When the apple season arrives, everyone feast on this delicious fruit that is so crunchy and juicy. Then the weeks go by and quickly the gourmands get bored, so we prepare them cooked, in pies or applesauce but when the nature is generous, it always remains in quantity and if there is something that nobody likes to do is to shed pounds of apples.
Fortunately, the Czechs have a solution: to dry them to make křížaly (singular: křížala). A simple dessert, tasty, not expensive at all and above all very healthy that can even replace the appetizer. These apples can also be used to enrich a breakfast such as cereals, yogurts or muesli. Why not put a slice to decorate and flavor a cup of fruit tea or a cocktail?
The sweet and slightly sour or tart flavor depending on the variety of apples used is very nice to warm the heart in winter. All varieties of apples may be suitable, the taste will be simply different. However, cooking-resistant apples are the most suitable. To recognize them, it’s very simple, the thicker the skin, the stronger they will be after drying! By drying the apples in an oven, they become as crisp as chips and especially much less fat, which will delight many. The finer the apples are, the crispier they will be. On the contrary, if the slices are thick they will be juicy. We can make whole slices or very pretty half-moons.
While drying, they take a pretty golden hue that goes pretty well with the rest of the Christmas decorations and are also regularly used as such. However, they can be kept very white by dipping them before drying in a bowl of lemon water and wiping them well before baking them.
Traditionally, apples for křížaly are dried on large trays or directly in the open air when it is hot enough and dry. The fruit has been dried since the earliest times, and this is how it is done in Moravia or further south in Turkey. Historians believe that the origin of dried fruit comes from Persia, Armenia or the Caucasus. All fruits can be dried, but apples and pears are the most popular in the Czech Republic.
The seeds are removed but the skin is kept because it is both pretty and contains mostly a lot of vitamins of the fruit. Once dry, they are tied to a string or a stick to present them. These apples can be stored very well in closed containers and stored in a dry, dark and cool place. It is essential to prevent access to air and moisture to prevent them from getting damaged. Czech grandmothers used to store them in a cloth bag hanging in a pantry. Thus preserved, we can enjoy for two years, finally, it is not counting on the stealthy round-trip greedy many to the closet because once you have eaten the first slice, impossible to stop! But the temptation of the man for the apple is another story…
The cultivation of apples or pears is very old in the Czech Republic and dates back to the 10th century BC, during the Roman occupation of the region during the reign of Augustus. Since then, orchards are numerous in the country, one finds even in full city of Prague on the hill of Petřín. The temperate climate of the country allows the fruits to grow well and to gorge themselves with sugar during the summer. Drying allows evaporation of the water and therefore a concentration of sugar in the fruit, which is also one of the reasons for its long conservation.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Montano. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
- 2 lb apples (choose variety according to taste)
Preheat the oven to 120 F.
Do not peel the apples. Core each apple (without cutting them) with a small sharp knife.
Slice the apples thinly.
Place the apple slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake the apples leaving the oven door ajar.
Flip the apple slices regularly.
When some of the water evaporates and the slices begin to dry, raise the temperature of the oven to 160 F, after flipping them again.
The drying will be finished when the apple slices cannot easily be bent anymore. The process can take anywhere between 4 and 6 hours.