Saturday, September 24, 2011

Caramel Apple Tart

It’s fall, my favorite time of year, which means its also apple season. The farmers’ markets are full of baskets brimming with crisp, colorful varieties including Braeburn, McIntosh, Honey  

Crisp, Gala and Fuji. My favorite apple dessert is a streusel-topped apple pie, but a little variety is nice, so I decided this week to make a simple, caramel apple tart, a riff on the classic Tarte Tatin. After 

blind baking the crust, peeled apple wedges are cooked in caramel and then arranged on top of the crust. The caramel is made into a custard with the addition of cream, eggs, Calvados, and a touch of 

cinnamon and vanilla, and then poured over the apples and baked at a low temperature. Delicious. Serve this tart warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and rejoice that fall is here.  

Caramel Apple Tart

Makes 8 servings

Tart Crust:
1 ¼ cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and frozen for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons ice water

Tart Filling:
¾ cup (150 gr) granulated sugar
1 ½ pounds apples (about 3 large or 4 medium—I used 3 Honey Crisp), peeled, cored and each cut into 12 wedges
¾ cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Calvados (optional)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the tart crust:
1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and shortening and toss lightly with a spoon to coat them with flour. Blend the fat and flour with about five 1-second pulses or until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some of the butter pieces the size of peas. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and process continuously until the dough begins to clump together.  Do not over-process; the dough should not form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a thick 4-inch wide disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes.
2. Place unwrapped dough on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle, lifting and rotating the dough often, while dusting the work suface and dough lightly with flour as necessary. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and unroll it over a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll the pin over the top of the pan to trim off the excess dough. Refrigerate the crust for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Right before baking, line the dough with aluminum foil or parchment paper and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift the foil (along with the weights) out of the tart pan and bake the crust for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until lightly golden. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Leave the oven on, but reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Make the filling:
4. In a heavy skillet, heat the sugar with 3 tablespoons water over medium-high heat, shaking the pan and washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally, until it caramelizes. Carefully add the apple wedges and cook, turning them occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until they are softened. Remove the pan from the heat and, using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a bowl. Return the skillet to the heat and gradually whisk in the cream (it will bubble up vigorously, so be careful). Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the caramel mixture to another bowl. Let the caramel mixture cool enough so that it will not cook the egg yolks when you add them. Drain the apples, adding any juice to the caramel, and arrange the wedges in the tart crust, in a spiral pattern. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Whisk the egg yolks, Calvados, cinnamon and vanilla into the caramel mixture. If you like, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the filling into the tart pan, over the apples. Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes, until the custard is just set in the center. Cool the tart on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. 

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