Tags: apple cider, Apple Tart, apples, baking, Calvados, caramel, cinnamon, cream cheese, Dessert, figs, granita, granite, green apple ice, ice, mascarpone, pie, shortbread, tart
I adore apples, especially when they’re baked into crumbles, crisps, buckles, cobblers, pies, etc. I recently had a craving for something baked with apples, but hey, it’s summer, I should be taking advantage of all the wonderful, plump berries that are now at their best and in abundance, right? OK, I do take advantage of them, but why not pepper a little Fall flavor into my summer? There are no rules when it comes to baking, outside of the scientific aspect, that is. I mean, wearing white after Labor Day is no longer considered ‘taboo’, right?
That said, my father needs a little pick-me-up, so this apple dessert needs to do double duty. My father also happens to love apples (realistically, who doesn’t?), anything apple with cinnamon and sometimes raisins. In fact, I think that’s one of his favorite combinations in the world, and apple pie is hands down his favorite dessert. With this in mind, I set out to create a baked apple dessert with a summer twist to it. I decided on a tart of some sort, with a creamy or custard like filling beneath the apples.
Frangipane was my first thought, but then I thought ‘cool’ -temperature wise, and an apple cheesecake immediately came to mind. OK, scratch the tart…WAIT, NO, I want some warmth in this dessert, like an apple pie, but, once again, with ‘cool’ elements. Yes, an apple pie a la mode covers all of the above, but I was feeling more adventurous.
After more thought, sifting through several recipes, and a little imagery, I decided to make a cheese filling using a mix of mascarpone and cream cheese, due to the incredibly creamy texture of the former, and the tanginess of the latter. The spicy warmth of cinnamon, along with some chopped, dried figs, instead of raisins, became the finishing touch for the filling. When it came to the crust, I was flummoxed. I didn’t want your everyday, basic pie crust, I wanted something different, something more exciting. Hmmm.
Then it came to me out of the clear blue..or gray in my case (foggy brain). He used to really love the Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Ding! A shortbread crust would definitely be something he would love and definitely more exciting. This tart is like an apple-cheese-fig cookie, just bigger and a little more fancy schmancy. I made some amazing green apple ice to serve along with it, the cool and summery element I was looking for.
Having said all that, this blog entry is dedicated to you, Dad. I’ll bring the tart over later.
Figgy Apple-Mascarpone Tart, with Green Apple Ice and Cider Caramel
- 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
In a bowl, combine the butter and sugar and blend to make a paste. Add the yolk and blend thoroughly. Add the flour and using your fingers, blend to make a crumbly dough, being careful not to overwork. Pour the crumbles into rectangle 13 x 4 or round 8 or 9-inch springform pan, then press gently on the bottom and up the sides, until it’s uniform, and fills every crevice of the tart pan (or slightly up the sides of a springform pan). You want to see little pieces of butter in the dough. Let it rest in the refrigerator, covered, at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator and prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork.
OK, you can do one of two things here…
1. Place a sheet of parchment or foil in the tart pan (I used a 13 x 4 rectangular tart pan, but a round 8 or 9-inch tart or springform pan will work just as well) and fill with pie weights or dried beans or rice, and blind bake the crust in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until somewhat firm and very lightly golden brown. This is the method I used for the apple tart you see. I find the crust gets too dark in certain areas upon baking again, so next time I’m going to use the number 2 method below..
2. Do NOT prick the crust prior to letting it rest in the fridge. When ready to bake, brush the chilled shortbread crust with some beaten egg white and let dry for a few minutes. NOW prick the bottom and sides of the crust. Fill with the mascarpone-fig mixture, smoothing it out so it’s even. Cover and chill for about 1-2 hours until it firms up (this makes it easier to keep the apple slices from slightly sinking when you pile them on top, although, if aesthetics isn’t a big deal to you, skip the refrigeration/firming of the cheese mixture.).
- 4 oz of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature*
- 4 oz of cream cheese, at room temperature*
- 1/4 cup white granulated or lightly packed light brown sugar or a mix of both, depending on your taste
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 – 1 tsp ground cinnamon – again, depending on your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped, dried figs – depending on how ‘figgy’ you’re feeling**
1. Combine the mascarpone, cream cheese and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla, and cinnamon, and mix until uniform. I feel that hand mixing this is better, as you get a feel for the smooth, lump free consistency you’re seeking. However, using electric beaters or a stand mixer is perfectly fine, just don’t over-mix! Mascarpone doesn’t react well to over-mixing.
2. Fold in the chopped, dried figs and pour into the partially baked and cooled crust, or egg white brushed raw crust. Let set in the fridge, covered, for 1 to 2 hours.
*All cream cheese or all mascarpone can be substituted for the combination of both.
** Dates would also be great in this, especially Medjools or Honeyballs (Bahri dates). In fact, that’s what I’ll be trying next time. Raisins can also be substituted, golden or dark.
- 2 large, 3 medium, or 4 small tart apples (Granny smith, Jonathan, Jonagold etc…OR, whatever looks and smells good at the market)
- 2 Tablespoon white granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 of a lemon
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
2. Peel and core the apples. Slice in half or into quarters, then slice each half or quarter into 1/4-inch thick slices. If you want the ‘fanned’ look..hold apple slices together on top of the filling, then fan out (spread, sliding in one direction). Continue until you’ve covered the top completely, filling in any gaps with leftover slices or pieces of slices. You can spread them over the top any way you like…from concentric circles if using a round tart pan, to fanned out rows..or just pile them on, whichever suits your fancy. Squeeze some lemon juice over the apples (making sure to keep the seeds from sneaking in), then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the top.
3. Place on a baking sheet, to catch any drips, and bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400F, and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes, until the apples are soft and can be pierced easily with a knife. If the crust looks like it’s browning too fast, cover the exposed area as best you can, with some aluminum foil. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack. If using the egg white-raw crust method, bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 400F, and bake for 30-40 minutes more, checking on it periodically.
Honey Apricot Glaze
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon apple liqueur. such as Calvados
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Let boil for about 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Brush glaze over the cooled apples.
Green Apple Ice adapted from Traci Des Jardins
- 6 Granny Smith apples (or other tart baking apples, or 2 cups apple juice* )
- 1/2 cup Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until somewhat thick and clear. In this case, you would combine 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, boil until sugar has dissolved)*
- 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1. Quarter apples and juice them through a fruit juicer with peels on (this helps keep the color of the ice a nice bright green).
2. Add simple syrup and lemon juice to taste. Pour into a shallow pan or a glass baking dish and place in the freezer. After 30-40 minutes, scrape the pan to break up the frozen bits and create slush. Do this again after another 30-40 minutes, then put the pan in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. (You can also do this in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s directions.)
Note: You may freeze the apple mixture overnight into a solid block, then scrape it as you would a granita, the next day.
* The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of simple syrup, but I felt that was a tad too sweet, and the ice didn’t need that much. If you prefer it sweeter, use 3/4 cup. If using store-bought apple juice, reduce to 1/4 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water for syrup.
UPDATE. 2014: Lately I’ve been adding the coconut cream from a cold can of coconut milk, or just 1 cup coconut milk to the above mixture. Do that if you want it creamier.
Cider Caramel loosely adapted from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil the mixture, swirling the pan occasionally until the mixture turns a medium amber color.
2. Remove the from heat and carefully whisk in the apple cider or juice, and butter from a distance (as the caramel may splatter). Whisk the mixture over low heat until smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve, and reserve until ready to use, or refrigerate for up to two days.
This tart, along with the apple ice, makes approximately 8-10 servings. I like to cut the rectangular tart into pie like wedges, but horizontal slices make a nice presentation too. However, if you use a round tart or springform pan, pie like wedges are the norm.
To plate, place a wedge or two (depending on how small or large you slice the tart, or if you’d like to make it a dessert for two), on the plate. Add a quenelle or scoop of the green apple ice next to the wedges, or as I did, in a small, clear or pretty bowl..since it melts pretty fast, especially if it’s a muggy day/night. Drizzle the cider caramel around the plate, and voila, it’s ready to serve and be devoured.