It was thus that I turned to a book that Steve and I have owned for a number of years - "The Cheese Course" by Janet Fletcher. While I don't pull it off the shelf very often it offers some great ideas for accompaniments to cheese, including breads, salads with light and simple vinaigrettes, fruits, nuts, honey, olives and more.
I recalled that it contained a recipe for golden raisin bread, so I decided to go for it. The bread is meant to be toasted and served with Bellwether Farms' crescenza, described as a yeasty, creamy cheese, similar to Italian stracchino. But I digress - on to the subject at hand.
Besides chomping at the bit to bake more bread, I've been wanting to make a not so run-of-the-mill tart - something with a Parisian twist. I had my eye on an apple tart recipe in Dorie Greenspan's book "Paris Sweets" (one of my faves) that calls for toast points to be tucked in between apple slices before baking. I was on my way to a new adventure.
First the bread. Soak 2 cups of golden raisins in 2 cups warm water for an hour or so. Drain them, reserving 320 ml (1 1/3 cups) of the raisin water (add additional water if you don't have quite enough). I wanted a bit of je ne sais quoi, so I added the zest of an orange and pinches of nutmeg, allspice and coriander to the dry ingredients.
Weigh out 488 gm (3 3/4 cups) all purpose flour, holding 98 gm (3/4 cup) aside; whisk 390 gm (3 cups) flour with 8 gm (1.5 tsp) salt, 15 gm (1 TBSP) sugar, 8 gm (~ 2.5 tsp) instant yeast; stir in the tepid raisin water and 10 gm (2 tsp) soft butter.
When it becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding in the remaining flour as you go. Knead about 5 minutes until the dough is firm, smooth and elastic and shape it into a ball.
|after the knead, ready for the first rise|
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1.5-2 hours.
|after the rise|
Pat the raisins dry and toss them in 3 tablespoons of flour.
Without punching the dough down turn it onto the work surface and pat it firmly into a 14" circle. Top it with 1/3 of the raisins, pressing them gently into the dough.
Fold the sides of the dough toward the center (I folded it into thirds, just like with a laminated dough) and then roll into a cylinder.
|the first cylinder|
Again flatten the dough into a circle, add another 1/3 of the raisins, fold the sides into the center and roll again into a cylinder. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes before you do the same thing a third time, finishing up the raisins and forming the final cylinder.
|kinda rough and tumble I'd say|
Now divide the dough in two and shape each half into a loaf about 12" long (mine came out shorter).
|ready for the final rise|
I will say these are not the most attractive loaves I've ever shaped. The raisins made them all lumpy-bumpy, plus you have to keep the raisins tucked into the dough so they don't burn during baking.
Cover with a towel or lightly oiled plastic and let rise for an hour or so. They look like some kind of funky subterranean creature!
|after the rise, ready for the oven|
Heat the oven to 400º, bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temp to 375º and continue baking about 30 minutes more. They should be nicely golden brown and have that tell-tale hollow thump of doneness.
|the end result|
Once cooled, I sliced one for a taste test and was pleased with the hint of orange and spice, the plump raisins and the not too chewy texture. I ultimately used about 1/2 loaf for the apple tart and froze the rest - lots of breakfast raisin toast coming up these next few weeks. Yes!
So let's move on to the apple tart. Dorie G's "Paris Sweets" recipe is an adaptation from Lenôtre and calls for the following components.
1. Caramelized white bread (in my case golden raisin) toasts: slice the bread, cut off the crusts, spread one side with a mixture of soft butter and light brown sugar (made by mixing 30 gm/2 TBSP butter with 30 gm/2 packed TBSP brown sugar) . . . .
then pop under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, flip over and broil another 2 minutes or so. Pay close attention so they don't burn (if necessary, just scrape off any black edges with a sharp knife).
2. A blind baked crust (I used my 240 mm / 9.5" tart ring and my favorite pâte d'amande dough) . . . .
|waiting for weights and ready to blind bake|
3. Peeled, cored, cut-in-eighths Golden Delicious apples (4 of 'em) sautéed in butter, sugar and vanilla pulp . . .
4. A custard mixture made by whisking together one large egg, 3 large yolks, 70 gm (1/3 cup) sugar and the pulp from 1/2 vanilla bean until somewhat thickened and pale.
Then boil 300 gm (1 1/4 cups) heavy cream (stovetop or microwave - you decide) and pour the hot cream over the egg mixture bit by bit while whisking constantly. Try not to be too vigorous - you don't want a lot of bubbles (tapping the container on the counter will help dissipate any bubbles that may have formed).
On to the assembly. Heat the oven to 325º. Place the blind baked tart shell on its parchment lined pan onto a second sheet pan (this provides some insulation and more gentle heat). Slice the toasts.
|everything at the ready|
This was definitely the clunky part. The idea is to line the apple slices up in the tart shell, then tuck the toast triangles (or in my case, more like rounds) decoratively between the apples slices. Easier said than done.
I had a few gaps into which I tucked smaller pieces of apple, and I did my best with the toast placement. Pretty rustic.
Dorie calls for sprinkling a couple tablespoons each of walnut pieces and raisins over it all, but, since I was using raisin bread, I left them out.
Carefully pour about 1/3 of the custard over the apples, letting it find its way into the crevices. Bake for 10 minutes to settle the custard a bit. Then pour additional custard over until it reaches the tart rim - not too much or it will spill over (I didn't use all of mine).
|the custard poured in|
Bake for another 40-45 minutes until the custard is set.
|interesting look, eh?|
|one more view|
I served this for dessert that same evening, garnished with a dollop of chantilly and some nut crumble. Despite my skepticism going in, this turned out to be one delicious tart! Dick, Dor, Carl and Steve all thought so too. And I still have golden raisin bread in the freezer - cool!
And next time? I'm already envisioning thinner apple slices and a rectangular tart pan to allow for more attractive rows of apples and toast. Yes, I would do this again.