Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rustic Apple Tart

I admit, my mind is still on that raclette dinner we had a few nights ago. Something about it is just so… intoxicating. But I’m here to talk about one of my favorite desserts, the rustic apple tart, which, incidentally, was served that very night.  

After a decadent dinner of cheese and potatoes, the last thing I wanted to dish up was a slice of chocolate sludge or caramel stickiness. Enter the apple tart. It’s not too heavy (it’s fruit based, for goodness sake) and autumnally warming. And it pleases even the most finicky palates, especially when topped with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.

I frequently use this recipe to make 6 individual tartlets but time didn’t permit, so one large rustic tart it was! The crust (adopted from America’s Test Kitchen) includes both cream cheese and butter, plus a bit of sugar and some fresh lemon juice. It’s tender, flaky and absolutely scrumptious. And don’t worry about making it perfectly shaped – irregular is just another word for rustic.   

Rustic Apple Tart 
This tart is a great finish to almost any meal.   

Tart Dough:
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into ½-inch chunks
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons ice water

2 large or 3 medium Granny Smith apples
2 large or 3 medium sweet variety apples (McIntosh, Fuji, etc)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg white, lightly beaten

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt to combine. Add butter and cream cheese; pulse until mixture resembles small peas (at this point, it will not form a cohesive ball). Pour into a medium bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and 1 tablespoon ice water. Using a fork, lightly mix until liquid is evenly distributed and a small portion of dough holds together when squeezed in your hand, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if necessary. Note: mixture will still look a bit dry.

Turn dough onto a clean work surface and gather into a cohesive ball. Flatten into a 6-inch disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from refrigerator (if it was refrigerated longer than 30 minutes, let it stand at room temperature until it’s malleable). On a lightly floured surface, roll dough with a floured rolling pin into a 15-inch circle. Transfer to a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making apple filling.

Peel, core and slice apples into ¼-inch slices. In a medium bowl, toss apples with lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon.

To Assemble, arrange apple slices in a circular, overlapping pattern around pastry, thick edges out, leaving a 3-inch border. Continue concentric, overlapping circles until you reach the middle. Fold dough border over the outside of filling, pleating it to fit snugly over the apples. When finished, gently press down to reinforce the shape.

Bake on the middle of oven for 30 minutes (tart will be pale golden at this point). Brush crust with beaten egg white and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. You may also want to place tart pan onto a second baking sheet of the same size to ensure that bottom of crust doesn’t get too brown. Return to oven and bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 30 more minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

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