Siestas, since I love you so, here are the recipes as promised. I am typing my own words in blue so that you can differentiate between the inspired cook-book author and my lowly uninspired self. The first recipe is by far the easier of the two, and nearly as good. P.S. The pictures above are related to the second recipe, not the first. You don’t need anything special for the first recipe- and it will bless your heart.
Tarte Fine Aux Pommes
(rough translation “thin apple tart”; note: native Texans should not attempt to pronounce the French title, and you know what? Neither should Georgians. Exception: Our Siesta Susan from Savannah, who lived in France for 15 years)
Recipe by Nigella Lawson in “Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast”
2 large Granny Smith apples (or 3 smaller ones)
Juice of 1 Lemon
One half (1 sheet) of a 17.2 oz package all-butter storebought puff pastry, measuring 9 ½ x 9 ½ inches
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
Crème Fraiche for serving, if wished
1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Core the apples, and cut them in half. Pour the lemon juice into a wide shallow dish and fill it with some cold water. Immerse the apple halves in the lemony water; this will stop them from turning brown.
3. Lay the sheet of puff pastry onto a large baking sheet, and either using the back of a large carving knife or a steel ruler mark a ½ inch border all the way around the edge of the rectangle. You need to score the lines on the pastry rather than cutting all the way through it. This will allow a frame to rise above the apple filling.
4. Pat the apples dry and cut each half into quarters, then slice each quarter as thinly as you possibly can: think segment wafers.
5. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the base. Working from the inside edge, place the apple slices closely overlapping within the border of the frame. Create neat lines of apple slices until the pastry is covered.
6. Heat the butter with the remaining tablespoon of sugar in a small pan, and let both bubble for a few minutes until a light caramel color appears. Dribble this syrup over the apples and put the tart in the oven.
7. Cook for 20-25 minutes, by which time a puff pastry border will have risen around the apples and the fruit will be soft and slightly colored. Cut into squares or slices and serve with crème fraiche if desired.
Serves 6-8 normal people and 2 Fitzpatricks.
Um, since my maiden name is “Moore”, I did feel the need to add another tablespoon of brown sugar in addition to the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (some for the base and some for the syrup). I also snuck more butter in so that there would be more syrup to cover the pastry. Also, if you have a Whole Foods nearby they sell a brand of Frozen Puff Pastry that will rock your world. It is from Dufour Pastry Kitchens, and I think it is to die for. But seriously, I am sure any frozen puff pastry brand would work. I couldn’t find it in the sheet size that this recipe calls for but the wonderful thing about puff pastry is that you can manipulate it and cut it into whatever shape or size you want. The last time I made this recipe, I made them into small little free form round tarts. Puff Pastry is seriously wonderful. Here is an analogy for those of you who want me to work Bible Study into this post:
Frozen Puff Pastry: Baking as Colored Pens: Bible Study
Just like colored pens make Bible Study way more fun, so puff pastry makes cooking way more fun. Oh and forget the crème fraiche, because to me, nothing gets better than whipped cream from a spray bottle. And yes, our family even gets more undignified than this, for I have actually seen my Mom spray whipped cream into the back of her mouth straight from the bottle while hiding behind the refrigerator door. Sorry Mom, that was for the “cooking cult” comment.
Fancy Fresh Fruit Tart
For all of my brave siesta-chefs out there! Think of this recipe in four parts:
1) Tart shell
2) Pastry cream filling
3) Fresh fruit topping
4) Final fruit glaze
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
Life will be most easy for you if you own a 9-10 inch nonstick tart pan with a removable bottom. It sounds fancy, but it isn’t fancy or expensive at all. I got mine at Williams-Sonoma for $18. Keep in mind that the recipe is for a 10-inch round, so adjust accordingly. Mine was only 9 inches so I had to adjust the dough a bit. My guess is that the removable bottom is pretty key since the tart shell is fairly delicate. If you do not own pie weights, then you can absolutely use dried beans or rice- but do use something! I bought my pie weights at Williams-Sonoma and they are ceramic and reusable and come in a cute little jar. And you’ve gotta love “cute”.
Shortbread Tart Shell by Ina Garten in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” (pg. 183)
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on a low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch round or 9-inch-square false bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.
Butter one side of a square aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice (or pie weights). Bake for twenty minutes. .. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20-25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature.
Siestas, at this point if you think your tart shell is ugly, do not despair, for it is going to have fruit spread all over it in the long run. I mean, don’t use it if it is completely burnt, but don’t freak out if it doesn’t look perfect. Also, I hope that you noticed that you are NOT to roll out this dough; you are not supposed to roll shortbread dough. You simply press it into the pan and use your thumbs. See, this recipe could have been much harder, if I would have given you a tart shell that you had to use a food processor and rolling pin with.
PART 2- The Pastry Cream (Adapted by Deb from smittenkitchen.com from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan)
(you can, of course, prepare the pastry cream while the tart shell is baking, but for the sake of simplicity and pedagogy, I thought the steps were helpful)
1 1/4 cups (300 grams) whole milk
1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside for 10 minutes. Or, if you are using vanilla extract, just bring the milk to a boil and proceed with the recipe, adding the extract before you add the butter to the hot pastry cream.
2. Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until thick and pale. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk onto the yolks. Then, still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a steady stream over the tempered yolks. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.
3. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and without stop, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the party cream into a clean bowl. Allow the pastry cream to cool on the counter for about 3 minutes.
4. Cut the butter into chunks and stir the chunks into the hot pastry cream, continuing to stir until the butter is melted and incorporated. (Here I also added about a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream: again, I am a “Moore”; some non-Southern Baptist recipes also call for about a teaspoon of Cognac, Grand Marnier, or Brandy during this step). At this point, the cream needs to be thoroughly chilled. You can either set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and, to ensure even cooling, stir the cream from time to time, or refrigerate the cream, in which case you should press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal.
(The cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and whip before using to return it to its smooth consistency.)
Siestas, please do follow the directions and chill the pastry cream because you want it to be a firm enough spread so that when you place the fresh fruit on it, it doesn’t turn into a glob. The consistency of the pastry cream should remind you more of custard than cream. When the tart shell has cooled off and the pastry cream is chilled, add the pastry cream to the tart shell and spread evenly.
Part 3: Fresh Fruit
Okay, so at this point you can choose whatever fresh fruit to add to the tart. I was sort of on steroids that day, and so I choose like every fruit I could lay my hands on. However, a plain strawberry tart is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. The next time I make one, I am going to use just halved strawberries and whole blueberries. The oranges and kiwis are great for color, though. Ina Garten gives the following tip when arranging the fruit, “Place the larger fruit first and then spill the berries into the spaces to fill in. Use one strong color, such as halved strawberries or a small bunch of grapes, near the middle to give the design focus and height” (The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 185). Really though, siestas, please do not be dogmatic about this- we are not being theological- we are exercising our creativity! You’re an artist! Make it look pretty! One tip I would give is that I would wash the fruit and let it dry for a little while so that you make sure you aren’t putting soggy fruit on the pastry cream. You certainly don’t want to go to all this work to have a soggy fruit tart.
Part 4: Final Fruit Glaze (my adaptation)
1/4 cup of apricot jam/jelly Melt the apricot jam/jelly with a little water (1-2 teaspoons) and brush the fruit with a pastry brush (or any brush, just not a hair brush) to give it an amazingly shiny look. This final step really makes a difference, as the fruit can tend to look dry and pale without it. Susan, our siesta who lived in France for 15 years, recommended using raspberry or strawberry jam. I am sure either would work great, and honestly, I just microwaved the jam/water until it was melted and it worked fine for me, but I am sure it would be more sophisticated to melt it over a saucepan. Concluding Remarks: Love,
1-2 teaspoons of water
Siestas, while the fruit tart is better the first day, it will still be pretty good the next day, as long as you do not refrigerate it! The best thing to do is to keep all the various parts separate until a few hours before you want to serve it. Be blessed!
Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick
1/4 cup of apricot jam/jelly
Melt the apricot jam/jelly with a little water (1-2 teaspoons) and brush the fruit with a pastry brush (or any brush, just not a hair brush) to give it an amazingly shiny look. This final step really makes a difference, as the fruit can tend to look dry and pale without it. Susan, our siesta who lived in France for 15 years, recommended using raspberry or strawberry jam. I am sure either would work great, and honestly, I just microwaved the jam/water until it was melted and it worked fine for me, but I am sure it would be more sophisticated to melt it over a saucepan.