Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adventures in baking: "Simplest" apple tart

I'm not a baker. I'm not that great at following recipe instructions, and I'm not sure why. I'm more of a savory cook, preferring not to measure and just play and taste; that's what I do most nights with a recipe as a guide for general ingredients and cook times.

So, why am I baking today? My fruit CSA has been giving us apples, apples, and more apples every week. My husband and I have been trying to keep up, but we've been failing miserably. I took out my faithful How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and looked up "apples" in the index and found "Simplest Apple Tart". That sounded promising, but somehow I forgot how much I suck at baking.

The transferring of the crust into the pan was a complete disaster. I tried to fold it onto the rolling pin, but it started breaking apart. My cries for help went unheeded as my husband was sitting 10 feet away with his headphones on playing Starcraft 2.

Here's a picture of what the rolled out crust looked like after I tried to transfer it to the pan:

Luckily, it still looked like this in the end:

Maybe baking is more forgiving than I thought.

I've highlighted in red all the steps I skipped/forgot, but luckily, it still came out okay.

Rich Tart Crust
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 egg yolks, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons ice water, plus 1 tablespoon if needed

1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the container of a food processor; pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour and blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal,a bout 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks and process another few seconds.

2. Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gradually gather the mixture into a ball; if the mixture is dry, add another tablespoon of ice water. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap in plastic, flatten into a small disk, and freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30 minutes); this will ease rolling. You can also refrigerate the dough for a day or two, or freeze it almost indefinitely.

3. You can roll the dcough between two sheets of plastic wrap, usually quite successfully; sprinkle both sides of it with a little more flour, then proceed. Or sprinkle a countertop or large board with flour. Unwrap the dough and place it on the work surface; sprinkle its top with flour. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes; it should give a little when you press your fingers into it.

4. Roll with light pressure, from the center out. If the dough seems very sticky at first, add a little flour, but if it becomes sticky while you're rolling, return it to the refrigerator for 10 minutes before proceeding. Continue to roll, adding flour as necessary, rotating the dough occasionally, and turning it over once of twice. When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your tart pan, move the dough into the pan by draping it over the rolling pin or by folding it into quarters, then unfolding it unto the pan. Sounds easy, doesn't it? When the dough is in the pan, press it firmly into the bottom, sides, and junction of bottom and sides.

5. Before filling, freeze the dough for 20 minutes (or refrigerate it for 1 hour).

Simplest Apple Tart
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1 recipe Rich Tart Crust, well chilled
2 to 3 pounds tart apples, such as McIntosh
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup strained raspberry preserves
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat over to 4325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Line it with tin foil and weight the bottom with a pile of dried beans or rice. Bake 15 minutes or until shell is no longer raw but still pale. Remove from oven, and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F, and carefully remove the weight and foil. Set the shell aside to cool.

2. Peel and core the apples, and then cut them in 1/8 inch slices. Toss them with lemon juice so they don't brown. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles in the the tart shell, with the circles overlapping. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, then dot with butter. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until apples are quite soft (a knife will pierce them easily) but still hold their shape, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rick for about 20 minutes before glazing.

3. To glaze: While the tart is cooling, warm strained preserves with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until thinned. Brush the top of the tar with this mixture. Serve at room temperature.