Every fall my husband tries to get back to the family farm in southwest Iowa to help with the harvest. And when he goes, I give him a list of wants.
Always topping the list is bittersweet. I have a wreath I made several years ago from bittersweet that grows wild on the farm and every year since I plug it with additional fresh bittersweet. When he hasn't been able to make it down to the farm in the fall, I've grudgingly purchased bittersweet at local floral shops to replenish the wreath. It's quite the pricey poisonous and invasive vine!
In addition to the bittersweet I also received buckets full of acidy-green hedge balls to fill urns on my front stoop, plus bags full of black walnuts (any volunteers to help crack shells and pick out the nutmeat? I didn't think so... ). But maybe the best gift from the farm was the Golden Delicious apples my husband brought back; big, beautiful, and sweet! I immediately got to work making tarts; turning to my favorite Almond Cream Apple Tart recipe (French, of course).
I have come to believe that ground almonds added to anything makes that anything taste better. I love almonds and this French Apple Tart is full of almonds in the form of almond cream, also called frangipane. Make your own ground almonds for this recipe by processing slivered almonds. Or if you have access to a Trader Joe's, the grocery store chain has 16-ounce bags of almond meal for $4.99 -- an excellent price!
If you are like me and include an apple dessert in your Thanksgiving menu, consider this tart. Along with pumpkin pies, I usually bake an apple tart or My Mother's Apple Crisp (recipe HERE) for one of our Thanksgiving desserts. Originally, I made this Almond Cream (or Frangipane) Apple Tart as one large tart. The two tarts I made this week were smaller, baked in 7-inch rings.
NOTE: Following the original recipe, the tarts in this post were baked at 400˚F. That gave these tarts a rustic, baked-in-a-woodburning-oven look. In the recipe below, I give an oven temperature of 375˚F -- see the final results for a tart baked at that temperature HERE.
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for brushing
• 2 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon dark rum
• Baked pastry shell (recipe below)
• 3 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. In a mini processor, pulse 3/4 cup of the almonds until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds, until coarsely chopped. Transfer to the bowl, add the granulated sugar, flour and the salt and toss gently to combine.
2. In another bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the 4 tablespoons of butter until creamy. Add the almond mixture and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the rum.
3. Spread the almond filling in the baked pastry shell. Arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles. Brush the apple slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
4. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is set and the apples are browned and tender. (Start watching the tart closely after 35 minutes.) Transfer the tart to a rack to cool slightly. Remove the ring and serve the tart warm or at room temperature.
Tart Crust Recipe:
• 1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small piece
• 1 large egg yolk
• 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of ice water and pulse just until the dough holds together when pinched; if necessary, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of ice water. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 hour.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Push a rolling pin over the top to trim any overhang. Prick the bottom in several places with a fork.
3. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes, until the shell is lightly colored around the edge. Remove the foil and weights and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden. Let cool before filling.