Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A French Apple Tart Recipe for My American Veterans

Happy Veterans Day, family, friends, and strangers alike! Thank you, THANK YOU for your service to this great country of ours. Let us all be sure to pause today to think on both the emotional and physical sacrifices that millions have made to provide a homeland of peace for all of us.

In honor of our selfless men and women of service, I thought I would share with you the apple tart that I made for my parents a few days ago (how on earth did apples become associated with American pride?). It's a tarte tatin, really, not an apple pie—an apple tart made by caramelizing apples in sugar and butter and then plopping a pie crust on top and baking it. This is my I-kind-of-remember-how-this-goes version. I tend to do that a lot when I travel and cook. So this may not be the official French way of preparing it. But it was still pretty damn good.

You are going to want to make the pie crust first. While it is chilling in the fridge, you can peel and cut up the apples and get the caramel and caramelization going. So, first, here's the recipe for the dough:

Dough Ingredients and Directions:
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tblsp. sugar
  • 10 Tblsps. unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 3 Tblsp. ice cold vodka
  • 1 Tblsp. ice water

1.  In a food processor, combine only 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, salt, and the sugar, then pulse together with a few 1-second pulses to blend. Drop in the cold butter, cut into 1/4-in. slices, and process for about 10 seconds. The mixture will look like curds the size of cottage cheese. Scrape down the sides and the bottom and redistribute the mixture evenly around the bowl. Sprinkle the remaining flour over the top, then pulse about 5 or 6 more times. The dough will come together into a ball, and then redistribute itself around the bowl. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl.

2.  Mix together the vodka and ice water. Sprinkle the dough with the mixture, then take a rubber spatula and start smashing, folding, and flattening the vodka-water into the dough, pressing the spatula down into the dough to help mix in the liquid. It's going to look like it's not going to do anything at first; just give it time and keep flipping, smashing, folding, and pressing; it will get there. The dough is going to resemble Playdough when you are done. (If it looks too dry, sprinkle in the tiniest amount of ice water--like 1/2 tsp. at a time).

3.  Gather the dough into a ball, then dump it onto a square of plastic wrap. Lay another piece of plastic on top, then flatten the ball into a 4-inch disc. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and lay it in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Now, preheat the oven to 375°.

For the apples and caramel: 
  • 3 medium to large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges (I use one of these to make it easy, then I just trim away any of the tough core bits left)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • ground cinnamon
  • a couple pinches of kosher salt
1.  To a 10 to 12-inch skillet with relatively straight sides, add both the sugars and the butter.  Place on a burner and turn the heat on to medium to medium-low, depending on your burner.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar and butter have melted and are completely combined.  This takes awhile, but be patient; you don't want the butter separating.  Let the caramel slowly bubble for a couple minutes as you continue stirring.

2.  Place the apple slices on top of the caramel, nestling them into the sugar mixture, making two concentric rings.  Sprinkle with two pinches of kosher salt and a heavy dose of ground cinnamon.  Let the mixture bubble for a couple minutes together while you roll out the dough.

caramel apple tarte tatin

best pie dough ever!

3.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface to be just barely bigger than the skillet.  Wrap the dough around the rolling pin to make it easier to move (use a metal spatula or bench scraper if necessary to get it up off the counter), then unroll the dough on top of the apples.  Tuck the edges of the dough down into the caramel sauce.

4.  Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven.  You want a nicely browned crust.

golden brown crust

5.  Let the tart cool in the skillet on a wire rack.  If you flip it too soon, the caramel will still be too warm and will run off the tart.  When it is cool and you are ready to dive in, take a small rubber spatula, wet it, then run it around the edge of the skillet, loosening the crust and caramel.  Now take your plate or platter, lay it upside down over the top of the skillet, hold the pan and plate together like you would a sandwich, and then—FLIP!

tarte tatin

See? Ridiculously simple.  If you are terrified of pie crust or are in a terrible rush, buy a pack of Pillsbury, for heaven's sake.  But this dessert is just TOO easy to not make.  And yummyyyyyyyyy.

tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream

Have a wonderful holiday, all!

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