Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Choosing and Apple Tart

we couldn't pick apples this year
mother nature had other plans for us

the frost bit the blossoms in the Spring
the apples fell early
the tree was bare

we had to choose
from a bin
from the ground

we went apple choosing
and still had fun

According to Linda Stradley, on the web site What's Cooking America, one of the first records of apple pie was in a cookbook originally compiled around 1390 A.D. by the master cooks of King Richard II. The following, according to historians, is one of the first recipes of what we know today as apple pie.

XXIII. For To Make Tartys in Applis
Tak gode Applys and gode Spryeis and Figys and reyfons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed co-lourd wyth Safron wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake well.

These early pies differed from pies today in that no sugar was used – for obvious reasons. Sugar was both scarce and expensive. Also, the pastry, referred to as a “coffin” in the ancient recipe, was considered simply a container, something not to be eaten.

It was said that the mark of a good “coffin” was if it could be run over by a wagon wheel without breaking!

Apple trees were brought to America from Europe. The only apple trees native to North America are varieties of crab apple trees. However, the acceptance of apples in the American culture is demonstrated by the well known slogan:

“As American as motherhood and apple pie.”

Today, the mark of a good apple pie is its tender, flaky crust and the shortest possible period of time between the picking of the apple and the baking of the pie. It has become a family tradition at our house to pick our own apples in the fall. At Thanksgiving this year, we made pies with apples that had been at the orchard as recently as the day before we made the pies.

Recipe for Apple Tart

An apple pie is often made with a double crust. This time we used only a bottom crust, making it an Apple Tart.

Serves 8

200 g flour (about 1½ cups)
100 g butter, unsalted, and broken into pieces (about 7 tablespoons)
70 g confectioners' sugar (about 1/3 cup)
5 g salt (about 1 teaspoon)
4 ml milk (about 1 teaspoon)
3 egg yolks
5 ml pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)

700 g apples (about 3 cups)

500 g apples (about 2 cups)
50 g sugar, optional (3½ tablespoons)
50 g butter (3½ tablespoons)
cinnamon, to taste

For the dough:
Sift the flour onto the counter. Make a big well. Add the butter, confectioners' sugar, salt, milk, yolks and vanilla extract. Using your pointing finger, start bringing the flour into the liquid ingredients in a circular motion. When you have a paste-like mixture, use a pastry scraper and break the dough up into a crumbly, sandy mixture.

Fraisage: Take a small amount of dough and rub it through the palm of your hand along the work surface. This pulls the butter around the flour and ensures that you don't overwork the dough, keeping it tender. Set this piece of dough aside and repeat with remaining dough.

After you've performed this technique on all the dough, then you can knead all the dough into a ball. You should be able to see a fingerprint in the dough that springs back a little before resting. If the dough seems dry, add fingertips of water. If wet, add touches of flour. Form into a circle, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Fleurer (sprinkle) the counter with flour. Roll the dough out. Always roll from the middle of the dough and roll evenly. Position the dough in the tart pan or ring. Chill until needed.

For the filling:
Core, quarter and slice apples. In pan, melt butter. Add apples. Then add sugar, to taste (depending on how sweet your apples taste). Cook until soft. Then add pure vanilla extract. Cook (adding water if it dries out too quickly and turn heat to low) until somewhat soft. Pass through a food mill (or use a food processor to purée.

Spread the compote on the bottom of the pastry. Layer the remaining slices of apple on top in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 30 to 40 minutes, until done.

Tasting Notes
My 11 year-old loves to help make pie and she does it now with minimal supervision. We all love it when she gets into her pie making mood. The only thing better than the taste of fresh apple pie is the anticipatory smell of it baking in the oven. This year, the pie came out just in time for the turkey to go in and the lingering aroma of apple pie spices with a slow roasting turkey – well, memories are made of this!

If you like this post, share it!

If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.
  • Click here to subscribe.

  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
    To see a visual index of recipes, click here.
    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.


    giz said...

    There's something so homey about making apple pies and tarts. Love the pictures - great!!

    Unknown said...

    I love a good apple tart/pie. The part that I hate is prepping all those apples, but you have those awesome apple magicians as I call them. It's probably good I don't have it, I'd be baking with apples everyday!

    Anonymous said...

    I always love your posts because they give me a bit of a history lesson on foods that I love to eat and don't know much about! We went apple picking this year and loved looking for just the right size, color, and shape in each apple we got so I'm sure apple choosing is just as fun. This tart looks wonderful and your daughter is precious!

    Jessica said...

    Geez, I really need an apple peeler like yours!

    steph- whisk/spoon said...

    you are lucky to have such a capable pastry sous chef baking pies for you! i went apple picking last weekend and hope to make a pie soon...too bad i don't have one those cool peeling contraptions!

    Anonymous said...

    I agree about apple prepping especially if you want the apples to be symetrical. I usually cut off the halves and then slice them into smaller slices with a paring knife to the best of my ability.
    Looks like a great tart recipe. Looking forward to trying it out.

    Anonymous said...

    Great blog keep up the hard work!