The deer have been sneaking under their favorite apple tree, the one with clear yellow fruit, for their pre-dawn snacks. Rising early, we can usually see two or three large does gliding in and out under the low-hanging branches, cleaning up all the drops. Because those particular apples are some of my favorites as well, I hustled out after the deer had faded into the woods to retrieve a shopping bag full of them, before they were all eaten, and have been happily experimenting with various recipes.

Because a full-sized pie seems to hang around here too long, I’d been making pies in a small, brown-glazed pie plate, for which a one-crust recipe is ample for both top and bottom crusts, but when a guest came for dinner recently I made a full-sized rustic crostata instead. It’s the current new favorite, its pate brisee dough richer than regular pie crust and a perfect envelope for the tart, drier wild apples I use (although any tart apple works just as well).

A P P L E   C R O S T A T A

Pate Brisee:
1 cup flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
2 tsp. sugar
12 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. cold butter, diced
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp. cream
Place flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and combine well. Add butter cubes and mix with hands or pastry blender until there are pea-sized pieces of butter. Combine egg yolk and cream and add them to the mix, stirring until you have a shaggy dough with large pieces of butter visible. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and use the palm of your hand to press the dough out in long strips on the work surface to create long layers of fat. (This blending of the butter into the flour is called “frissage.”) Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 15 minutes in the refrigerator before rolling out.
Apple Filling:
112 lbs. firm apples (3 large)
12 cup sugar
14 cup flour
14 tsp. salt
14 tsp. each cinnamon and allspice
4 Tbsp. cold butter, diced
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Transfer it to a baking sheet. Peel, core, and cut apples into eighths, then cut each wedge into three chunks. Toss chunks with 1⁄4 cup sugar then cover crostata dough with chunks, leaving a 112-inch border. Combine flour, remaining 14 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a mixing bowl and cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold border over the apples to enclose the crostata, pleating it to make a circle. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you're short of time or don’t want to fuss with rolling out pastry, here’s a simple German-style apple cake that is chock full of apples.

G E R M A N   A P P L E   C A K E

Apple filling:
6 firm, tart apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
12 tsp. allspice
14 cup sugar
Cake batter:
234 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
12 tsp. salt
12 cup melted butter
112 cups sugar
14 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan. Toss apple chunks with cinnamon, allspice and sugar in a mixing bowl. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, orange juice and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing well. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour remaining batter over the apples, then top with remaining apples. Sprinkle walnuts on top with apples. Bake one hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before turning out onto a plate.