Hey folks, today it’s tart time.
For this month’s recipe, or perhaps its bonus recipe, if you consider my mousse cake the main one, I wanted to make a spicy apple tart with a touch of my old favourite lemondrop powder. A similar combination to some of the flavours in my fruit risotto from way back but without its pear or morrocan spices, giving a very different end result.
Unfortunately, though, this one didn’t work out as planned.
I did my research, found out the science behind the perfect apple pasty and quickly realised that I didn’t have the tools to make it. I could only make a tasty second best that will, I’m afraid, have to suffice for the time being.
But I will still explain how and why, with a more professional kitchen than mine, you could go that extra mile towards perfection.
Either way, though, the ingredients are the same and they end result it highly enjoyable.
You will need:
3 large cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemondrop powder (I made my own from dried peppers)
½ cup sugar
200g shortcrust pastry (I used premade for simplicity)
And, being a pastry-based dessert, you will want to bake everything. Just not right away.
Why, because the pectin in apples breaks down if you bake them without a little prep work first. They fall apart and, tasty as it may be either way, I’d rather that my apples stayed in soft yet solid slices.
If you’re making this recipe properly, there’s a way that you can achieve that. Unfortunately, though, it requires some rather specific temperature control and I don’t own a cooking thermometer. I didn’t have any way of knowing if I was keeping my apples between 70°c and 85°c when I was precooking them and, as it turns out, I wasn’t.
Had I succeeded in doing so, the apples’ own enzymes would have converted that pectin to a more heat-stable form but, as was, the fruit just turned to mush when I was reducing their juices.
Perhaps, at some point in the future, I will return with better equipment to work out how best to fix the consistency of my filling. Until then, though, here’s what I did:
I began by filling a pan with just enough water to cover my apples – Two cups, as it turned out – and adding the lemon, chilli and sugar. Basically everything but the pastry and the apples and the apples were going in next. Just as soon as I’d peeled, chopped and cored them.
A simple task to match the simple water bath preserving them but I should probably mention that each slice was around a half centimetre thick. It will, after all, make a difference to how quickly they cook through.
Next, I spent five minutes bringing my pan up to temperature on a medium flame, before turning it right down to a simmer for the next twenty. Stirring the whole time, to be sure that the pieces all cooked evenly and to get a sense of how they were holding up.
By this point, they’d traded in all of their slight hints of green for a tiny touch of brown that suggested that they were cooked.
Coupled with the fact that my research had said fifteen minutes was a healthy amount of time for pectin conversion, I thought that they were ready for a full flame boil. One that would thicken up the sweet, tart mix of apple juice and spiced sugar water in which they were held.
As I’ve already said, though, this didn’t quite work out and my fruit soon disintegrated.
To remove any chance of overcooking the apples, I sieved out their mush and set it aside while I continued my boil. This went on for roughly half an hour, until the liquid was treacle-like in appearance and less than a quarter of its original volume.
Then I rolled out my pastry to the same thickness as my apple slices (when they were slices) and lined a 23cm pie case, that I’d already greased, with it.
From there, in went the liquid and pulp and it all went into the oven together. To bake at my usual 180°c for half an hour, utterly topless, because it wouldn’t be a tart if it weren’t.
That’s right, folks, that’s the difference and your pizza is actually a flatbread. Unless it’s chicago deep dish, but even that doesn’t qualify as “pie”.
Back to today’s dish, though, I’m sure that you could refine the recipe a little and make the same thing faster, now that I know that it doesn’t give the soft yet firm apple slices that I’d hoped for, by going straight to the boil.
I did not, however, have time to work out the details of such while maintaining my recent three uploads a week schedule so, I’m sorry to say, all that I can give you is the above. Which means that I’m very happy to have already made a milder, more successful recipe last week.
But the results of this one weren’t bad. Far from it, in fact. The treacle-style tart that emerged from my oven was filled with baked apple flavour, the citrus of its chilli and lemon and, to my surprise, a touch of woodiness from the pepper as well – One which almost implied cinnamon or nutmeg. Spices which, I’m sure, have seemed conspicuously absent up until now.
Well, there’s a reason for their absence, which will become clear soon, but they definitely aren’t necessary for my pastry. It’s wonderful, with or without them, and its remarkably late kick is unexpectedly high, yet far from unwelcome.
sitting right in the middle of what I call “hot”, comes in about a second after the tart is swallowed, giving plenty of time to enjoy the flavour first but also providing a throaty warmth that’s nice and warming in the middle of winter. Just about mild enough for the majority of chilli lovers to appreciate, yet still strong enough for someone like me to eat with icecream and appreciate the contrasting sensations.
Aside from the texture, I’m actually very happy with how this dessert turned out. It may not have the physical bite that I was searching for but it definitely has the chilli one and the flavour.
Great on its own, fresh from the oven, and even greater with some icecream and a dash of your favourite dessert sauce on the side.
My recommendation? Well, there’s always Laterra’s mango sauce but I’m going to be putting something else on mine. Something much hotter and more wintery, which I’ll be showing you on tuesday.