Friday, April 1, 2011

French apple tart for Sam

Whenever my husband has a birthday I make him a home made desert and their are several reasons for this. Partly because what says I love and appreciate you more than a homemade dessert? And secondly because I am a bad gift giver, I don't mean to be but several factors come together to make my gift giving rather, how can I put this nicely? Underwhelming, boring, and predictable. The number one reason is I can't seem to hold back the excitement of buying him a gift so I usually give it early (this year he got his gift a week early)and what's worse than giving a bad gift? Giving the bad gift early or late! And number two it's usually something predictable and unexciting (this year was a new work out dvd from Beach Body fitness that he wanted) so I have to make up for my gifts with a pretty spectacular and tasty dessert, I am not a creative gift giver but I have flair in the kitchen... and what man doesn't love a little flair in the kitchen right??

When I asked him what dessert he wanted for his birthday he requested an apple pie. After cooing about how darn cute it was for a guy that's a first generation immigrant to request good ol' American apple pie. I set out to make a delicious one that said I love you much better than my workout DVD, and don't think the irony of making him a fattening dessert while simultaneously gifting a workout DVD was lost on me. I rationalized that it was his birthday after all, who doesn't have a sweet something or other on their birthday?

So out came my inherited, "Baking with Julia" book and after some deliberation I decided on the French Apple tart. It took me around 4 hours of work, several moments of frustrated cursing and a bit of nail biting regarding how the finished product would taste. Fortunately, all of the work paid off and it was delicious. From now on it will be my stand in when an apple pie or tart needs to be made.

A few words on the recipe before I post it; the pastry dough is extremely forgiving which is a huge plus for me. For some reason the house was a bit humid, which rarely happens in Arizona and my butter and shortening would only stay cold for moments after taking them out of the freezer; so as I made my pastry dough I had my suspicions that it wasn't going to work or taste very good. Except it did! Sure it fell apart after I rolled it out and I ended up, out of desperation patching the holes by squishing them together with my fingers. I felt sure that the crust was going to be tough and nasty because I had manipulated it way more than anyone should ever mess with a pastry crust. Except it wasn't, it was tender and flaky probably owing to the massive amounts of butter and shortening. I would rate the pastry dough as being pretty idiot proof, which is great for someone like me. The only change I'd make is adding a tablespoon or two of sugar for sweeter desserts. It's a great all purpose dough but I think it would have worked better with a teensy hint of sweetness.

The filling is great but next time I would double the amount I make. I ended up a bit short on filling and I am not really sure why. I actually used 2 more apples to combat the problem and I was still short. It's possible my apples were smaller than they should have been or perhaps their was a miscalculation with the cookbook. Next time I'd double it.

Without further ado here's the recipe:

Flaky Pie dough
makes enough dough for 4 open faced pies or 2 double crust pies

5 1/4 cups pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tbsn. kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (11 oz.) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

To make the dough in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the flour and salt into the bowl and mix together. Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 5 days or frozen for 1 month. If you are going to freeze it divide the dough into quarters prior to freezing.

French Apple Tart

1/4 of recipe for flaky pie crust

6 Granny smith apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsn. all purpose flour
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh, fluffy bread crumbs
2 tsp. (approximately)fresh lemon juice
1 tbsn. vanilla (the original recipe doesn't call for this but I added it to fit with my personal taste)

2 to 3 granny smith apples
1 tbsn. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsn unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar

Preparing the crust:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and fit it into a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Let the crust chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Blind baking the crust:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Fit a piece of parchment paper or foil into the tart shell and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the crust, with the pie weights to a rack and let cool while you make the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees farenehit.

Making the filling:
Peel and core the apples, try to get 10-12 slices from each apple. Place the apples in a bowl and toss with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla, and bread crumbs. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Spread the apples on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples give up their juices, start to form a sauce, and are soft enough to mash. Scrape the apples into a bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork. Don't be overzealous- a few small lumps and bumps will add interest to the filling. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it, then cool the filling for about 15 minutes.

Filling the shell:
Spoon the filling into the shells, the filling should come to right below the rim.

Preparing the topping:
Peel and thinly slice three granny smith apples. Toss them with the tablespoon of lemon juice to keep them from browning. Arrange the apples in a circular pattern starting from the outside, slightly overlapping the slices. Work around the pie until the filling is completely covered. Brush the apple slices with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes (I baked for 40 minutes) or until the top is beautifully glazed and the apple slices are edged in black. The tart is best served warm from the oven.