For the last couple of weeks I have been taking a close look at each and every recipe on our dessert menu including our honey walnut bread which is probably our signature bread. You see, after the (abrupt) departure of our pastry chef I made an executive decision and took on the day to day responsibilities of the pastry chef myself. Playing in flour, eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla is one of my life time passions. I started my career as a pastry /sous chef for Pano’s and Paul’s many years ago and because of my success Pano put me on a plane to The Culinary Institute of America for further study in the fine arts of pastry and desserts. This was a chance of a life time for me. To be able to sit in on any class I wanted and learn from some of the top chefs in the world.
One of the desserts on the menu that really perplexed me is our apple croustada. There was entirely too much dough for the amount of filling and the recipe for the dough that my pastry chef used was made up of flour, sugar and cream cheese. I have never seen a recipe for pie dough without butter or replacing the butter with cream cheese. Something was not right, so I changed the recipe for the dough to a traditional sweet dough called pate sucree, which is a great dough for the croustada. This worked well but still too much dough and the Granny Smith apples were actually too dry and I didn’t think the tart had enough cooking time to completely cook the apples. Plan C. I finally told myself I was going in the wrong direction and decided to start over. I took one 10 inch tart pans, lined them with the pate Sucree. I filled the shells with peeled Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and Golden Delicious apples all from Washington State! The combination of three different apples is incredible and as I write this post the tart is sitting behind me filling the room with the sweet smell of brown sugar and apples.
I have never forgotten the basic recipe for pie dough that I learned from culinary school, 3-2-1! Thats it. Three parts flour, two parts butter or shortening and one part chilled water. I add a little sugar and a pinch of salt. In school, this broke down to three pounds of all-purpose flour, two pounds of butter and one pound (1 pint, two cups) of chilled water. I then broke down the recipe to one fourth in order to make enough dough for two tarts. If you are only making one tart you can wrap the unused dough and freeze for later.
12 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 pound of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt dissolved in 1/2 cup chilled water
In a bowl mix the flour and sugar and then remove and place on a board or work surface. With a pastry knife cut in the butter until the butter is the size of small walnuts. Make a well in the center and add the salted water. Mix with the pastry knife at first and then mix with your hands until you can form a dough.
Divide the dough into two, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until firm.
Roll the dough to 1/8 inch with a little flour to keep in from sticking and then lay over the tart pan. I like to trim the dough with a pair of scissors and leave a little overhang so if the tart bubbles over the sticky liquid will not travel down the sides of the pan and stick to the bottom. The overhang can be trimmed off after cooking using a sharp knife.
Apple Tart Filling
One 10 inch tart
2 Granny Smith apples, Washington State
2 Honey Crisp apples, Washington State
2 Golden Delicious apples, Washington State
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1/4 pound of butter, sliced
half a lemon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and fill the tart shell. Make the crumb topping.
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/8 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients until crumbs form.
Top the apples with the crumb mixture and then the slices of butter.
Bake the tart in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the tart cool a little before trimming the edges.