the flawed apple crisp from the kinfolk cookbook


It’s rare that a cookbook would evoke such vitriol, but after I received the Kinfolk Cookbook: Gatherings You’ll Likely Never to be Invited to, I paged through the book and found myself livid. While I’m saving my rage rampage for a review on Medium (as I’ve still a few more recipes to test), I will say this: their representation of Brooklyn — the place where I was born and raised, and fell in love with the vibrancy and passion with which we made our food, even if we bought our dishes with food stamps and waitressing tips — is austere, whitewashed and affluent, devoid of flavor, color and texture. And after thumbing through 300 some-odd pages, it occurred to me that the cookbook is a variation on a singular theme: the creation of a life lived in an Anthropologie catalog. It’s the reason why we get lost in blogs. We want our linens and bowls and kitchens with reclaimed wood — Kinfolk is a very specific America, rife with denizens who are preened to disheveled perfection.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 4.36.06 PMThey drive miles for mussels and set a formidable table in their outdoor barns. Theirs is a life of cultivated beauty that carries its own disquiet, giving the illusion of simplicity when it’s nothing more than understated affluence and luxury. The kind of gatherings where meals are photographed with a thousand-dollar camera, everyone has clean skin, shiny hair, and ebullient optimism. The portraits tell you everything and nothing at once, and there is no real visceral connection between image and type, rather it’s the story of people who project the lives you wish you could live, and the recipes are merely an antecedent to that lovely fiction, down to the stalks of grass in their hands and wisteria in their hair. If we’re to believe, as the founders of Kinfolk tell us, that this book is the celebration of gatherings, where is that passion in the crafting of the recipes and how the instructions are delivered? Because they’re cold, formulaic, sometimes off — hardly connecting the meal to the person to the story to the gathering celebrating it all. What is it then we’re celebrating? A life lived in organic sepia? A life through the lens of those who photograph it?

I’ve seen more passion in 2chainz’s cookbook than in this pristine whitewash of an affair.

And while you could argue that perhaps I’m not the audience for Kinfolk, I’m the audience for food, and after testing three recipes, the book has some demonstrable flaws.

I made this crisp {twice!}, to the letter, and both times the crisp failed. Please know that I’ve been making pies and crisps and crumbles for the better part of a decade, and the recipe is flawed in the sense of flavor balance, texture and technique. The juice of two lemons + tart apples + 1/4 cup of sugar yielded a nearly astringent lemon flavor that overpowered the apples + the cinnamon. The topping was entirely too sweet, sickeningly so, for the amount of flour in the recipe, so on the third go, I’ve made some significant alterations to the final recipe. Additionally, covering the crisp with parchment and wax only added to the cooking time and didn’t do anything in terms of the final product. I could have easily gone without (as I’ve done for 16 years) and have enjoyed a simple crisp. However, since the crisp was tented, I had to increase the cooking time to achieve a brown crust, which inevitably yielded apples the consistency of applesauce.

In short, there is absolutely no reason why I needed to tent my crisp. There is no justice in following the original printed recipe to the letter.

All of this begs the question: were the recipes in this cookbook tested in a real kitchen so we, as consumers, can be certain that the chemistry is on point? Was the cookbook proofed, for I found a lot of errors in the recipes, and I’m only three dishes in. Insert image of a side-eye.

Trust me, more to come on Medium.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Kinfolk: Recipes for Small Gatherings, with

For the topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp quick cooking oats (you can also use rolled oats)
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the pie
4 tbsp of unsalted butter, cold and diced
2 1/2 lbs of mixed apples (tart + sweet. I love empire, granny smith and golden delicious), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

For the topping: Combine the flour, sugars, oats and allspice in a medium bowl and mix until combined. Add the butter and mix with your hands until your have the consistency of fat peas. Set aside.

For the pie: Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish with 2 tbsp of butter. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice + zest to prevent oxidation (or the apples turning brown). Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl, then add this to the apples until they’re evenly coated. Transfer the apples to the prepared dish, and distribute the crumbly topping evenly. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter to the top of the crumble.

Add the pie on a large baking sheet covered in parchment paper, and bake the crisp for 50-60 minutes, until the topping is brown, and the juices bubble up.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes on a rack, and serve!

Image credit: Kinfolk Magazine {second image}


pie + tart recipes sweet recipes