My mom passed away 27 years ago. She’d take us apple picking as kids, and we always returned with way more apples than we could really use. So after we’d had apple pie, apple crisp, Apple Brown Betty, and applesauce, she’d challenge us to come up with a totally new recipe for apples. It’s a tradition I continue every year during apple season.
This year’s: Almond shortbread crust, vanilla pastry cream flavored with fresh apple cider syrup, baked Golden Delicious apples glazed with fresh cider syrup and drizzled with apple caramel.
- Caroline, Los Angeles
Yield: 9-inch tart, serves 8
Almond Shortbread Crust
- 1 ¼ c all purpose flour
- 2 oz finely ground almonds (I use Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour)
- ¼ c sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
- ¾ tsp almond extract
- 2 Tbs ice water
- 4 oz white chocolate
- Preheat oven to 375. Fill a glass with cold water and add a few ice cubes, set aside.
- Whirl flour, almond flour, sugar and salt in processor until combined. Add diced butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the motor running, add almond extract and 1-2 Tbs ice water (from the glass) to form moist clumps.
- Dump mixture onto marble board or lightly floured surface and knead together to combine. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 20 minutes.
- Place tart pan on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Check the crust and puncture any bubbles with a skewer. Continue to bake for another 12-14 minutes until the crust is a pale golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheet.
- Melt white chocolate gently in the microwave, in 10 seconds bursts, on lowest setting. Brush a thin layer of melted white chocolate over the bottom of the cooled crust. Set aside to set. (The white chocolate prevents the filling from making the bottom crust soggy.)
- Crust can be made one day ahead and kept in fridge or freezer, well wrapped in plastic wrap. (When moving the cooled crust from place to place, remember the removable bottom! Keep it on a baking sheet or flat plate.)
Apple Cider Syrup
Reduce 2 c fresh apple cider in a medium saucepan to about ⅓ cup. (I mostly just watch it and pull it off the heat when it’s syrupy rather than measuring.) Let cool.
Pastry Cream (makes about 3 cups)
- 2 ¼ c whole milk, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- ⅔ c sugar, divided
- ⅓ c cornstarch
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 Tbs cooled apple cider syrup
- In medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup milk, egg yolks, ⅓ cup sugar. Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the cornstarch over the mixture and gently whisk in.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining 1¾ cups milk. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add the pod. Add remaining ⅓ cup sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer without stirring.
- Once simmering, whisk the hot milk mixture, then remove from heat and slowly whisk into egg yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pastry cream simmers and thickens to a pudding consistency. (This can take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.)
- Remove from heat and fish out the vanilla pod. Add the 1 Tbs of cider syrup, and whisk the cream until smooth. Transfer the cream to a medium bowl. (If you have cornstarch clumps, press the pastry cream through the fine mesh sieve into the bowl.)
- Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream and chill until cold, at least several hours or (best) overnight.
- Pastry cream can be stored in the fridge, with plastic wrap on its surface up to 3 days.
Apple Filling (adapted from Epicurious)
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ to 1 tsp ground cinnamon (depending on taste)
- ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 4-5 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, sliced into ¼” slices (I use a mandoline for this)
- ¼ c (packed) light brown sugar
- ¼ c apple cider
- ¼ c (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ c whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place apples in a 13x9x2 glass baking dish. Sprinkle spices and sugar over the apples, then pour over cider and the melted butter. Stir gently to coat.
- Bake apples until tender, stirring occasionally. This should take 10-20 minutes. Check on them after 10 mins. You want them soft but not mushy.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the apples to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.
- Scrape all juices from baking dish into medium saucepan. Set aside. (You will use these to make the Apple Caramel just before serving.)
- Spread cold pastry cream over the white chocolate in the tart crust. You may have more cream than you need. Chill for 20 minutes.
- Arrange cooled apple slices in overlapping circles over the pastry cream. When you get to the middle, cut a slice in half and arrange to look like the center of a rose.
- *The tart can be held at this point, lightly covered in plastic wrap, in the fridge for a few hours.*
Before serving (or taking to an event): Rewarm the cider syrup slightly and brush it gently over the apples in the tart.
Apple Caramel (adapted from Epicurious)
- ¼ c apple cider
- ¼ c packed light brown sugar
- ¼ c whipping cream
- Rewarm the juices from the apples over medium heat, add the cream, brown sugar and cider. Boil until caramel sauce deepens in color and is reduced to about ½ cup, whisking occasionally. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool for five minutes.
- Dip a fork into the warm caramel and drizzle over the tart. (Leftover caramel can be poured over waxed paper or a Silpat on a rimmed baking sheet and cut into bite sized treats when cool.)
There’s a lot of sweetness here, with the apples, syrup and caramel. To cut that a bit, stir one Tbs of Calvados into 8 oz of creme fraiche or plain yogurt. Serve tart with small dollops.
Bonus! You will likely have more apples, cider syrup, and creme fraiche/yogurt than you need. Not a problem! Use them all to make stuffed French Toast! Bon appetit!