Sunday, October 18, 2009

Harvest special!

Having just finished a week and a half intensive on pastry in culinary school (everything from tarts, genoise, buttercream, crepes, pate a choux, custards and cremes, ice creams, souffles, and mousses), I really don't want to see another sweet for a long while (neither does my waistline!). However, when my friend Amanda invited me to her new place this past Saturday for chili and good company, I knew I needed to bring a fall treat that was not too sweet, but was a cooling complement to the spicy dinner.

One of the many benefits, I think, to fall is that there are lots and lots of apples! One of my most favorite is the Cortland apple, soft flesh, sweet and juicy, and just a hint of tartness. Plus, they break down perfectly in a dessert. A pie has too much dough, while I didn't want to make a formal French-style apple tart. I love Al Forno's rustic crostatas, and decided to create a variation inspired by the tarts I've eaten at the restaurant, and the recipe for the crostata dough by Ina Garten, with a touch of almond paste for sweetness.

Though I was a bit frustrated by the juciness of the apples, and the sheer weight of the tarts (I couldn't move them without breaking the shell. Maybe not roll the dough 1/8" next time. Oops!), the finished products were beautiful -- AND delicious!

Allie's Almond Apple Rustic Tarts (makes 2)

2 sticks butter
2 cups flour
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Almond paste
6 apples (I used 3 Empire, 3 Cortland), peeled and thinly sliced
Bench flour, for rolling

1. Make the dough: combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add the very cold butter, in chunks, and pulse til sandy. Add 1-2 tbsp water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Chill at least 1 hr to rest.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 (I used convection). Remove dough from fridge til soft enough to roll out. Peel and thinly slice the apples (I used a mandoline). Add a touch of lemon, so as to avoid browning, and season generously with cinnamon to your liking.

3. Divide dough into two pieces. Generously flour counter and roll out into a circle, 1/4" thick or so. Transfer, on rolling pin, to a silpat lined baking sheet. Grate almond paste to your liking on bottom, then pile on apples, leaving 1 1/2-2" space around edge. Fold edges in over apple pile, letting folds overlap.

4. Bake at 450 until shell browns nicely and fruit cooks, approx 20 minutes. If the tart colors too fast, you can lower the heat after it goldens. Let cool.

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