If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Claudia Fleming’s Apple Crostata with Bacon Toffee

For such a relatively small corner of the world, the East End of Long Island is long on extremely talented chefs.  Proximity to New York has led many a city chef to, if not abandon the city, set up a second home out in the land of milk and honey.  One of these is the legendary pastry chef, Claudia Fleming.  Ms. Fleming is a Long Island native who originally pursued a career in dance.  To support her passion for it, she took the well-known route of working in restaurants, most particularly Danny Meyer’s immensely popular Union Square Café.  She worked in all parts of the operation but was drawn to pastry.  She took her calling seriously and in 1991 she went to

Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming

Paris where she worked at Fauchon and perfected her skills.  In 1994, she was called back to New York to open, with Mr Meyer and his partner, Tom Collichio, the Gramercy Tavern.  Her farm to table philosophy was perfectly attuned to theirs. She loves seasonal ingredients and creating intense flavors. She eschews her contemporary’s use of architectural flights of fancy and focuses on honest, forthright desserts you’ll never forget. And this Apple Crostata with its Bacon Toffee topping is all you need to make to know how unforgettable Chef Fleming’s pastry really is. 

         By 2006, Claudia had married a fellow chef from Gramercy Taven, Gerry Hayden, and the two headed out east to open the North Fork Table and Inn. (57225 Main Road, Southold, NY 11971; 631-765-0177) This simple roadside Inn has become a mecca for diners from all over the East End, drawn to Chef Hayden’s award-winning cuisine and Claudia’s incredible gifts in pastry-making.   Most unfortunately, in 2010, Chef Hayden who is 49 years old, was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The community has rallied around the chef raising money to fight not only his personal battle with the disease but also to research its causes and hopefully, at some point in the future, its cure.  But the North Fork Table and Inn soldiers on.  And Ms. Fleming continues to beguile us with her pastries.   In November of this year, just in time for Thanksgiving, Claudia’s recipe for a simple Apple Crostata appeared in the New York Times.  Andrew could not wait to make it part of our Thanksgiving Celebration.  It’s not only the crostata that makes headlines here: It’s the Bacon Toffee.

Bacon Toffee is a bit of a misnomer if you imagined bits of bacon floating in sauce.  The bacon fat is used to carry the flavor and boy, does it ever! It also makes a great guessing game–what exactly is that flavor?  The sauce produced is far more than you could ever use on Ms. Fleming’s Crostata.  You’ll be saving and savoring this over ice cream long after the Crostata is a memory.  I am never happy to describe any pastry recipe as simple.  One man’s ‘simple’ is another man’s ‘ordeal’.  But Andrew was so impressed by the dessert that he made twice on Thanksgiving Weekend, always a good sign.   And Ms. Fleming herself said in the New York Times, “I love its organic shape, and the fact that is doesn’t require a dish or pie pan. And because the crostata is baked directly on a sheet pan, it retains its flakiness better than a pie”.  I can’t vouch for how easy it is to make. I can however rave about how it tasted.  Do not leave out the Bacon Toffee and, in our house, we never serve apple desserts without a scoop of rich Vanilla Ice Cream.  Here’s the recipe.

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