Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How do you like them apples?

Last weekend, the Engineer and I went apple picking on a whim with our friends M. and A. We ended up with a big bag of lobo apples. You’ll therefore be seeing a whole series of recipes with apples for the next few weeks! Today’s recipe is from Orangette again. It was very easy and absolutely delicious.

To make this completely lactose-free, you can use lactose-free margarine that you’ve put in the freezer first. It’s a general rule when you substitute it for butter: it usually works, but it has to be colder. So room-temperature butter is fridge-temperature margarine, and fridge-temperature butter is freezer-temperature margarine. Note that the amount of butter in this crust does not affect me, though, so I tend to use it anyway.

Apple Tart

For crust
4 Tbsp ice water, plus more as needed
¾ tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
9 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For filling
6 to 7 medium apples (about 2 1⁄2 pounds)
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup water

To prepare the crust
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 4 Tbsp ice water and the cider vinegar.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to blend. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal; there should be no pieces of butter bigger than a large pea. With the motor running, slowly add the water-vinegar mixture, processing just until moist clumps form. If you pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it in your fist, it should hold together. If the dough seems a bit dry, add more ice water by the teaspoon, pulsing to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a wooden board or clean countertop, and gather it, massaging and pressing, until it just holds together. Shape it into a ball, and press it into a disk about 1 1⁄2 inches thick. If the disk cracks a bit at the edges, don’t worry; just pinch the cracks together as well as you can. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and then press it a bit more, massaging away any cracks around the edges, allowing the constraint of the plastic wrap to help you form it into a smooth disk. Refrigerate the wrapped dough for 1 or 2 hours. Before rolling it out, allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature.

To assemble
Set an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring approximately 11 by 16 inches. Transfer the dough to a rimmed baking sheet. (Now, I’m not saying this is easy, but surely for those of you whose kitchen counter is bigger than mine, it’s perfectly doable. I ended up with an oval, so I tore off a few pieces and pressed them into place once in the baking sheet.)

Peel the apples, and cut them into quarters. Cut out the cores, and toss them into a medium saucepan. Cut the apples into thin – roughly 1/8- to ¼-inch-thick – slices. Arrange the apple slices over the pastry in rows, overlapping them like cards in solitaire. (I could have put more in there, had I been more patient with the slicing or had I used a mandoline to get thinner slices.)

Sprinkle sugar generously over the apples. (Molly Wizenberg uses a tablespoon – the eating kind, not the measuring kind – to do this, and I used about 1 slightly heaping spoonful for every 1 to 1 ½ rows of apple slices.) If you want to, fold up the edges of the dough a little bit, to form a small rim.

Bake the tart until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the apples are beginning to color, about 35 to 45 minutes. (If your apples aren’t getting much color, don’t worry; if the pastry is looking right and the apples are at least tender, you should be fine. My apples stayed pretty pale.) Cool on the pan on a rack.

Meanwhile, to the cores, add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer until the mixture has reduced to a thick syrup. Strain out and discard the solids, and set the glaze aside.

Just before serving, rewarm the glaze. Slide the tart from the pan onto a cutting board. Brush the apples with the warm glaze. Slice, and serve. (Only glaze those pieces you are serving right away, though.)

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