Some of us dread fall and winter and hate to see the long days of summer leave us. But there is an upside to the changing of seasons, with it comes an abundance of fall fruits and vegetables. Today I'm featuring the apple. We take it for granted because it's always available in the supermarket. But if you buy local, as I always try to do, apples come into season here in Western Canada in Sept-Nov. There is something about eating produce that you know was harvested just down the street by a local farmer. All of the hard work in maintaining a family farming operation is no small undertaking.
When I pick local apples to make apple sauce for canning or a dessert for Thanksgiving, I really try and give thanks for the hard work that was put into the ingredients I'm using. It's funny, everything then seems to taste just a touch better. I made a stop to a local farm in Abbotsford BC called Taves Family Apple Barn. It's a u-pick for apples, but they have them available in their store as well along with a whole bunch of canned goods. I bought the pickles and pickled garlic. Both were really good (and didn't last a day in my house!). The experience of picking your own apples (the trees aren't tall and easy to reach for the old and young alike) made for a fun afternoon. I plan on going back again to get more apples to make some apple sauce to serve with the roasts that we seem to make every Sunday during the cold season. I felt very melancholy at the farm seeing all the little ones running around in the orchard and playing on the endless attractions including the pumpkin patch, petting barn and goats, peddle karts, jumping pillows, and so much more! My babies are teenagers now and, though I love where they're at in life now, I look back to the years when they were little and miss those innocent years.
Why Apples are Good For You! - Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. This article provides a nutritional profile of the fruit and its possible health benefits.
This past Thanksgiving, I dug up a seasonal treat that I make for my friends and family - a French Apple Tart (Tarte de Pommes a la Normande). It has a lot of steps (simple as they are) and a bunch of ingredients, but I promise this is a dessert that will 'wow' your guests, and they will genuinely appreciate the dish not just for the taste, but for how beautiful it looks. My aunt and uncle hosted dinner this year, and I was in charge of desserts. In my list of desserts to make was the Tarte de Pommes a la Normande. My dad took a piece home with him and said it was the best dessert he's ever had (my dad doesn't hand out compliments easily, so when I get one, it's pretty authentic).
French Apple Tart (Tarte de Pommes a la Normande) Recipe
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cold and cubed
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp cold water, 4 cubes of ice, 1 tsp white vinegar (mix together in cup)
Frangipane (French Almond Custard):
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp Cognac or Grand Marnier
2/3 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4-5 medium sweet apples - peeled, cored, halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jelly with 1 tsp water (or for another interesting flavor try 4 tbsp each of apricot jelly and birch syrup - this glaze is darker and has amazing contrast to the apricot jelly)
In a medium bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups of flour and salt. Cut butter into cubes and add. With a pastry cutter or with two knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-sized.
Add 1 egg yolk and mix into the flour mixture. Remove ice cubes from water mixture and begin adding to flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir until the mixture forms large clumps. When you press the dough together in your hand, and if it holds a ball shape, it's good to go, if not, stir in more water. Kneed a couple of times until the dough forms into a ball on a lightly floured board, but don't handle too much or you'll overwork the dough. You want chunks of butter to show through. Now wrap in plastic wrap, flatten slightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Frangipane - cream together the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually mix in the egg and the remaining egg yolk one at a time. Stir in 2 tablespoons of cognac or Grand Marnier. Add the seeds from one vanilla bean. Mix 2 tablespoons of flour into the ground almonds and then mix into the batter.
Pastry Dough - Roll the pastry dough out on a lightly floured surface to the shape of your round or oblong pan. Press into the bottom and up the sides of your pan. Prick with a fork all over, and then roll a pin over the top of the pan to remove excess dough leaving you with a clean edge. Return pastry to the refrigerator to chill for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Prepare Apples - Peel apples, core and thinly slice. Toss apples in 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of white sugar.
Spoon your frangipane onto the bottom of the pastry. Arrange the apple slices in an overlapping spiral pattern for a round tart or in rows for oblong. Be sure to overlap the previous slice of apple onto the next. For round tarts, start at the outside and work towards the centre. Cover the edges of crust with tin foil for first 1/2 of baking to avoid over-browning pastry. Place tart on top of a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for another 20-30 minutes. If apples aren't browned slightly, put under the broiler for a few minutes for colour. But be sure to keep an eye on it. You don't want it to burn.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. While our tart is cooling, in a saucepan melt your apricot jelly with a splash of water or Grand Marnier. With a pastry brush, gently place jelly over your tart. It will leave your dessert with a beautiful shiny finish. I had some extra meringue from the lemon pie, so I added a ribbon of it to this dessert as well.....
Make sure you watch for little fingers digging in!