Lithuanians love apples and have many recipes using this favourite fruit – in season right now and available throughout the year. Although apple pies are not a Lithuanian tradition, you will find some form of apple dessert or snack in every Lithuanian cookbook. There are many fine ones published in Lithuania, but they are rather difficult and expensive to purchase in North America. A famous one in English, “Taste Lithuania“ by Beata Nicholson is not readily available here. Today, of course, the internet is the go-to source for any and all recipes, and cookbooks are almost a thing of the past, although it‘s nostalgic fun to browse through them.
Typically, older Lithuanian culinary guides are quite terse, sometimes not providing explicit instructions – in other words, you should know the temperature and time required to bake a cake. In a book called “Lietuviški patiekalai“ (Lithuanian Dishes), recipes are presented in two paragraphs – one providing ingredients, a second detailing the method. It is assumed that you know your pastry dough… For example [translated literally with editorial comments in square brackets]:
SHORTBREAD APPLE PASTRY
5-6 apples, a glass [meaning one cup] of flour, 5 tablespoons icing sugar, 125 g. margarine [let‘s use 1/3 cup butter instead], 2 eggs, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon rum, ½ package baking powder [likely 1 tsp.], a dash of salt.
Beat margarine [butter] with sugar, blending in eggs, juice of ½ lemon, rum and salt. Add flour (with baking powder), beat well for 10-15 minutes [probably by hand – shorten your labour and save your wrist by using a mixer or food processor]. Line baking pan with parchment paper, add dough, smooth top and add apple slices (poke them into the dough). Bake at medium heat for about 60 min. After baking, sprinkle top with icing sugar.
Reading these old recipes can make you think today‘s cooks are truly being spoonfed – internet recipes typically describe each ingredient in detail and take you through the process step-by-step with photos from washing the apples to peeling, slicing, adding lemon juice to prevent browning… and only then do you find the actual recipe. “Jump to Recipe“ is a handy shortcut.
What else can we make with apples? In a later and quite extensive volume, “Lithuanian Cookery“, published in English (USA) Izabelė Sinkevičiūtė separates ingredients from method, making reading easier, but is still frugal with instructions. Yet this could be a delicious dessert.
APPLES IN MERINGUE
½ cup sugar
6 egg whites
Peel apples, core and cook. Drain and put into casserole dish. Beat egg whites, mix with sugar and cinnamon, arrange mixture on top of the apples. Bake in low heat, then serve warm.
An unusual but tasty use for apples I have seen for sale only in Lithuania is apple cheese. Here is a recipe by Josephine J. Dauzvardis in her book “Popular Lithuanian Recipes“ published in Chicago:
Bake whole tart apples (do not peel or core). Force through sieve or food mill. Simmer the pulp slowly in a heavy pot for about an hour, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Measure. To each cup of pulp add ½ cup of sugar. Bring to a slow boil. Chop fine the rind of one orange, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, pour off the water. Add the rind to the apple pulp, together with ½ to 1 teaspoon cinammon and cloves. Continue stirring and simmering over low flame until done. To test: drop a spoonful of mixture on a clean cloth wrung out of cold water. When the mixture does not stick to the cloth, it is done. Pour into a triangular cloth bag (jelly bag); place between two boards with a weight on top, allow to stand overnight or longer. Remove from cloth, place in a very slow oven until surface of cheese is dry. Honey may be substituted for sugar in same proportions.
This sounds like a lengthy challenge, but could be a fine snack. I found another recipe for it on lamaistas.lt. The perfect project for a cold winter day.
Meanwhile, here is a more recent recipe for Apple Squares from “Treasures of Lithuanian Cooking“. It sounds similar to the first recipe, but with nuts. I wonder if adding lemon juice (to the apples) and rum (instead of vanilla) would be good?
APPLE CAKE SQUARES
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups apples, peeled and coarsely chopped or thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Line a 9“x13“ or 8“x8“ baking pan with parchment. Preheat oven to 350oF. Beat eggs and white sugar until light and fluffy. Add oil, mix until smooth. Sift together flour and baking powder, add to creamed mixture, blend until smooth. Fold in apples and nuts. Pour batter into pan, sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 25 minutes until top is golden brown. Cut into squares and serve with whipping cream (or ice cream).