My mother was born and raised in Switzerland. She’s lived in California for the past thirty years now but there will always be parts of her that are distinctly Swiss – her slight accent (which everyone always thinks is Irish), cleanliness, punctuality, and cooking.
Whenever we visit my family in Switzerland, I’m always struck by how wonderfully simple the food is. Meats, cheeses, fish, potatoes, bread, and vegetables make up most of the meals. The food is unfussy and there is an emphasis on good quality ingredients. Meals are usually healthy but Swiss cooks don’t shy away from butter and cream – however, the portion sizes are notably smaller. A proper meal is one that is eaten with family and a glass of wine. It’s a beautiful way of cooking and eating.
My childhood is full of Swiss meals, one of the most memorable being pie. Tarts, pies, and quiches are rampant in Swiss cooking. Unlike their American counterparts, they are more savory than sweet and are often eaten as a meal instead of desert. If you ever get the chance to try kaeswaie, little Swiss cheese tarts, do it!
Pie, usually apple or apricot, was a frequently served for lunch when I was growing up. My mom made her pie with a layer of ground almonds, fresh fruit, and an egg custard. I remember trying American apple pie and being so confused by the double crust and sweet filling – it was nothing like the apple pie I knew.
This week, I stopped by the farmer’s market right before it closed and one of the vendors generously loaded me up with ripe apricots. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at my mother’s pie.
She doesn’t have much of a recipe for her pie. It’s something she has made over and over, with a pinch of this and a splash of that. I did my best and was happy with how it turned out.
The only thing I would change is the crust – I used half whole wheat flour and substituted yogurt for some of the butter. It turned out okay but was a pain and a half to roll out and lost some of the delicious buttery flakiness that pie crust should have. I’m going to keep tweaking it, but for now I would recommend using your favorite crust recipe or doing as my mother does and picking up a package of premade dough.
Mom’s Apricot Pie
I’m sharing her recipe in the same bare-bones form she gave it to me. I may go back and add in specific amounts but for now, I like the simplicity of this loose recipe.
Time: about 1.25 hours (15 min prep, 1 hour bake)
Yield: 1 pie, serves 8
- premade pie crust, or your favorite recipe
- almonds, or almond meal
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Butter pie pan and line with pie crust. Use a fork to poke holes throughout the bottom and sides of the crust.
- Cover with about 1/4 inch of ground almonds (grind your own in a blender/food processor or use premade almond meal – whatever you have around).
- Halve or quarter apricots and fill pie pan, starting from the outside in.
- Bake about 20 minutes or until crust just barely starts to brown.
- Whisk eggs, half and half, and sugar in a bowl. Add cinnamon and vanilla to taste.
- Pour egg mixture over pie. The apricots should be mostly covered.
- Bake until set, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.