My second recipe from "Baking Chez Moi"

I was delighted to receive Dorie Greenspan's recently published book "Baking Chez Moi" as a Christmas gift from Steve.  I simply love immersing myself in a new baking book, perusing the recipes and all of the great tips and techniques offered throughout the pages.  And, to top it off, Dorie's Paris connections and on-the-ground access to so many local French recipes makes it all the more enticing!

A few weeks back I made the custard apple squares recipe that had been highlighted online, and, being on the hook for dessert for a family gathering this past weekend, I was eager to delve deeper into the book for my second trial.

But, before I launch into that . . .

Last evening we took a quick drive through the entrance roads to Meijer Gardens to take a gander at the holiday lights.  The sun had just set and there was still a hint of pink in the western sky, but the lights were all illuminated and a pleasure to behold!

entrance to the main building at Meijer Gardens

There were many more lights to see and the picture doesn't even begin to do them justice, but, suffice it to say, if you happen to be in Grand Rapids over the Christmas and New Year holidays, be sure to stop in for a visit.

Now on to the recipe!  I decided on a version of the "pear tart with crunchy topping", since I had already purchased apples for my dessert prep.  I even had some of my pâte d'amande tart dough in Mom's freezer from my late summer visit, so out it came, making my prep much more straight forward.

In a nutshell this tart consists of a fully blind-baked crust, fruit filling and a crunchy nut topping made with egg whites, confectioner's sugar and nuts (in this case sliced almonds).  Dorie's recipe calls for sautéeing diced pears in sugar and butter to caramelize them, after which they are placed into the blind-baked crust and topped with the nut mixture.  Bake at 400º for about 25 minutes until the topping is golden and shiny and voila!

just out of the oven

For my version I used a combo of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples instead of pears and added some orange zest and a splash of OJ to my sauté mixture.  My fruit didn't caramelize like I had hoped, but I didn't want to cook it too long for fear of mushiness (I always prefer a hint of crunch to my apple tarts.)

My first bite gave me pause.  Although the apples were just the degree of al dente I wanted, I wasn't sure about the overall flavor of the apple mixture and the ever-so-subtle hint of orange.  The crust was done to perfection, but the crunchy almond topping seemed almost too much.  I think I prefer a nice nut crumble to add the necessary crunchy texture and light buttery sweetness that marries so well with the fruit.

All in all the tart was a hit with the family, no doubt due in part to the accompanying vanilla bean gelato.

And I must say - not bad with the next morning's cup of coffee!