One of the great pleasures of operating a vacation-rental home — and mind you, we’ve been doing this for all of two weeks now — is hearing from people who will be coming from far and wide to visit our area and experience our unique combination of wine country, classic small town, college town, gracious Oregon living, and, of course, food and pastry mecca. Receiving a new rental request is already producing Pavlovian responses in us, as in when the Airbnb or HomeAway icon bongs on the phone and we start racing around in circles like the Three Stooges and screaming, “A customer! A customer!” The summer calendar is filling up nicely and we’ve booked visits from people who are coming from Texas, from New Jersey, from California, and from all over the Pacific Northwest.
Can we accommodate a family coming to a wedding? A retired couple from New Hampshire who want to spend two months being closer to the grandkids? An artist teaching a summer-school course? Old friends celebrating their 60th birthdays with a first-ever trip to explore Oregon wineries? Return visitors to the awesome International Pinot Noir Celebration? Sure, we can!
Our first guests arrived yesterday, and I doubt that anyone this year will beat their record for farthest distance traveled. They are six workers from the city of Xiamen in the south of China who have come to the U.S. to spend six weeks working at a McMinnville manufacturing plant, where they will lend their production expertise to the fabrication of airplane parts. They arrived, cheerful but bushed from the 26-hour journey, yesterday afternoon, and were thrilled to see our big, happy house that will be their little slice of Oregon heaven for the next month and a half.
We produced a welcome kit of rice, radishes, noodles, scallions, tea, coffee and a few other things to get them started before they have a chance to hit the grocery store and Farmers Market that begins this week in McMinnville. But what of pastry, you ask? What to make for a group of people who have never been to America, much less Oregon, much less McMinnville?
The answer is something that we made up on the spot and was so delicious when we tried it that we made one for our first guests and will now add to our repertoire of go-to baked goods. Call this one a fusion of the great American apple pie, a French tart form and crust, and that most-delicious of comfort foods — apple crisp. We played with the slicing and arranging of the apples to make it pretty, finally settling on leaving a thin rim of peel on the red apples (but removing the sour peels from the green), slicing them into half-moons and layering them in a big, dramatic circle to make a gorgeous, sunburst of a presentation.
Serve this with whipped cream and your family will display their own Pavlovian responses of unseemly moaning with delight, drooling, and begging for more.
We couldn’t be happier to share this, and our wonderful Pastry Ranch home, with our new guests from afar.
APPLE CRISP TART, a recipe
Preheat the oven to 375. Spray your 9″ fluted tart pan with Baker’s Joy, or butter it. Line it with this pastry dough.
In a mixing bowl, throw together:
1/2 C of brown sugar
1T of cinnamon
1/2 C of slivered almonds
3 T of butter (salted or unsalted)
Mix it all together with a fork or your fingers to make a crisp topping and then spread it evenly over the crust in the tart pan.
You’ll need 1 large, red apple (I used a Fuji) and 1 large, green apple (Granny Smith). Peel the green one, but not the red one. Cut them into halves from top to bottom. Use a paring knife to trim out the stem ends at the two poles of each half, and use a melon-baller or scoop to scoop out the seed and pith from the center in a neat circle.
Now lay the halves down on their flat sides and cut thin slices down the length of them so you wind up with about 60 neat semi-circles of apple.
Arrange the apple slices around the perimeter of the tart pan, covering the crisp topping (which is now a bottoming), starting at the outside edge and overlapping the slices as you go around. Continue overlapping slices as you continue to the center, and when the whole thing is covered, start again on the outside edge and create a second layer of apple slices over the first.
You could glaze this to make it shiny and prettier by melting 1/4 C of apricot jam in a saucepan and brushing it over the top layer of apples. But I didn’t bother, because it’s already pretty and I didn’t want the extra sweetness from the jam. Pop it in the oven, bake for 25 minutes until the crust browns and the apples release their juices into the crisp layer. Be sure to turn it once in the oven when it’s halfway through baking in order to get an even bake. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then unmold it from the tart pan.
Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Prepare to see this one disappear fast.