When Erin invited the girls and I to NYC for Thomas's birthday I said "yes", not only because who wouldn't want to celebrate Thomas's birthday(?), but also because I never say "no" to a trip to the city. When I learned that we were going to the Kellogg's store for a cereal celebration (how cool is that?) I got even more excited because the store is located in Union Square. We were going on a Friday, which meant the Union Square Farmer's Market would be open.
Even though it was February and seemingly too cold for any fresh produce, there were dozens of stalls. Fresh fish, poultry, mead, and some winter produce like kale and potatoes were abound. If I didn't have 3 children of my own to bring home safely I would have bought a much bigger haul, but I limited myself to about a dozen apples of many different varieties and some apple cider. I also got a bag of the broken pretzels from the pretzel guy, which I have done nearly every single time I have visited the Union Square Farmer's Market.
Those apples made a beautiful apple tart served after Thomas's other birthday celebration. In fact, I made 3 of them. The first was made by Jane in her own little tart pan. The second a traditional one topped with sugar and cinnamon. And a third topped with brown sugar, ginger powder, and cinnamon. In the end, I liked the ginger/brown sugar one best. Which means, you should feel free to mix it up anyway you like.
Use as many varieties of apples as possible. The more, the merrier. No need to peel those apples either. To cut the apples, chop the end off of each, then cut in half, remove seeds and slice into narrow pieces.
I made a homemade shortbread crust. The trick is to make sure the butter is very, very cold. I take it out of the fridge, then cut it into pieces into a bowl and put the bowl into the freezer until I am ready to use it .
One more note...recipes for tarts always seem to recommend brushing the top with apricot preserves after baking, but I couldn't to find any. I found a jar of gooseberry syrup I bought in Wyoming last summer and decided to give it a try. Hurray! If you don't happen to have gooseberry syrup in your pantry, you can use any seedless jam mixed with water to loosen it up a bit.
(Serves 4-6 or 1 tart pan)
- Shortbread Crust:
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 T. sugar
- 8 T. cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- Apple Tart Filling:
- 2-3 apples, any variety
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup sugar or 1/2 cup brown sugar combined with 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp, ground cinnamon
- 3 T. butter
- 3 T. gooseberry syrup or other jam mixed with 1 T. water to loosen
1. For the shortbread crust, place the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse to combine, then add the nearly frozen butter to the flour. Pulse 8-10 times until the butter is the size of peas. Then, with the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse until the dough just starts to come together - no more! It should look like this when you put it onto your floured board: you will need to press it together to make it stick. You don't want it to be too wet or it won't be flaky and delicious after you cook it.
2. Knead the dough into a ball quickly, so it does not warm up. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for an hour or so.
3. While the dough is cooling in the fridge, slice your apples and combine sugar and any spices you are using.
4. After one hour, remove the dough from the fridge and roll into a large circle. Place into the tart pan. You will have some sections hanging over and, on other sides, not enough dough. Tear sections from the overhang and use it to fill the other sides. This is supposed to be rustic, people!
5. Place the sliced apples in a pretty circle, starting from outside the tart and building inward.
6. Top with white sugar and cinnamon, or brown sugar mixture, making sure to evenly coat the apples. Top with chopped up bits of butter.
7. Place in oven and bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Once removing from oven, baste it while hot with syrup or preserves. Serve topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.