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Kay's House of Treats: Normandy Apple Tart

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Normandy Apple Tart

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How many of you have experienced the moment where you get beautiful red apples from the 'Sabzi Wala', bite into them and they turn out to be soft & mealy instead of crisp & juicy.

I know people love the soft yellow apples, but my family preference is always 'crisp' apples, so when there are 2 kilo's of apples in the house which no one really wants to eat, its time for me to start looking up recipes on how to use them. But the issue with foreign recipes, they will talk about these apple varieties that you should use (
Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Fuji, Granny Smith) but we only get red, green & yellow in Karachi; yes, red are mostly crisp & juicy, yellow are soft & sweet, green are crisp and tart and there's the fourth one where you end up being fleeced by the 'sabzi wala' into not getting the quality apples you want. 

So no matter how much I might wish to use a specific apple, its not possible to do that unless I purchase said varieties from a big supermarket (at a high rate). So I just use whatever apples are in season. If I do have some choice, I generally follow the below mentioned rules. Please note they are my personal opinions based on past experiments, but please feel free to experiment.

Types of Apples - Desi Pakistani Style
1. Crisp Apples (usually red) are great for baking apple pies, because they hold their shape well and don't go mushy.
2. Soft Apples (usually yellow) are great for making apple sauce, because they are soft and if they are baked, they might not hold their shape well.
3. Green Apples are crisp, so they are good for baking, however, they are a bit tart/khatta so a little bit of sugar adjustment is necessary; another option is to have a mix of crisp red & green apples.
4. If you are lucky enough to get really juicy apples, its best to cook the filling/sauce a bit more if you are making applesauce or a cooked apple filling. If you are not doing a cooked apple pie filling, then add a tablespoon of cornflour to the filling so it will help in absorption of juices.

Moving on to the actual recipe - I had to use up the soft yellow apples, and this recipe called for applesauce for the filling which was a perfect use for these apples. Since the 
applesauce & the pastry dough can be made ahead, the tart just needs to be assembled and baked cutting down on last minute work. I did make a few adjustments to the recipe, by adding cinnamon which goes brilliantly with apple desserts. I also used the same soft apples for topping the great, and while the taste was great, it made the final assembly difficult since the slices were quite crumbly.
Normandy Apple Tart
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Applesauce
2 lbs (about 6 medium) apples, preferably soft apples
1/4 cup water, or more
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1-4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
For the Crust
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), partially baked and cooled
For the Topping
2 medium apples (preferably firm apples)
1 large egg, beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water, for egg wash
For the Glaze (optional)
about 1/3 cup apple jelly
1 teaspoon water

To make the applesauce: If you have a food mill, a nifty gadget that separates peel and pits from fruit as it purees and strains, or if you don't mind pushing a little harder on a conventional strainer, don't bother peeling and coring the apples, just cut them into chunks and toss them into a 2 to 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. (If you leave the skin on the apples it gives the applesauce a rosier color.) Otherwise, peel and core the apples before cutting them up. Stir in the water and brown sugar, cover the pan and put it over medium-low heat. Don't go far from the stove, because applesauce has a way of bubbling up. Stir the apples from time to time to keep them from scorching, and if the water is boiling way quickly, add more by driblets. When the apples are soft enough to be mashed with a spoon - 15 to 20 minutes - remove the pan from the heat and pass the apples through a food mill, or press them through a sturdy strainer, into a bowl.
If the applesauce seems thin (if liquid accumulates around the edges), return the sauce to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the sauce is just thick enough to sit up on a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and return the sauce to the bowl. Taste the sauce, adding granulated sugar if you think it needs it (traditionally the applesauce for this tart was not very sweet) and vanilla and cinnamon, if you want it. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, and refrigerate until no longer warm. (The applesauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered.)
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill the tart shell almost to the top of the rim with the applesauce and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
To make the topping: Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut each apple half lengthwise in half again and then, still working lengthwise, cut about 7 slices from each of the quarters. (The slices will be very thin.) Arrange the slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles on the applesauce, starting at the edge and laying them down so their tips are against the crust. You will probably have enough room for only 2 circles and some artfully arranged snippets of apple in the center. (If another arrangement appeals to you more, go for it.) Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash over the sliced apples.
Bake the tart for about 50 minutes - it will look as though the applesauce and apples have risen a bit. The apples should be golden, a little burnt around the edges and soft enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. If you'd like to enhance the color around the edges of the apples, run the tart under the broiler just until you get the color you're after. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.
To make the optional glaze: If you want to glaze the tart, an easy and very professional touch, bring the jelly and the water to a boil. When the jelly is liquefied, brush a thin layer over the top of the tart with a pastry brush. Return the pan to the rack and cool the tart until it is just warm or at room temperature.
Serving: The tart can be served when it is only just warm or when it reaches room temperature, and it can be served with vanilla ice-cream which tastes brilliant with apples & cinnamon
Storing: Although the applesauce can be made ahead, as with all tarts, this one is best served the day it is made, preferably within a few hours of being made.

Sweet Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour/maida
1/2 cup icing' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

To make the dough: Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change - heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.
If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To make a rolled-out crust: This dough is very soft - a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners' sugar - so it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover. If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly. Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn't roll into the dough and form creases. If you've got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan. Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F/180 C. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust. Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.

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