Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Tart

For Christmas this year, my brother, mom, dad and I spent the day opening presents, listening to music, lounging about the house, and making food together. One of my presents was Michel Roux's Pastry (which I previously drooled over at Rabelais in Portland, ME). I wanted to try something from the book, and my dad had brought home a bushel of Arkansas Black apples, so I settled on the classic Apple Tart. It seems that this was the year for them. I followed the recipe in its entirety, using Michel's tart crust recipe. It is as follows:

Tart Pie Dough
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
1 medium egg
1 tsp. superfine sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Tblsp. cold water

Heap the flour in the bowl and make a well. Put the butter, egg, sugar and salt in the middle. With your fingertips, mix and cream ingredients in the well. Draw flour into center and work dough to a grainy texture. Add cold water and mix until dough holds together. Push dough away from you 4-5 times until it is smooth. Roll dough in ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Apple Tart
Tart Pie Dough
6 dessert apples (I used Arkansas Black)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (we didn't have any, so I used extract)
4 1/2 Tblsp. butter
scant 1/2 c. superfine sugar

Roll out dough in circle and use to line a buttered and floured tart pan. Pinch up edges with index finger to make a fluted edge higher than the dish. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core and halve apples. Cut into very fine slices. Put 1/3 of apples in a pan and add 1/4 c. water, vanilla and butter and cook until tender. Take off heat, discard vanilla bean and work the apples with a whisk to compote consistency. Let cool. For glaze, in small pan, dissolve sugar in 2 1/2 Tbslp. water. Bring to boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Let cool. Prick base of pastry shell lightly. Pour in cold apple compote and spread. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around tart, then arrange another circle inside with slices facing the other way. Fill center with a small rosette of slices. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing tart pan. Brush top with glaze. Cut and enjoy!

I liked this recipe, but I am of the opinion that butter in pie dough should be as COLD as possible during preparation to facilitate supreme flakiness. But for a traditional tart crust, this was easy and tasted good. We topped it off with brandy and Indiana maple syrup-spiked whipped cream, then entered the TEZ...Mom in the TEZGrant in the TEZ.

Look for more Michel Roux recipes in 2010 as I delve into my lovely Christmas present!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tarte Tatin

Last week Erica (a.k.a. my awesome WXYC mentor DJ) and I got together to bake a tart. We settled on the classic French upside-down carmelized apple tart, tarte tatin, using the recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook:

Tarte Tatin

Nothing-in-the-house crust recipe, using all-purpose flour (at right)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
7-9 apples, cored and quartered (we used Jonagold and Gala)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare crust (recipe at right) and refrigerate. Spread butter on bottom and sides of cast iron skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange apples tightly in concentric circles in pan. Cook apples on moderately high heat, without stirring until juices are deep golden and bubbling (YEAH!), about 18-25 minutes. Meanwhile, roll out crust in a circle large enough to cover the skillet and sides. Bake apples in the skillet for 20 minutes (apples will settle and become soft). Remove skillet from oven and lay the pastry round over the apples, tucking in the sides. Bake until pastry is browned 20-25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, flip skillet onto plate to upright so that pastry is on the bottom and apples are on top. Serve immediately.

My skillet had gone missing, so we had to do some shuffling of pans...THEN we got to girl-talking and nearly scorched the apples, but they ended up just on the brink between perfectly carmelized and burnt. Topped it all off with a bit of bourbon-ginger whipped cream. We thought that it could use a bit more sweetness and spice--perhaps some cinnamon and ginger tossed with the apples. But still...

Meat Pie: A History

I want to share a positively pleasant pie piece from the Chicago Reader's Cliff Doerksen, in which he explores the history of the weirdest American pie: the mince meat. My father eats this pie on Thanksgiving, although it is a vegetarian version out of a can, which my mother opens while pinching her nose. She has always told me, "Don't worry, honey, there is no meat in a mince meat pie." The statement always struck me as both bizarre and reassuring as my father shoveled in forkfuls of opaque brown with flecks of red texture (figs, not tendons, I realize now). Turns out, mince meat used to be made of meat, and it looks pretty gross.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SCARY Meat Pie

Reporting from Boston, Jamie sent me this pic of a SCARY meat pie...notice the teeth!

and BMPEZ (Breakfast Meat Pie Enjoyment Zone) the next morning!