Monday, November 22, 2010

Free-Form Apple Tart

The Monthly Mingle was started by Meeta at What's for Lunch Honey. It is a monthly blogging event that I wish I participated in more frequently because it is nice to connect with European food bloggers! This month's Mingle was all about fruit in baking, which is really apropos to the Thanksgiving season.  I have pies on the brain and with the abundance of harvest fruits, this seems like good fit.
I chose to make a Free-Form Apple Tart from November's Food and Wine magazine. I have a love/hate relationship with pie crust and because of this I challenge myself constantly with improving my dough techniques. I had never attempted a this sort of crust, so why not, plus my husband has been hassling me make some snacks... desserts... whatever.

Here are some of my favorite pie crust tips:

1.) Make sure all your ingredients are cold! Butter... chilled, ice-water... icy, flour... cold, mixing vessel... in chilled. Why?  The cold ingredients is what makes you pastry flaky. If you let you butter melt, say from the warmth of you hands... the crust will be dense and crispy.

2.) Work quickly. Have everything you need ready, including your plastic wrap ready to go. If you ingredients get warm (see #1) your crust will disappoint.

3.) Take notes. There are many many pie crust recipes and not all of them work. Find what recipes gives you success and perfect upon it.You will come to see the similarities. For example, this recipe was nearly identical to my favorite Pâte Brisée from Martha Stewart, except it called for less butter and was for one tart instead of two crusts. I found this crust very easy to work with.

Free-Form Apple Tart adapted from Sam Mogannam

Dough:

2 1/2 cups (16 oz/ 454g)  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 stick (6 oz/ 170g) unsalted butter cut into (1/2"/1.25 cm) cubes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (6 oz/ 178 ml) ice water

Filling:

1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 lg egg white, beaten
2 tbsp, turbinado or raw sugar

Method:

For the dough, with either a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment or a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt and then pulse or turn on low to combine.

On a low speed, add the butter until it combines and is crumbly. With the machine running, add 1/4 cup of the ice water. This part is tricky... continue adding small amounts of the ice water till the dough is just evenly moist.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed quickly, until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill of at least an hour or overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F (205C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to a 17" (44 cm) round, then trim it neatly to 16" (40.5 cm). Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add the apples and the lemon juice. Toss well. Leave a three inch (7.65 cm) border then begin layering in a circle. Then repeat and create a second layer of apples. Stuff any remaining apples in any large gaps. Fold the excess dough to create an over lapping rim. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 55 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
This tart exceeded my expectations. The flavors were fresh and simple. I would easily make this again, but next time ease up on the lemon. I was a bit heavy handed. All in all it was a treat for the whole family. A little Monday night Thanksgiving pre-game!

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