Here’s a little window into my creative process, blog-wise. Don’t be afraid, it’s going to be ok, I promise….
I need to do something about apples because it’s that time of year and I live in orchard land, and I work part-time in Washington, which is famous for its apples (and its trees…and pot, but not doing a blog about trees or pot, well not right now), and I just made a mess of bourbon apple butter and need to put in a recipe because I’m running out of shelf space and empty jars, and I have my monthly cooking demo this week, and then there’s that recipe I’ve been wanting to play with, so just what pithy snark can I surround all this with. Obviously I think in massive run-on sentences.
Google search “apples” yields: Wiki apple listing; world’s healthiest fruit book plug; expose on some aspect of the entire world of apples meant to raise ire and righteous indignation; and Washington State Apple Commission website (nice SEO, WA apple folks). Not much pithy snark potential there. How about “apple symbolism.” Hmm. Skip past the “forbidden fruit” stuff, too pedestrian. The latin word for apple and evil are the same, big whoop. Scan down.
The Adam’s apple is named for the forbidden fruit getting stuck in Adam’s throat, hence the lump. Interesting, but choking and a food blog, probably not. Lot’s of sin talk. Fun, yes, new, no. Skip past that, and the poisonous apple spiel from the Grimms (see choking in food blog reference above). Ooo, Norse and Celtic mythology, always good for an interesting story. Norse see apples as sacred symbol of rebirth and beauty. Nice, boring. Celtic….JACKPOT! The story of Conle.
Our boy Conle was the Red son of the high king of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles (because you’re not a high king if you only have a dozen or so battles under your belt.) Conle was traveling with his royal pop when he saw a beautiful woman, invisible to the rest of the group. The babe tempted Conle to go with her to the Plain of Delight (hussy, throwing her plain of delight at the poor boy) and there live forever. Unfortunately Conn’s druid Coran (keep up now, you’ve got kings and druids, and everyone’s name starts with “C” ) drove the temptress off by singing, but not before she threw a magic apple at the boy. And that apple fed Conle for a year, but also gave him an irresistible desire for fairyland. Oh really…. the apple did it? Not the great theater, fabulous restaurants, chic shops and cute guys?
So that’s how it works folks. And now, the recipe. It has something to do with apples.
I’ve been meaning to make a variation of this tart ever since I ran across an article about it several years ago. It’s one of those Julia things, reinvented every so often. What interested me was the way it uses apples two ways – in a sauce as base, and fresh apple slices on top. It’s also visually a stunner, and it lets me place things in a pattern with purpose. I love that crap.
You could buy the applesauce or apple butter if you like and I won’t tell. In fact, it’s the perfect use for that jar of apple butter you bought on your fall apple picking trip, then realized when you got home..”what the hell am I going to do with this?” I used bourbon apple butter because had some (ok, much) which I made in a fit of apple picking autumnal equinoxy last weekend. Plus there’s a mess of bourbon in it, which pretty much has me at hello.
Yes, you could buy a crust if you like, but it’s worth making it with this one (with no rolling out headache) and the whole wheat pastry flour gives it a lovely graham quality. But, feel free to substitute all-purpose flour if that’s what you have. As far as the fuss of laying out those apples? It’s very zen, really, and with a few tricks I’ll show you, not difficult either.
For the tart dough:
- 1 cup (140g) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (you can use regular all-purpose flour too)
- 6 TBSP (3 oz or 90 g) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (70 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- The zest of one orange (about 1 TBSP)
For the filling:
- 1 cup apple butter or applesauce
- 2-3 crisp apples of your choice (Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady or any other you like that will hold their shape when baked. I used Fuji in mine.)
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 3-4 TBSP sugar
For the glaze:
- 1/4 cup apricot or peach jam + 1 tsp water, heated until it’s liquid and then strained so there are no big pieces of fruit.
Make the tart dough:
Add the flour, sugar, salt, chilled butter pieces and orange zest to the bowl of a food processor. Process about 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse until the pastry just begins to hold together (about 15 times.) Dump the dough onto a sheet of wax paper and gather into a ball, then flatten to a disk. This is going to be a sticky dough, especially if it gets warm. If your dough is still cold and you work quickly, you can press it into a 10″ removable bottom tart pan now, then cover and chill. Mine was too sticky for that the last time I made it, so I flattened the disk in the wax paper as much as I could, then popped into the fridge for about 30 minutes before trying to press into the pan. I also used the wax paper to press it into the pan, but you could also use floured fingers. Once it’s all pressed in the pan, wrap well in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
When you are ready to make the tart, preheat oven to 400ºF and line the tart pan with foil, then fill with pie weights, beans or rice and blind bake 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown and pull away from the pan. Decrease temperature to 375ºF, remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until the bottom of the tart is dry and starting to color a little. Brush 2 tablespoons of the apricot glaze and set aside.
Prepare the filling:
Halve the apples vertically, then remove the core with a melon baller or knife (the melon baller is the best tool for this.) Slice each half the long way into very thin slices, about 1/8″. You don’t need to peel the apples, in fact, it works better if you don’t. Toss the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar.
Spread the cup of applesauce/apple butter in the tart shell, then overlap the apple slices on top around the outer edge. Now you have this big hole in the middle to fill. Here’s neat trick #1: Rather than another ring of slices, place one slice horizontally at the top of the hole, and follow with one on the right side, bottom, and left side. Continue with the next ring of apples and so on, until just one small hole in the center remains.
Neat trick #2: If you try to roll up a slice to fit in the middle of the rosette, it will likely break. But, if you put the slice in the microwave for a minute or two until flexible….rolls like a dream! (Don’t be overly impressed. I broke A LOT of apples before I figured this one out).
Sprinkle the tart with 2 teaspoons sugar, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the apples slices are easily pierced with a knife. Now you could just brush the tart with the remaining apricot glaze, but to be even more fancy, sprinkle over about a tablespoon of sugar, and if you are lucky enough to have a kitchen torch, fire that baby up and brown the edges of the apples and melt the sugar a bit, then brush with glaze. If you don’t have a flamethrower, you can pop under the broiler a minute or two, watching it so it doesn’t burn. I choose playing with fire, because it a hell of a lot of fun.
Let the tart cool completely before serving.
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