Now that it's March, we can start counting the weeks before the first blush of rhubarb hits our markets. It's a time of great anticipation, but also of intense longing and impatience with Mother Nature's scarce offering. Above all, it presents us with the need to get creative with baking ideas. For example, a few weeks ago, I shared a pie made with frozen berries in an attempt to break up the doldrums a bit. Today, I'm jazzed to be sharing another one that thinks outside the seasonal box by marrying apples with tangy and sweet dried fruits.
Upon testing this combination, I made some pleasant discoveries. The first is not that surprising—apples combined with dried cranberries, cherries, and figs make for a delicious medley of sweet and tart. What I hadn't anticipated was how well the variety of textures in the filling would work together. This combination of crisp, soft, and chewy is a nice departure from that of traditional apple pie. Also, I quite liked how the fruit absorbed some of the apple juices, helping to dry out the filling naturally and giving the re-hydrated fruit maximum flavor.
When making this pie, I highly recommend that you use Kenji's blanching method, which instructs you to partially cook the apples by first covering them with boiling water. This method helps ensure that the apples cook thoroughly during the baking process.
The dried fruit that you select for the pie is up to you. I used a combination of dried cranberries, cherries, and chopped figs, but I can see raisins, dates, or currants working well too. Choose a balance of tart and sweet and go from there. After all, variety is the spice of life, and it feels good to have choices during this limited time of year.