Today’s article is something rather simpler, inspired by an accidental surplus of fruit rather than the annals of culinary history. This year one of the Christmas presents I am giving is a pair of different home-made flavoured gins. Fruit-infused gin is simple to make and it always goes down well. One is flavoured with lemon, and the other is a wintery recipe similar to sloe gin: apple and blackberry gin.
Unfortunately, in calculating the quantity of apples needed, I bought five bags rather than just five individual apples! Not being an apple eater, this meant I had some twenty apples to either find a use for or throw away. I don’t like wasting food, so I decided to make large apple and cinnamon tarts to a recipe I developed a few years back from one I found for small individual apple and vanilla tarts by Michael Caines on the BBC Food website.
I have to say that the fruit I bought had little flavour, perhaps not surprisingly as, while clearly of one particular variety, they were sold simply as a bag of apples, with no further information. Personally, I’ve never found anything to beat the cooking ones that grow in my parents’ garden. Unfortunately, neither I nor they know the variety of those either, but they are plain bright green and big enough for one to suffice in place of the two used in this recipe. While the recipe reproduced here reflects the apples I used, my point is that I recommend the sharpness of cooking apples to best produce this dish.
- 2 medium-sized apples (or 1 large cooking apple)
- 125g puff pastry
- 85g unsalted butter
- 3 dessert spoons of brown or caster sugar
- 1 dessert spoon of cinnamon powder
Peel both apples, then quarter and core them. Chop the quarters of one apple into little pieces, as small as you can, and slice the quarters of the remaining apple as thinly as you can. You can use a knife to do this but a mandolin slicer is ideal and far quicker. There are some on the market for as little as £10, and it is one of these that I have; it’s a great time and labour saver.
Next make the compote. In a saucepan put 50g of the butter, the sugar, ½ a dessert spoon of cinnamon powder, and the apple chopped into little pieces. Turn on the hob to a low to medium heat and stir the ingredients so that the cinnamon and sugar are evenly distributed through the apple. Let the ingredients cook for about 20-30 minutes until the mixture takes on a caramel colour and the apple has softened. Remember to stir every so often.
While the compote is cooking heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4-5). Then turn to the pastry. Roll out the pastry to about a 3mm thickness and cut a disc about 23-24cm across. As a template for this I like to cut round the removable base of a cake/tart/quiche tin. Once you have cut out the base of the tart, place it either on a cold baking tray or on the cake/tart/quiche tin base (this is why I use it as a template) and put it in the fridge to chill until the compote is made.
Once the compote is done, turn off the heat and take the pastry from the fridge. Using a fork, prick the pastry all over but do not put the fork all the way through. Then spread the compote evenly over the pastry, leaving about a 5mm gap around the edge of the pastry disc. Don’t worry if there is too much liquid; simply wipe it away with some kitchen paper.
Now cover the compote with the apple slices in concentric circles, with the slices overlapping.
Next melt the remaining 35g of butter with the remaining ½ desert spoon of cinnamon powder in a saucepan. Then brush some of this over the tart, though be sure not to use too much as you will need to do this twice more before the tart is finished.
Bake the tart in the oven for 10 minutes, then take it out and brush with the cinnamon butter once again. Then return the tart to the oven for a final 10 minutes. Now remove the tart and brush it one last time with the remaining cinnamon butter. Leave it to cool for 5 minutes before serving with double cream and/or ice cream.
Playing with Food wishes you a merry and gastronomically inspired Christmas.