Inside: Easy-peasy gluten-free Russian apple pie. This is a recipe that your kids will enjoy making, baking and eating.
Physics, geometry, and chemistry were not the only subjects taken seriously in Soviet times. In my public high school, we were also required to take a class named Trudovoe Obuchenie, or Trud, the name that I can only translate as Home Economics.
For two hours each week, the girls baked and sewed, while boys hammered and soldered. Sometimes I dreamed of switching places with the boys, especially on the days when we were sewing yet another boring apron for mother’s day, and the boys were outside making wooden planters.
However, I was very content with being where I was when it was a cooking rotation. We got to eat everything we cooked, and as actively growing kids, we were always hungry.
Those were the days when boys whispered and giggled outside the girls’ classroom, inhaling the delicate aromas drifting from the four cooking ovens. Okay, I take back the “delicate aroma” because we were known to burn things on a regular basis.
In measured intervals, some boys worked up the courage to stick their heads in to inquire half-pleadingly, “You’ll be sharing with us, right?” They were always hungry too.
Russian Apple Pie or Sharlotka
The quintessential Sharlotka or Russian apple pie was the crown of each year’s baking curriculum. We baked our pies in groups of 3-4 and were mercilessly graded on the results (too brown, too rough, too tall, too tough). The grade of “5” (equivalent of an American “A”) was reserved for a perfect pie, “4” (or “B”) was given to the ones with minor imperfections, “2” (or “F”) went to the pies that even hungry boys out in the hallway refused to eat (they ate almost everything else, even the pie we dropped on a floor and accidentally stepped on. Don’t ask).
Now that I’ve baked my share of difficult and easy desserts, I understand why our teacher picked an apple pie. It’s one of those things that is almost impossible to mess up. You cut the apples and throw them in the pan. Mix eggs with sugar and flour and dump it over apples. Bake.
I have improved the classic Russian recipe by making it gluten-free. My choice is a mix of hazelnut flour (which is just ground hazelnuts) for protein and gluten-free baking flour.
If you are used to very sweet, store-bought desserts, you might find one cup of sugar insufficient, especially if you use tart apples like Granny Smith and Honey Crisp. You have an option of either increasing the amount of sugar or sprinkling powdered sugar on a baked pie before eating.
Little prep work!
This dessert requires very little prep work, about 10 minutes, if like us you skip peeling apples. The skin packs most of the vitamins and fiber anyway!
I love apple pie with raisins. I eat
1 cup coconut palm sugar (see note below *)
Juice of one lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
½ cup hazelnut meal/flour
½ cup gluten-free flour
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp arrowroot powder (divided)
Butter for pan
Powdered sugar (for decorating, optional)
* Note on sugar: you will get a fluffier dessert with regular white sugar. I prefer using organic Coconut Palm sugar whenever I have it. It makes me feel a little bit better about giving my kids dessert.
9-inch Springform pan
What to do
I like to sprinkle about a ½ teaspoon of arrowroot powder inside the springform.
6. In a medium bowl mix hazelnut flour, gluten-free flour and ½ tsp arrowroot powder. Add it to the egg-sugar mixture with a spoon just until combined.
Is it ready yet?
When checking for readiness, test with a toothpick. If it comes out without clumps stuck to it, it’s ready. Cool the pie for a bit. Then flip it out onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper, and dust with powdered sugar (if you wish). You might need to run a spatula around the edges to loosen the crust from the walls. If the presentation is not important and you want to start eating the pie right away, don’t even bother flipping it over. Just sprinkle it with some powdered sugar and eat away.