21 August 2011

Apple Almond Tart

My oh my, if there were any words that would convince you to try out this tart then I wish I could find them right now! I didn't have many expectations when it came to trying this recipe, sure I thought it looked nice but it was more a scrummy looking recipe tried out of necessity than one out of long-term lusting. After making the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake I was left with 6 dinky little egg yolks just begging to be utilised in some comforting sweet. Im not sure why I opted for this one in the end...maybe the pastry addicted gremlin in my brain working its magic, but I truly am so so happy it won out

You know those moments when the final piping hot baked good looks EXACTLY like it's meant to, like the original recipe, and you do a happy little dance knowing it all went to plan? I did one of those joyful jigs when I cracked open the oven after the 40 minutes-that-felt-like-forever were up to reveal the most divine smelling tart. It was a good feeling indeed

I have to say I was slightly sceptical upon tasting the batter (salmonella shmalmonella, who can resist scraping out batter bowls), it wasn't...unpleasant...but you could say it was 'interesting'! My worries were quickly put to rest however after 10 minutes of baking when that sweet cinnamon apple scent started creeping throughout the house. My goodness was that smell smile-inducing, it's worth making this for that alone!

This tart is one of those classically comforting, nostaglia inducing desserts...but upgraded. The crust is a pretty run of the mill pâte sablée (sweet shortcrust pastry) but the ratio's in this were spot on, it was flaky, rich and the ideal accompaniment to the filling. It's got that timeless traditional apple-cinnamon-raisin combo that is just so lovely, but the texture and depth given by the grating of the apples, the yolk mixture, and that hidden layer of sweet apricot makes it something special. Both the almonds and the apricot jam are not immediately obvious upon tasting, I think they enhance the dish overall rather than being a noticeable aspect. I have no shame in admitting I have been eating my first slice whilst writing this, popped into the kitchen and have just come back with my second rather generous portion! This is a keeper of a recipe that I would be proud to serve to guests, it is delicious both cold or warmed up with a big dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream :) Perfect.

Apple Almond Tart
Makes one 9 inch tart

For the pâte sablée crust
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch salt
4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 4 Tbsp cold water

For the filling
6 Tbsp apricot jam
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup (50g) ground almonds
1/3 cup raisins
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large baking apples (I used Bramley)
4 Tbsp butter, melted

For the crust: Put the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of small peas
Make a well in the mixture and pour the beaten egg/water in. Use a fork to roughly stir it all together then use your hands to press the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes
Grease a 9 inch tart pan (preferably one with a removable base) 
Roll out the dough until it is roughly a 12 inch circle, transfer to the pan and gently press it in
Spread the jam over the base and put in the refrigerator whilst you make the filling

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl, gradually adding the sugar/salt, until they reach the 'ribbon stage' - the yolks will be thickened and become a pale lemony colour*
Stir in the almonds, raisins, lemon and cinnamon, set aside
Peel and core the apples. Grate them into a bowl/lipped plate as they will release a lot of liquid
Put handfuls of the apple into the middle of a clean kitchen towel,  gather up the ends around the apple and wring out as much excess liquid as you can. Transfer the dried apple to the yolk mixture as you go
Stir the filling well, spoon into the jam lined crust and spread it evenly
Bake for 20 minutes
Remove after these 20 minutes, increase the oven temperature to 375F/190C, poke the top of the tart all over with a fork and pour over the melted butter
Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes
Remove and let cool on a rack before serving

* For a useful tutorial on beating egg yolks to the ribbon stage click here


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