Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Apples #3: Rustic Apple Tartlets

Time for another apple recipe!  This is a great one if you are having a dinner party.  It meets three crucial criteria for entertaining:  you can prepare it in advance, it is delicious, and it makes a nice presentation. 

Have some napkins handy - your guests will be drooling over this one.

These free-form tartlets are basically apple pie without the runny mess or breaking crust that sometimes screws up the apple pie presentation.   I love this tender, moist and flaky crust!  It must be the cream cheese addition.  It required some patience and lots of ins and outs from the fridge, but the end result justified the extra effort.   If you hate working with pastry, skip it.  Just sayin'.  But this was the first time I attempted these tartlets and they turned out beautifully, so try them when you feel mellow and creative.  Do not attempt while experiencing PMS!  You know what I'm saying.

I discovered this recipe in The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008.  Since snagging this cookbook off the library shelves several weeks ago, I have renewed it and find myself consulting it often.  Have you ever caught the PBS show of the same name?  It offers practical advice, which I now find sorely lacking on the food channels.  I like this cookbook because it gives the reasoning behind procedures and techniques, and it recommends products that the chefs have tested, such as pots, pans, bake ware, flours, canned and jarred products, etc.  Every year they publish a compilation of their best recipes and this is one of them.  Treat yourself and go for it! 

Rustic Free-Form Apple Tartlets
(The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008)
Makes 6 tartlets

1 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1/2- inch pieces and chilled
1-2 T. ice water
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 small), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/4 pounds McIntosh apples (about 3 small), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick-slices
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 C plus 2 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 egg whites, lightly beaten, for brushing

For the Dough:

1.  Process the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 one-second pulses.  Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

2.  Sprinkle one tablespoon water and the lemon juice over the mixture.  Stir and press the dough together using a stiff rubber spatula until the dough sticks together.  If the dough does not come together, stir in the remaining one tablespoon water until the dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains.  (I had to use the second tablespoon of water.)  Turn the dough out onto the counter and flatten into a rough disk.  Cut the disk into six equal pieces using a chef's knife.  Flatten each piece into a three-inch disk.  Transfer the disks in a single layer to a flat dinner plate.  Wrap the plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Roll out each disk between two floured sheets of parchment.

3.  Remove the plate from the refrigerator and roll each piece between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to a six-inch circle.  (If the dough becomes soft and/or sticky, return it to the refrigerator until firm.)  Remove and discard the top pieces of parchment paper.  Stack the rounds on the plate with the parchment between each layer.  Wrap the plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the fruit.

For the Filling:

4.  Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the apples with the lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and cinnamon.  Arrange the parchment-lined dough rounds in a single layer on the counter.  Arrange approximately one cup of the apple slices, thick edges out, in a circular round on each dough mound, leaving a one-inch border.

When you mold it with your hands, the apples will fill in any holes in your layering.

5.  Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit.  With cupped hands, gently press the dough to the filling, reinforcing the shape and compacting the apples.  Slide three tartlets, still on top of the parchment, onto each of two baking sheets.

Slide each tartlet onto a baking sheet, three to a sheet.

6.  Bake until pale golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Brush the surface of the crusts with the beaten egg whites and sprinkle the apples evenly with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar.  Return to the oven, rotating the baking sheets, and bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the apples are tender, about 15 minutes longer.  Cool the tartlets on the baking sheets for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool until warm or room temperature before serving.

A little patience can result in a lot of love.

(This is one of the things I love about this cookbook:  it includes hazard warnings and things you can do ahead of time.)

*Where Things Can Go Wrong - The amounts of cream cheese and butter used in this dough make it soft and delicate.  For easiest handling, make sure that your ingredients are cold and that your kitchen is cool.

*What You Can Do Ahead - The tartlets can be cooled completely, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature for up to two days.  The disks of dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen up to a month.  Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator.  Before rolling, let frozen dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. 

Having lots of people to dinner?  You can double this recipe, making two batches of dough and baking the tartlets in two batches.

Notes:  Spruce up the presentation with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, or a scoop of ice cream.

No comments:

Post a Comment