Monday, March 1, 2010

Tarte aux Pommes au Four / Baked Apple Tart

"When life gives you apples, make apple tart."

A coworker brought a case of Fuji apples to the office last week. The nerve! With the goal of fattening coworkers in mind, I couldn't stand idly by while people helped themselves to healthy(!) snacks. I stealthily commandeered the last half dozen apples, resolving to return them back to the office in a more sumptuous and calorie-laden form.

Fuji apples aren't usually used for baking, but the Baked Apple Tart in Paris Sweets actually recommends using Fuji apples. It's a very sophisticated take on a homey dessert: the apples are caramelized on the stove top, then baked in the oven until they're soft and tender. In the tart, the baked apples are surrounded by a fragrant puffy almond cream, and topped with cooked grated apples. 

*Adopted from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets
I. Almond Cream
(Makes enough for a 9" tart. With something this easy and tasty, I'm tempted to make a huge batch and use it for everything. I see nectarine tarts in my future.)

1 1/2 tablespoons (20 g) butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup (30 g) ground almonds
1 egg
2 tablespoons (30 g) heavy cream
1 tablespoon Calvados or vanilla extract

Whisk butter and sugar together until the sugar dissolves, then whisk in the almonds and egg. Finally, whisk in the cream and Calvados. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until needed (it'll keep for up to 3 days).

II. The Apples

6 large apples (2 1/4 lbs, 1 kg) preferably Fuji or Granny Smith
7 tablespoons (100 g) butter
1/3 cup (75 g) sugar
2 tablespoons Calvados or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For the grated apples: Grate two apples (I used a mandoline). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a large skillet, add the apples and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

For the baked apples: Cut 4 apples in half, and slice each half into thirds. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter with the remaining sugar. When the butter is bubbling, toss in the apple slices and cook until the caramelized, 5-7 minutes. Your kitchen will start smelling really, really good.

Pour in the Calvados, turn off the heat, then touch a match to the liquid. When the flames die down, pull the pan from the stove and bake in at 350 F oven for 20 minutes. Resist the urge to eat all the warm, caramelized, intensely perfumed apple slices.

* Disclaimer: I didn't have Calvados, so I poured in 2 tablespoons of rum. It did not flambée. I have never managed to set rum on fire, and I didn't feel like testing out the "just add more rum" solution.

III. Assembly

Line a 9" tart shell with sweet tart dough. (Yes, this is a 6" tart shell. Consider this the "cooking demo" tart)

 Spoon the almond cream into the crust.

Top with the baked apples, arranging them attractively in a single layer (mine's not quite so neat, but it'll all get topped with grated apples anyway). 

Fluff up the grated apples, then arrange them over the apple slices. Leaving a bare border for an inch or so (so the almond cream can puff up attractively around it).

Bake for 40-50 minutes in a 350 F oven until the almond cream has puffed and the apples are browned (the 6" tart took around 35 minutes). Cool the tart, serve when it's just warm or at room temperature.

I foolishly waited until the tart was cool, but I compensated by eating it with vanilla ice cream : )

I was surprised by the apple-ness of the tart. Unlike some American apple pies that taste like cinnamon and glue, this tart had a clean, pronounced apple flavor that went well with the floral scent of the almond cream. The entire 6" tart was quickly demolished by two greedy people. I hope the 9" tart lasts longer at the office.

After we were more than half way done with the tart, I remembered that Dorie Greenspan recommends topping the tart with a dusting of confectioner's sugar before serving. With my mind addled by all the sugar and rum and butter, I tried to be clever and attempted to brûlée the top instead .

Charred apple slivers are definitely not good eats.

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