The Hungarian word pite is not easy to translate into English. My dictionary says: pite – fruit-flan, pie, tart, and for almás pite – apple tart/turnover. Other sources call it apple cake. The name doesn’t really matter – the two flaky buttery crusts, bottom and top, filled with cinnamon flavored apples make one of the classic Hungarian pastry staples.
The closest to it is the famous Austrian Linzer Torte, originated in the city of Linz. In a Hungarian kitchen, pite is usually baked in a bigger rectangular baking dish (not like American tarts or pies), and you can find as many different recipes, as you find kitchens. My mother alone had four different versions for it! This is one of her recipes.
The sweet smell and taste of this pastry vividly brings back the memories of my childhood Sunday afternoons – two little girls, my sister and I, constantly sneaking into the pantry to “steal” just one more, and then again, just one more piece from the covered glass tray where my mother wanted to keep the small rectangular pieces of the pite for more than only one day. You cannot stop eating this tart!
But back to the name. Outstanding New York pastry chef, Sarabeth Levine, describing her Sweet Tart Dough in her cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours says: “Unlike pies, which are served from their baking dishes, tarts are removed from their pans, and therefore require a crisp, strong crust to contain the filling.” This convinced me: I am calling my almás pite an apple tart.
for the dough
all-purpose flour – 500 g
baking powder – 12 g
salt – a pinch
unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes – 200 g
powdered sugar – 100 g
egg yolks – 2
milk – around 4 tablespoons
for the filling
apples – 1 – 1.5 kg
superfine sugar – 150 – 200 g
ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
butter – for greasing the baking pan
egg, beaten – 1, for glazing (optional)
powdered sugar – for decorating the baked tart
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add the powdered sugar, egg yolks, and milk. Form a ball from the dough and divide it into two equal halves. Covered with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
Peel and grate the apples through the big holes of your grater into a medium bowl. (Since I don’t mind discoloration, I don’t sprinkle the apples with lemon juice, but you can do it if you like.) Rest the apples for 20 to 30 minutes, then squeeze out most of the liquid from them with your hands and place in a new bowl. (Don’t forget to drink the fresh apple juice.)
Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Grease a bigger rectangular baking pan. Mix the granulated sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough and place it in the baking pan. (How thin or thick it should be varies by individual taste.) If the dough cracks while rolling it or while in the pan, just patch it with your fingers. Spread the apple filling evenly over the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Roll out the second half and cover the apples with it. Poke holes in the top layer of crust with a fork (to get the steam out during baking). Brush the top with beaten egg – but this is optional.
Bake for about 60 minutes. Cool in the pan, then slice into smaller or bigger rectangles. Dust with powdered sugar.