic Apple Torte, Take One.  Action! 

(A Sunday afternoon, weeks ago.) 

I purchased all the ingredients, which was a non-event except that I had to go to my slightly-larger-but-still-in-the-suburbs supermarket to get the hazelnuts.  I got home and started the prep, beginning, naturally, with the breadcrumbs.  Having made the aforementioned guh-jillion apple pies before in my life, how hard could this be? 

Well, I de-crusted my grocery store French bread, chunked it up, pulsed it in the processor, and dumped it into my handy 2-quart measuring cup… and only had 4 cups.  Drat.  I’d have to go back to the store.  I stowed the crumbs temporarily in the refrigerator.  Because, you know, I was gonna back run to the store.  Any second.  That day. 

Lidia’s Problematic Apple Torte, Take Two.  Action! 

(The following Sunday afternoon, still weeks ago.)  

After a week of cramming our fridge contents around a giant 2-quart measuring cup, I finally froze them for later use on something else.  As you know, refrigerators are more than just coolers, they’re also de-humidifiers.  So crumbs stashed in the fridge for a week would be pretty darn dry before they ever see the oven, where they would might do something unexpected, like overbrown quickly.  And I wanted to be true to the recipe.  

So I bought two fresh loaves of French bread.  My apples and lemons still looked pretty good. 

And then my back went out.  Bah! 

Lidia’s Problematic Apple Torte, Take Three.  Action! 

(The third Sunday afternoon in a row, still weeks ago.) 

Well, my back was still bothering me a week later, but being the young nimble thirty-something that I am, I just knew a full recovery was right around the corner.  So I asked Matt (who was doing the grocery shopping, due to the back injury) to pick up my torte ingredients, so that I’d be able to hit the ground running.  The apples and lemons had gone south, and the second round of bread was petrified long ago. 

But my back didn’t get better; it got worse.  Pill popping commenced, with the ancillary benefit of helping me cope with my frustrations.  And the third set of petrified bread on the counter.  Grrrrr. 

Lidia’s Problematic Apple Torte, Take Four.  Action! 

(Yesterday.)  

Last week, the back still wasn’t great, but better.  However, I was so busy catching up on work and life that the apple torte had to wait.  Plus, somewhere during the interlude, I made the mistake of checking the online version of the recipe.  Bad move.  Comments were flying about the technical problems with the recipe.  Even Jasmine, a fellow blogger who’s also covering all the BA covers, pans the thing, and she’s normally a pretty sunny optimist.  It’s hard to get pumped over something you know isn’t going to go well, you know? 

Yesterday, I sucked it up and made the thing, muttering something about if I’d only gone back for that second loaf during Take One, this Frankenpie would be behind me.  Matt stopped by the kitchen, during the bread grinding process, to ask what I’m up to.  “Apple Torte, Take Four,” was my reply.  “Noooo,” he said.  “I’ve seen four sets of bread come through this kitchen, and I can tell you with certainty that this process does not yield pie.”  (I reminded him that he’d been properly Mirandized, and anything he said could and would be used against him on the blog.  He sported a half-smile, then left.) 

Luckily, no tragedies befell me before cranking out an actual pie this time.  And the result? 

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it was pretty bad.  As expected, the filling was overcooked apple mush (albeit overcooked apple mush with a pleasant kick of cider).  And as expected, there was a metric ton of breadcrumbs left unused at the end.  Jasmine said that she tore the bread into chunks, measured 8 cups of chunks, toasted the chunks, ground them, and that gave her 3 cups of crumbs.  If that’s what the recipe intended, then that’s the most poorly written recipe I’ve seen in a long time.  

But I actually think it was a simple typo, and the 3 should have been a 6 or an 8.  The crust was so wet as to be impossible to work with — I had to add shocking amounts of flour just to get it to behave, which is normally a show-killing mistake when working with pie crust.  And the final product was chewy and tasted too much like butter; further evidence that the proportions were off and more crumbs were needed. 

The other beef I have with this recipe is the hazelnut husking, which is a task I reserve for only the most promising of recipes.  Like squeezing cooked greens dry, the final product better be eye-rolling good to make it worth all the effort.  That was obviously not true in this case: in addition to the crust weirdness I’ve already mentioned, the flavor of the hazelnuts was completely lost in the mix.  Not cool. 

I had more of an issue with the crust than the filling; for Matt, it was the other way around.  I think this recipe is the worst of the year so far; Matt still thinks the gingersnap wannabe cheesecake parfait thingys were unforgivable. 

To any would-be testers of this recipe out there: proceed with caution.  Sorry Lidia, sorry Bon Appétit.  If BA responds to the online comments (which they normally do), I’ll be sure to give an update here.* 

On to turkey!  (Gulp.) 


*Actually, the BA web editor had already addressed the breadcrumb issue before I wrote this post, and I missed it because it was on the second page of comments.  She wrote, “When the recipe says “spread breadcrumbs on large rimmed baking sheet”, use all 8 cups of fresh breadcrumbs. After the breadcrumbs bake/dry, they’ll shrink – leaving you with about 3 cups to proceed with. Hope this helps!” 

Of course, that doesn’t really help. In my case, the crumbs shrank to about 6 cups, not 3, and in my view, the crust needed more crumbs.  (Cringe.)