A couple of autumn tarts

IMG_3305.JPG

Apples! Pears! Berries! What better way to celebrate autumn, eh?

On the prowl for a couple of Sunday desserts, as well as a way to use some of the local Michigan pears and apples I had on hand, tarts were definitely on my mind. Natch! This project involved two versions of tart, one apple/pear/blackberry with classic brown sugar crumble topping and one apple/pear/raspberry with crunchy almond topping. Ooooohhh how delicious.

IMG_3297.JPG
IMG_3291.JPG

I’ve been a fan of Bosc pears for some years now, and, on the apple side of things, this season I’ve taken quite a shine to Jonagolds too.

I typically poach my pears soon after purchase as a way to avoid the ripening wait as well as to hold them in the fridge for use when needed. But after reviewing some of my numerous pastry books I opted for the slice/dice/sauté in a little butter and sugar approach. Works like a charm!

For a couple of full sized tarts I peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced about 4 pounds of apples. That would normally be a decent quantity for one tart, but, since I was mixing in pears and berries, it worked very nicely for two.

Then on medium heat melt 2 ounces/56 g unsalted butter in a sauté pan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all of the apples, then stir in the slices until coated. Add 100 g dark brown sugar, a large pinch of salt, the zest of one lemon and a large squeeze (a tablespoon or so) of lemon juice, increase heat to medium high and stir about a minute.

Now here’s where I took Elisabeth Prueitt’s advice from her “Tartine all Day” book - cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and let the apples cook for about 10 minutes until softening and juice-releasing has happened. Then scoop the apple slices out with a slotted spoon (I placed them in a large strainer over a bowl to allow dripping then transferred them to a clean bowl) and cook down the juices for a few minutes until very thick - apple caramel! Mix the thickened juices in with the apples and you’re good to go. You can add a little cinnamon and nutmeg here if you’d like - I kept mine au naturel. Set aside to cool until you’re ready to fill your tart shell.

For the pears, again using about 4 pounds, I peeled, halved, cored and diced them into 1/2 inch cubes then followed a similar sauté approach in butter and sugar. For these, simply cook them over medium high heat until they start to soften and become lightly caramelized (maybe 5-8 minutes) then set them aside to cool until ready to fill the tarts. No juice reduction here.

I used two of my favorite tart doughs - pâte brisée for the blackberry version and pâte sucrée for the raspberry - blind baking them before filling. Once baked I brushed the bottom with egg white and popped ‘em back in the oven for a couple of minutes to “dry”. That provides a seal to the dough and reduces the chance for a soggy crust.

Pear apple blackberry waiting for assembly

Pear apple blackberry waiting for assembly

I mounded the apple/pear mix in first then tucked my blackberries into the various nooks and crannies. These were plump frozen berries that I broke up into pieces for more efficient cranny-ing.

IMG_3294.JPG

The brown sugar crumble is equal weights flour, brown sugar (you can use light or dark, whichever you prefer) and diced cold butter sanded into the dry ingredients. I usually make a bunch and store it in a zip-top bag in the freezer to use at a moment’s notice.

Loaded with crumble!

Loaded with crumble!

Since the crust is already baked and the fruit “cooked”, the primary task here is to brown the crumble and get the fruit to juicy-up. Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden and some juicy bubbling is visible.

IMG_3296.JPG

The approach to the raspberry version is pretty much the same. Fill the blind baked crust with the pear/apple/raspberry mix.

IMG_3288.JPG

But this time the topping is made with 2 large egg whites, 100 g/1 cup confectioner’s sugar and 125 g/1.25 cups sliced almonds all mixed together and spread over the fruit.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

This one also bakes at 350ºF for about 25-30 minutes until the nuts are browned and have taken on a certain luster and there’s some fruit juiciness visible around the edges.

IMG_3290.JPG

Talk about a treat! Whether it’s crunchy toasty almonds or a more classic crumble that melts in your mouth, both of these tarts delivered with the lovely fall flavor of pears, apples and berries. And a side of vanilla ice cream doesn’t hurt either!

Now don’t hesitate to make your own version of a delicious autumn tart.

Happy baking!

IMG_3302.JPG

Caramel apple tarts

IMG_3127.JPG

Yippee - it’s officially fall! The recent autumnal equinox dawned bright, crisp and clear with morning temps in the mid-40s, perfect for walking, baking or pretty much anything one might feel like doing. My time of year!

Apples are everywhere - farmers markets, grocery stores, orchards and farm stands - and one can choose the pick-your-own thing or simply buy your favorite of the many varieties available here in west Michigan.

IMG_3160.JPG
IMG_3120.JPG

Having a go-to simple apple tart in one’s repertoire is a beautiful thing. As is my practice, I periodically assess my freezer stock of various doughs and decide when it’s time to use something up. This time it was one of the pâte sucrée doughs that I like to use for rustic galettes.

The approach is very straight forward, not unlike the Provençal tomato tart I just wrote about, although this time there’s no blind baking involved. Gotta like that.

First line the tart rings. In this case I’m making four 100 mm/4 inch diameter tarts, just enough to share with a few folks for dessert. Once lined, I sprinkle a mixture of equal parts sugar/flour (almond flour or fine bread crumbs work too) on the bottom to protect against sogginess from juicy fruit. With apples it’s not as much of an issue as it might be for juicier fruits like berries or stone fruits, but it’s a good practice nonetheless.

If I happen to have some diced/sautéed apples on hand, I put a smattering of those into the tart shell too.

IMG_3121.JPG

For the remaining apple filling I thinly slice a few medium apples and toss them with some vanilla sugar (1/2 to 1 tablespoon per cup of apples, or to taste). You can switch to brown sugar if you prefer that bit of toffee like essence. I generally keep the apples as the centerpiece of flavor and forego adding cinnamon or other spices, but those are popular options with many apple tart/pie bakers. You decide.

I’ve used a number of different apples over the years and love the combination of Jonagold/Fuji or Granny Smith/Macintosh. During my internship in Paris back in 2007 Chef Pascal Pinaud used Golden Delicious for his apple tarts, and they were mighty fine too. Isn’t it fun to experiment?

NOTE: a pound is about 3-4 medium or 2-3 large apples and should yield 3-4 cups. That worked well here with a handful of slices left over. I go for the more the merrier, especially since I like to pile ‘em on.

IMG_3123.JPG

I drizzle a little melted butter over the apples then pop the tray into the freezer while I heat the oven to 400ºF. Start the bake on the lower rack for 10-15 minutes, then move up to the middle rack, turn down to 375ºF and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Some of the apple slice tips start turning brown and I’ll begin to see some juiciness and bubbling developing along with the lovely aroma of baking apples and nicely browning crust. At this point I’ll often turn down to 350ºF and give them another 10-15 minutes. In a nutshell I typically plan a 35-40 minute total bake time for these tarts.

Once out of the oven I drizzle my homemade caramel sauce over and give them 3-4 minutes more in the oven to set the caramel.

Looking good.

IMG_3126.JPG

Served with vanilla ice cream (Steve believes everything is better that way), these were a tasty end to the meal. Très délicieuse!

Here’s to many more autumn baking adventures!!

IMG_3129.JPG