Here in North Georgia, the peaches, blueberries and blackberries are all but ripened and picked. Believe it or not, it’s apple season already and they are available for picking now through October. I know…I hear what you’re thinking…it’s just the end of July, apples are Autumn fruit. Not so. Apples for many regions become available in mid to late summer. North Georgia just happens to be a region for an early harvest.
A couple of weeks ago, I stood in my favorite Orchard’s store and through the window I observed the assembly of the fresh harvest of apples being brought in, carefully culled, numbered, sorted and bagged for shipping to distributors who will then ship to stores across the Southeast. Watching all this, I was compelled to run out and get pickin’ while the pickin’ was good.
I felt a little ridiculous rushing to the Orchard. With 200,000 trees consisting of 45 different varieties of apples planted over 300 acres, I have no idea why I felt I had to hurry. It may have something to do with the 11,305 friends (and growing) on Facebook who receive daily updates on the happenings at the Orchard. Whenever it is U-Pick time, the hordes amass upon the groves of trees bearing fruit in prolific quantities.
In fact, if Mercier were to post on Facebook they cancelled U-pick due to lightning storms, the public waits anxiously in anticipation for the next post to say when U-pick resumes.
In any event, I picked my share of apples and now, the dilemma, what to do with all of them. Well…baked apples are one recipe.
Look at those wrinkled up babies. Bake for 30 minutes at 425° and add some ice cream. Yummer! I love putting them together…
Then there’s Apple Crisp…slice apples, mix oatmeal, brown sugar and butter and layer over the apples. Bake 30 minutes at 425°. Easy Peasy.
…but, something I did for the first time ever, because I’m not really into baking, is… make a Tart. Check this big boy out. I was one very excited woman when I took a bite of this.
I poured over many recipes for Fruit Tart and tried out one from one of my new favorite chefs, Virginia Willis, but… I screwed it up big time. After I took the dough out of the refrigerator, I could have used it as a lethal weapon against a home invader. I have no idea what I did wrong, but wrong I did. Sorry about that Chef.
I then turned to Mark Bittman’s book, “How to Cook Everything” and found his recipe worked. For me, anyway. While the two recipes were varied by ingredients and measurements, the only thing I did differently was sift flour under Chef Willis’s recipe. Bittman does not call for sifting. Could it be that the flour I used was already pre-sifted? Would that have made the difference? I’m not a chemist, I really don’t know the science behind food. I intend to find out.
In any event, I achieved my first tart. My husband has always used shortening (Crisco) for pie crusts and after having this tart made with butter, he has decided that his pies will no longer be made with shortening.
This recipe makes an 8 to 10 inch tart. I’ve much to learn about pies and tarts but for the moment I’m satisfied with the outcome I’ve provided here. Willis and Bittman provide directions for using a food processor. Since I hate cleaning those damn things, I process the old fashioned way…a pastry blender.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, set aside extra flour for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbls sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or cardamom (my new favorite spice)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbls) cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
3 tbls. ice water (I just have a glass or bowl of water with ice nearby)
5 medium to large apples
Extra cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom for flavoring apples
In a large bowl,combine the flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon or cardamom. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter chunks and work the mixture until uniformly blended. The now butter bits should be covered with flour. No need to blend anymore. Add the egg yolk and mix this in well. Add three tablespoons of ice water.
With your hands work the mixture until you form a ball (if needed, add another tablespoon or two of water). Now wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze 10 minutes. Tightly wrapped you can leave the dough in the fridge for a day or two, or in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Now that I have achieved my first tart, I intend to do just this.
After the dough has cooled down, bring from the fridge. Sprinkle a counter top with flour or if you’d prefer use a large sheet of parchment paper or silicone baking liner and place the dough ball on it. You will still need to sprinkle flour on the paper or liner. Using a flour covered rolling pin, roll out the dough starting from the center outward. If the dough is sticky, add a little flour. (Tip: you can make repairs to the flattened dough by using pieces of ragged edges and a drop of water on your fingertips to work in the dough)
Once you have the dough rolled out, carefully place onto a baking sheet and put back into the fridge for cooling down for about 30 minutes. Remembering that you can make repairs to the flattened dough at this time.
While the tart is cooling down again, begin processing the apples. Peel and slice the apples in 1/8 inch slices. Drizzle lemon juice over the apples to minimize discoloration. Now, I sprinkle a small amount of spice over the apples. My husband and I are not big sugar people so I accept the natural sweetness in the apples and add a dash of spice and by dash I mean 1/4 teaspoon to the apples. More can be added but remember this is Apple Tart not spice and sugar tart.
Bring the pastry dough out of the fridge and place on the counter. Begin placing the apples in the center making a circular shape and work that circle out to just under two inches from the edge. Now take the edge of the pastry and pull forward carefully placing just over the apples. Make any repairs to the dough just like described above overlapping dough every couple of inches.
With a pastry brush, dab water over the what is now top of pastry edge and sprinkle sugar or a cinnamon/sugar mixture for a little added flavor.
Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 30 to 35 minutes for a golden brown crust. If you find the crust browning on one side, quickly reach in and turn the tart around for an even bake. The many cookbooks I scoured for a recipe said to bake 40-45 minutes. You want the tart to have a flaky texture so be certain you keep a close watch. In my case, 33 minutes was just perfect.
Tip: Always use an oven thermometer and adjust the thermostat accordingly. Learn your oven. I have two and both run on different temps.
For this finish…having a slice of this baby with a dollop of whip cream is totally awesome.