I said I wouldn’t, until Thanksgiving. I considered baking cookies to send to a friend for his birthday, figuring if it wasn’t for myself, it’s allowed, right? I considered making scones to use up some cranberries, figuring that if it wasn’t dessert, it’s allowed, right?
And then I baked a dessert, for myself.
But hear me out, okay? I was never holding myself back from baking dough that I’d previously mixed up and frozen – I have three batches of cookie dough in the freezer and baking up one or two cookies each night was always part of the plan.
Well, I had tart dough in the freezer too. And if frozen cookie dough is allowed, frozen tart dough is also allowed, right? And come on, I added a bunch of apples to it, so the whole thing is downright healthy. Or something.
Anyway, it’s a pretty cool recipe. It’s simple, but I love how it eeks out all of the flavor possible from the apples. Tart dough, rolled out quite a bit larger than the 9-inch pan it’s placed in, is filled with slices of apples. The extra dough is folded over the apples, like a galette contained by the tart pan’s rim. The unbaked tart is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Simple.
Then, in a interesting and creative move, the apple peels and cores are simmered with water and sugar until the liquid is reduced to a syrup, which is brushed on the baked tart right before serving. What a great way to maximize the flavor of the apples! (I did end up with way, way too much syrup, which I boiled down even further and then used as a topping for apple-cinnamon pancakes the next morning.)
Of course it was good. The apples softened and intensified in the oven, and the crust provided a crisp sweet contrast to the apples. It’s also highly adaptable – I followed the recipe almost exactly, but next time I’ll add a light sprinkle of salt on top of the apples and few drops of lemon juice to the syrup. I’ll consider using a pie crust instead of tart crust as well, because I love that flakiness. If you can’t imagine an apple dessert without cinnamon, add some! But if you want to appreciate apples at their most basic and delicious, absolutely follow the recipe exactly. You can’t go wrong.
One year ago: Basic Mashed Potatoes
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Alice Waters’s Apple Tart (via Smitten Kitchen)
I didn’t use this tart dough recipe, because I already had some I needed to use up. I needed 6 apples to reach 2 pounds, but for my tart, that was about 1 apple too many to fit. Deb mentioned that she only used 3 tablespoons of sugar sprinkled over the tart right before baking, and I followed her advice. I suggest placing the tart pan (I used a springform pan) on a baking sheet, because mine leaked sugary apple juices.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut into ½-inch cubes
3½ tablespoons chilled water
2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar
½ cup sugar
1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.
2. Dribble in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.
3. Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400ºF. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)
4. Overlap apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.
5. Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons over apples.
6. Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.
7. Make glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.
8. Remove tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.
9. Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve.