In recent years, I've developed a love-hate relationship with my birthday. I love celebrations and this year was no exception - Rob planned a birthday surprise with many of my dearest friends at a new brewery that we love (the Denver Beer Co.), one of my favorite people visited from New York and we had a wonderful weekend in Colorado, including a birthday dinner with my parents (my mom and I almost share a birthday) and I heard from my friends and family from all over the world. Pretty awesome!
On the other hand, I turned 31. Sigh.
Something else that cheered me up were the unexpected, fabulous gifts I received, including one from M, an amazing friend from college, who sent me a new cookbook that I immediately put to use. Nothing cures the birthday blues like baking!
Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts is incredibly useful. Certainly my other cookbooks contain recipes for pies and tarts, but it is great to have a collection of creative approaches to pies and tarts in one place. So far I have made Apple Pie, a savory Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Galette and this Roasted Apple Tart. I love a classic apple pie, but I really wanted to try something different and this certainly is the time of year to experiment with apples. What sets this tart apart is that it contains a layer of roasted apples topped with thinly-sliced apples. There isn't cinnamon or nutmeg in this tart, but there is Calvados, or apple brandy. The apple-brandy-crust combination is dynamite!
A note about the crust - this is my go-to crust recipe from Cook's Illustrated. They call it "Foolproof Pie Dough" and it is. The surprise ingredient is vodka, which helps keep the crust moist, making it easier to roll out and handle. Don't worry - there is no vodka flavor as the alcohol vaporizes in the oven.
Roasted Apple Tart
Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts
Crust (this will yield enough dough for two 9" tarts - if you only plan to make one crust, freeze the other half of the dough wrapped tightly in Saran wrap for future use)
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup cold vodka
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 6 tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith
- 1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Calvados or other apple brandy
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Make the crust:
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. Let dough soften at room temperature prior to rolling.
Make the filling:
Place the tart pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Press the dough into the bottom of the tart pan. Trim excess dough flush with the rim. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core, and slice 3 apples into 8 wedges each. Toss wedges with the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the Calvados and the salt. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Toss apples, and continue baking until very soft and caramelized around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and roughly mash. Let cool completely.
Peel, core and quarter 1 apple. Core and quarter (do not peel) the remaining 2 apples and slice all 3 apples very thin. Toss peeled and unpeeled apple slices separately with remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Spread the mashed apple mixture into the tart shell. Fan peeled apple slices on top of mash. Evenly brush apples with half the melted butter and sprinkle with half the remaining sugar. Repeat layering with unpeeled apple and remaining butter and sugar. Bake tart until apples are dark golden brown on edges, about 65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.