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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Ways with Apples

I am not a huge fan of apples by themselves, which I attribute to my freshman year when the only fruit that the dining commons ever supplied were apples and bananas. I mean, I know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but really? It just becomes so damn boring after a while! What happened to all the other seasonal produce like pears, quince, and (my favourite) persimmons?

Fall is indeed apple season, and apple season means lots of baking, which invariably turns into pie. There are a multitude of methods to construct an apple pie (I add sharp cheddar to mine), but after some time, even that becomes mundane.
However, when my friend suddenly thrust a box full of apples from Whole Foods at me--for free, so obviously I couldn't resist--I knew I needed to use them sooner or later (preferably sooner; if I waited too long then I would end up with mass mushiness that has no use except for apple puree or applesauce). I wasn't in the mood for pie, but I did want to use up as many apples as possible before they mushified.

Some searching led to two new ways with apples: roasted and baked into a tart. Now, I know you may say that a tart is nearly the same thing as a pie, but I had my reasons. I learned how to make a new type of dough at my pastry stage last week, crunch dough. It has a higher butter content so that when baked, it becomes super flaky and just shatters beautifully once cut into with a satisfying crunch. My recreation used whole-wheat flour and a touch of anise seed and turned out well. I found out later that my butter/flour ratio was too high, but from sole improvisation, I was content. The glaze was actually condensed milk!

As for the roasted apples, think of it as a sort of an crumble. The layers were sandwiched with a buckwheat streusel that provided a nice nutty flavour. I added some chopped almonds as well for extra crunch, since the apples would be soft once baked off. A dollop of cinnamon cream would be perfect for either of these two creations, but since I had none, I just sprinkled some of the spice into the mixture and left it at that. There will be extra crumble, so you can either save it for future use or add an egg white like I did and bake them off as cookies!

Ideas for next time: Proper crunch dough

Roasted Apples Layered with Buckwheat Crumble

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
Pinch of salt
a handful of raw almonds, chopped

Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix. Add the chopped almonds and mix until crumbly. If the dough is too thick, add some more buckwheat flour.

Slice 4 apples horizontally. Keep the top, but core the rest of the layers. Place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the crumble in between the layers and in the cavities.

Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until tender. You can baste them with a bit of melted butter in the process if the apples seem a bit too dry.


Freeform Apple Tart

3-4 apples, thinly sliced Pinch of cinnamon 1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour 1 tsp anise seeds 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces Pinch of salt 2 Tbsp sugar 2-3 Tbsp ice water 1/2 cup almonds, chopped Condensed milk, to glaze

Combine flour, sugar, anise seeds, and salt. Add butter and mix with hands or a pastry blender until crumbly. Drizzle in water, one tablespoon at time, until mixture comes together as a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least half an hour.

Roll out dough on a floured surface until roughly the size of a pizza pan. Don't worry if the edges are ragged; this will be a freeform tart! Sprinkle with almonds. Starting from the outside, arrange the apple slices in a spoke like fashion all the way around, working your way in until the tart is filled.

Fold over the edges of the dough into a rough crimped shape. Using a brush, glaze the crust with condensed milk and sprinkle with sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon over the apples.

Bake at 400 until crust is golden-brown. Cool on a rack before serving.

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