Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cinnamon Apple Tart

I'm slightly obsessed with tarts, to the point that I will concoct new ones even while battling pneumonia and heavily medicated.  But from the start, I've relied on a no-fail tart crust as the base for all these creations and it never disappoints.  The base recipe for this tart will take you through all seasons, working with nearly any fruit, chocolate, caramel & pecans, or any other glorious delights you can dream up!  Your family will think you've been sneaking away to pastry school when you take this week's granny smith apples and turn them into this fanciful tart.

Cinnamon Apple Tart

For the crust (makes one 9-inch tart crust):
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp water
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the butter, oil, water and salt in a small saucepan and heat on high until the butter is fully melted and it begins to bubble around the edges.  Allow to cool for a minute or so.  In a mixing bowl, add 1 cup of the flour and all of the sugar, and begin to pour in the butter mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon to combine.  Gradually add in more of the flour until the dough begins to form into a ball and the mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Turn our your dough into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and if you don't have access to one of those, you can absolutely use a pie pan and MacGyver it from there.  Press the dough evenly into the pan across the bottoms and the sides.

For this recipe you'll only want to partially bake your crust, so you'll want to bake it for only 5-8 minutes or until the crust is starting to firm.  But for future use, should you wish to fully bake it, go ahead and leave it in for 10-15 minutes, and keep an eye on your edges so they don't burn.

Remove your par-baked crust from the oven and let it cool while you prepare your apple filling.

For the filling:
1 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar
3 granny smith apples, sliced thin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp quince jam (an apricot jam would also work, and I suspect even local honey would too!)
1 Tbsp water

Combine your ground hazelnuts and 1/4 cup of the sugar, and sprinkle it into the bottom of the tart crust.  In a bowl, toss your apple slices with the remaining sugar and cinnamon, and then begin to layer them on top of your hazelnut base.  You can get as fancy or as rustic as you want, basically as long as you refrain from heaping them into a pile, it's going to turn out looking great.  So don't drive yourself batty trying to get perfect layers.  And the best part is, the chef gets to eat any of the cinnamon apple pieces that don't make it into the tart.  Shhhhh!  Dot the top with your butter pieces, sprinkle with lemon juice and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until your edges are a light, golden brown and the apples are tender.

To give your tart a bit of a glaze, combine your jam or honey and water in a small saucepan and heat through, but do not bring to a full boil.  Lightly brush over the top of the fruit, let your tart cool on a wire rack  and serve at room temperature.

*For a gluten-free version, I've actually started using the hazelnut & sugar mixture for the crust.  I keep a jar of the sugary hazelnut meal on hand to use for baking, so I would do 4 cups of ground hazelnuts with 1 cup of sugar, and that should give you more than you'd need for 1 tart.  So to turn that into your crust, combine that with about 1/4 cup melted butter (you can adjust more or less to make sure it's not too dry or too soggy) and then press it into your tart pan.  Partially bake it at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until the crust just starts to turn golden.  And then you can proceed from there with the filling as shown above.

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