Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Life Gives You Apples, Make Apple Tarts!!!

How are apples so exceedingly beautiful? It takes incredible energy to make an apple, well really to make any fruit or vegetable. The fruit is formed to protect the seed, and when it drops to the ground, hopefully it has a chance to germinate and grow anew. Imagine having just a few resources to live and thrive on: soil, water, light, and air, and you're expected to grow up healthy, reproduce, and now to feed entire populations of hungry people. I obviously taught this lesson when I was teaching bilingual Science classes in Spain, and this is how I went about it. Now, it is what I think about when I am creating something out of what most would view as an average apple--the energy from that apple is going to fuel me for the rest of the day, so I am going to celebrate it as well as I can!

Today's recipe is super simple, yet endlessly rewarding. Four ingredients and a couple spices will take you to otherworldly status. Not only will it transform the atmosphere in your kitchen with the warm, enveloping scent of baked apples and autumnal spices, but when you take that first radiant mini tart in your hand and you sink your teeth into its soft, yielding apple-happiness, your day will notably improve. Just take a look at the mouth-watering photos; they make me want to finish the plate I have sitting on the kitchen counter (now covered in foil, so as to deter overindulgence).

I used Macintosh apples for their firmness and tartness, because you do add a tad of sugar. Also, you don't have to go buy a thousand pounds of apples to make this one, I just used four fist-sized apples and I ended up with 8 or 9 mini tarts, which is plenty. Please please, use real unsalted butter for this recipe, for it will allow the flavor of the apple to shine.

MmmmmmmmMmm. I don't think I can even start to write this recipe without wanting to make another batch!

Autumn Apple Tartlets

4 Macintosh apples
3 T Unsalted butter, melted
1/8+C sugar
Puff pastry or pie crust

Set your oven to 400º on bake
I happen to have access to a wealth of little poaching cups in my home, so I used those to make mini tartlets. I bet that a muffin tin would work just the same, or if you happen to have mini tartlet pan, good for you--now you can use it! If you have prepared pie dough in the freezer, you'll obviously need to thaw it out, and for those who buy it in the store (try to find one without preservatives), you have to thaw it from the freezer as well! If you want to take the challenge to make your own pie crust, I recommend Lynn Rossetto Kaspar's Pie in the Sky Apple Pie Crust Recipe from The Splendid Table (a radio show and podcast from American Public Media). Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness, and if you have individual tartlet cups, like I used with our multi-purpose poaching cups, invert them over the dough and cut about a 1/2 inch circumference around them--this will give you just enough crust to cover the inside of the tartlet...if you want to get fancy and crimp the edges or cut out ornamental leaves or something, you'll clearly have to adjust your measurements. Do what you think is fitting! Press the dough into your tartlet molds and set aside.
To prepare the apples, all you have to do is peel, core, and slice them thin. Because I had four small apples, it was a breeze, and I didn't have to adjust the size of my slices for the size of my cups because they were already small enough. And boy! The flavor explosion in those apples was mesmerizing...I was taken aback. Anyways, slice them as even as you can manage with the thinness that is asked of you. Then you take those apples and layer them directly into your tartlet crusts. I layered them in a spiral shape for most of them, but if you just want to throw the slices in there every which way, that's fine too. 

Finally, you melt the butter and sugar together in a small bowl (I just used the microwave, but over the stove would work too), it took about 30-40 seconds. Then mix it up, spice with nutmeg and cinnamon, get a pastry brush out and go to town on top of those apples. You want to brush enough of that glaze to seep down to the bottom, but don't add a ridiculous amount, you only have 3 tablespoons. When they are all arranged on parchment paper on a baking pan, set them in a 400º oven for about 20-25 minutes, but watch for burning crusts, okay? When you take them out, transfer them to a wire rack to cool, and drizzle some honey over them... yes, I said drizzle honey. Amazing.

You can serve them warm or at room temperature. As I mentioned earlier, I just kept them on the counter wrapped in foil. If you want to reheat them, I would do so in the oven. They are also lovely served next to a small spoon of ice cream, and what a dainty presentation that would make! Throw a sprig of mint on the ice cream and you are getting closer to haute cuisine than you know :)
Enjoy, and may this be the beginning to a season full of warm, comforting, and exceedingly delightful food! Bon appetite!

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