On any given day, you will find a large basket of fruit on my kitchen table. This is for two reasons. First of all, it encourages my family to eat more fruit. And secondly, it’s pretty to look at. A perfectly ripened mango, an elegant pear, a juicy orange … all of them begging to be eaten. There’s just one problem. In their midst, you will always find an apple or two approaching a brown, shrivelled end.
Now don’t get me wrong, we like apples. Come the Fall we’re the first to load up on the bounty that Ontario’s apple harvest provides. It’s just that by the time Spring rolls around … well … the apples start to get a bit boring. Already I find myself daydreaming about strawberries, wild blueberries and the most fragrant peaches from Niagara-on-the-Lake. But the daydream inevitably comes to an end as I take a bite out of another apple. So many apples. Months of apples.
So you’ll understand why, last Saturday, I just knew I had to do something. A family of McIntosh apples was withering away in that aforementioned fruit basket. There was no way they’d make it to see another week of lunches. I needed a solution; something new and different that would help me solve the apple surplus.
That’s when I remembered a little trip that I’d taken to Ina Garten-land a few weeks ago. I had been flipping through a copy of her book Barefoot Contessa Parties! looking for a coffee cake recipe, but had instead come across a recipe for apple crostata. Essentially, it’s a recipe for a free-form apple tart.
The pastry consisted of flour, sugar salt and a lot o’ butter. It came together in a snap as I got to use the food processor. I usually make pastry dough by hand, but I wanted to follow Garten’s recipe as closely as possible. After refrigerating the dough for an hour, it was a dream to work with. I had no problems rolling it out and within minutes I was ready for the filling.
Preparing the filling consisted of peeling the apples and cutting them into chunks. I added grated orange zest and piled it all on to the dough in a glorious mass, being sure to leave a good 1-1/2 inch border all around so that I could fold the dough over the apples. A quick topping of flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and more butter was the final touch.
While Garten’s recipe doesn’t call for an egg wash, I made one anyway. I brushed the border with the egg wash to ensure that as I folded the pastry over the apples, it would stay in place. I then brushed the egg over the dough so that it would take on a lovely golden colour.
Twenty-five minutes letter I had the most beautiful tart. Some vanilla ice cream and a lovely cup of coffee and all of a sudden we were a family of apple lovers all over again.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten.
For the pastry (this recipe will yield enough pastry for 2 tarts)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1/2 cup ice water
- Put all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the dough attachment. Pulse 2 or 3 times to combine.
- Add the butter all at once and pulse 12 to 15 times, until the butter is the size of peas.
- Add a 1/4 cup of the ice water all at once and pulse the dough until it begins to come together around the blade. If the dough doesn’t come together, add a tablespoon of ice water at a time until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead it a few times until you form a smooth ball. Divide the ball into two pieces and flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. If you’re making one tart, place one disk in the refrigerator for an hour and freeze the other disk. Otherwise, if you’re making two tarts, refrigerate both disks of dough for an hour.
For the filling:
- 4 or 5 McIntosh apples
- grated zest of a small orange
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Peel the apples and quarter them. Cut each quarter into three pieces. Toss the apples with the orange zest and set aside.
- On a well-floured surface, roll your disk of dough into an 11-inch circle. (If the dough is too hard from being refrigerated, let it sit for a few minutes.) Once you’ve rolled out the dough, fold it into quarters or roll it around a rolling pin and transfer the circle to the prepared baking sheet.
- Pile the apple mixture on the dough, being sure to leave a 1-1/2 to 2-inch border all the way around.
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour the topping into a bowl and, with your fingers, work the butter until the topping starts to hold together. Sprinkle the topping on the apples.
- Brush egg wash over the border of dough. Carefully begin folding the border up and over the apples. The dough should partially cover the apples all the way around.
- Once you’ve folded the dough up and over, brush the egg wash over the dough.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. The apples will be tender.
Note: This tart serves 6, although I could have very easily eaten one on my own. Instead of McIntosh apples, you can also use Macoun or Empire.