Saturday, March 19, 2011

French Apple Tart--Tarte aux Pommes

The hard part of maintaining a food blog is not the work involved, which is considerable, it's finding and establishing the rhythm of cooking, taking the pictures, writing, and posting.  It takes time to find that rhythm while still balancing the other demands in one's life: work, love, friends, household chores, and alcohol. I might be able to put off doing some chores, but that evening cocktail is not to be trifled with.  This is why most of my posts are written early in the morning, usually several hours before school starts.

Like anything that demands a certain amount of discipline, running, for example, or studying a foreign language,  any break in the routine of maintaining the blog makes it that much more difficult to get back into the rhythm of posting.  It's always easy to find an excuse to put off writing up a post, to find something else that needs to be done, an additional hour of sleep perhaps, or an episode or two of 30 Rock that you hadn't seen yet.  Having found myself in a work-and-state-of-affairs-of-educational-funding-in-California-induced-funk, I decided I needed a brief break from blogging.  I didn't realize how difficult it would be to pick it up again.  It's like Michael Phelps after a few weeks of hitting the bong and then jumping back into the water.  Whoa! Dude, 100 meters seems like a mile!

Tarte aux pommes is an elegant looking, relatively simple and straightforward apple pie.  Although it holds no candle to my mom's apple pie, it is a very delicious dessert.  The apples are not masked by an excess of sugar or cinnamon as sometimes happens in apple pies; they are front and center in this tarte.  A fan of thinly sliced apples rest on a bed of a lightly sweetened purée of sautéd apples.  It seemed a fitting dessert for our book club's discussion of Parrot and Olivier in America.

For the crust, I used the recipe from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.  It really is, as advertised, the perfect pie crust.  Don't use a food processor to do this.  You can, but by the time you do the clean up, what's the point?  This is something that can be done so easily in a bowl with a fork. 

The Perfect Pie Crust

1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBS chilled, unsalted butter, cut in 6 to 8pieces
1/4 cup shortening, chilled, also cut in pieces
3 to 4 TBS ice water (I use a cocktail shaker to chill the water and easily pour a little at a time.)

Mix together the flour and salt.  Cut in butter.  Then cut in shortening.  Sprinkle with the ice water, a tablespoon or so at a time and stir.  Add just enough water so the mixture is moist enough to gather together in a ball.

Wrap the ball of dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a CD sized disk.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Place into a 9-inch tart pan.  Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.  Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
Bake in a pre-heated 425º oven for 10 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and weights, and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes until the bottom is lightly browned.  Allow to cool before adding the apples.

I used two varieties of apples for the filling.  I used golden Mutsu for the purée, and Granny Smith for the top.  Any good, tart apples would work.

To make the purée, core, peel and slice three to four apples.  Sauté the apples with  a tablespoon of butter, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs and about a 1/4 cup of sugar, more or less to your taste. Cook until the apples are soft enough to mash with a fork.  Mash into a chunky purée and cool.

Core, peel, and slice another 3 apples for the top of the tart.  You want the slices to be a uniform thickness.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and saute the slices until just slightly softened, three to five minutes. 

Spread the purée of apples on the cooled crust.  Fan the slices of apples in a decorative pattern on top of the purée.  Sprinkle with several tablespoons of sugar and bake in a 375º oven for around 25 minutes, until apples are soft and lightly brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

This tart is best served the day it is baked, but I found that it still tasted very good the next day.

1 comment:

  1. Writing a blog sounds like playing golf -- lose the rhythm and kiss that sweet swing goodbye.

    Even though I love sweets, apple pie, as you have described, that is not overwhelmed with sugar or cinnamon is like a birdie.


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