I had the hardest time coming up with a way to start this post. There’s a wonderful, old family recipe I wanted to share with you, but if I told you the name of it right away, I feared no one would continue reading; and, well, that wouldn’t do. What good is the written word if no one reads it, right?
My kids’ reactions confirmed my dilemma. There I was coring and peeling apple after apple, slicing the crisp white fruit and dunking the slices into a bowl of water and lemon juice. “Apple sauce?” They guessed. No. “Apple butter?” No. Next they saw the flour and milk formed into dough. “Baked apple dumplings?” No. Then they saw the eggs and milk swirled together. They were stumped.
So I told them. It’s Apple Fish. “What’s that?” Eyes widened and mouths dropped open—just enough to let me know they were questioning what this concoction would be when it was all done. I’m sure thoughts were running through their minds like, So where’s the fish? and What exactly is an Apple Fish?
I eased their fears and explained. There’s no fish. The only place you will find fish in this recipe is in the name. Waves of relief washed over their faces, though they do like fish—just not with apples and eggs. “No fish?” No fish. I don’t think there is a species of fish called Apple Fish. It makes me wonder what they envisioned: a red or green fish with big bulging eyes? Or maybe a golden yellow apple-shaped fish with teardrop eyes.
Do you see the difficulty? If I had started out something like this: I have a wonderful old family recipe I’d like to share with you. It’s called Apple Fish. Seriously, would you have kept reading? Or would you have thought since it was an old recipe it might be something akin to pickled heart and tongue. No offense meant to anyone who likes those, but they’re not my favorite.
No, I doubt many of you would have kept reading; and you would have missed one of my favorite childhood recipes. Old family recipes have a way of bringing us back to the simpler times of childhood. In my mind I can still see my mom bringing a warm pan of it to the table. This was dessert, and everyone hoped they weren’t the last to get the pan passed to them. Cries of “Don’t take too much” or “Leave some for me” drifted around our table of eight. I looked forward to it. Thick slices of apple baked into a creamy, cinnamonny custard and topped with a simple crust. Rarely were there leftovers.
You might be wondering why it’s called Apple Fish since there’s no fish in it. Try putting it in a Google search, and you’ll come up with, well, nothing except this post—eventually. What I’ve always been told is that it’s an old family recipe from Germany. My great- grandmother, or more likely my great-great-grandmother, used to form the dough into the shape of a fish and then fill it with the apples and custard. I suppose she must have had a pan shaped like a fish because the dough is too soft to shape.
The Amish have interesting names for some of their dishes too. Here are a few I found while perusing some Amish cookbooks: Knepfle (I’m not even sure how to pronounce this), Yummasetti, Wigglers, Shoo-Fly Pie, Tomato Oysters, and of course Whoopie Pies. I’ve never found a recipe for Apple Fish in any of my cookbooks, so here it is for you now:
Baked Apple Custard Dessert (AKA – Apple Fish)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ¼ c. skim milk (divided into ½ c. and ¾ c.)
5-6 c. cored, peeled, and sliced apples (about 10 apples)
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
• Preheat oven to 400° F. You will need a square cake pan, 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 will do.
• Prepare soft dough by mixing together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ c. skim milk in a small bowl. The dough will be quite soft, but use the least amount of flour necessary during the next step.
• Take half of the dough and roll it out on a surface dusted with flour till it is the size of the bottom of a square cake pan.
• Carefully transfer the rolled out dough to the cake pan and use your fingers to finish forming it to cover the bottom of the pan.
• Core, peel, and slice apples into water mixed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. I like to do this after I make the dough so the apples are not sitting in the water too long.
• Whisk together the 2 eggs and ¾ c. skim milk.
• Drain apples and distribute them evenly over the dough in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and the ¾ c. sugar.
• Roll out remaining dough large enough to mostly cover the apples in the pan.
• Pour the egg and milk mixture on the apples.
• Carefully place the rolled out dough on top of the apples and eggs. You do not need to seal it to the edge.
• Bake at 400° F till apples are soft and custard is set, about 45 minutes.
Do you have any favorite recipes with interesting names? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.