Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pi Day is Coming!

Tomorrow is Pi Day (3/14) so I might as well post about pie today.

Such A Pretty Apple Tart
Based on Amy Findley's Freaky Good Apple Tart available at the Food Network website.

What I really liked about this tart was that the pre-cooked apples offered such a texture contrast compared to the ones on top of the tart. And it's alse very, very attractive. It takes a bit of time to arrange the apples on top of the tart, but it's well worth the effort.

Since I used a variety of apples, even the filling had texture constrasts. Some of the apples inside had nearly disintegrated and they became the mortar that held the rest of the apples together.

Also, since this pie doesn't have cinnamon as is so typical, the flavor of the apples really shines. The vanilla is also a very nice touch. If you really must have cinnamon with your apple pie, I'd suggest a cinnamon ice cream or whipped cream. Or mix cinnamon with the sugar you sprinkle on top.

1 pie crust, home made or store bought
10 large apples
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

I used the recipe from Cooks Illustrated for the foolproof pie crust. I made the crust a day ahead and had it chilling in the fridge.

As for the apples, I used a combination of varieties, but you can choose your favorite(s).
Roll out the pie dough and fit it into the tart pan, pressing it into the sides. Trim the excess dough and if you want to, you can make a fancy fluted edge, or just leave it flat. I used the leftover dough to make five leaf-shaped pieces and five crescent-shape pieces that I used to decorate the top of the pie.

Put the tart pan and decorative bits (if you're using them) into the fridge to chill while you work on the apples.
Peel, quarter, core and slice 6 of the apples into pieces about 1/4 in thick. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and add the slices. Stir the apples to coat in butter, then add the 1/4 cup of sugar and salt. Cook until the apples are soft, but not disintegrating.

Dependning on the apple varieties, some may begin to fall apart while others are still holding their shape. That's fine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, take them off the heat, add the vanilla, and mix well.. Move the apples to a bowl and let them cool to room temp, then refrigerate them.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl filled with cold water. Peel, quarter, and core the remaining apples. Slice them into very thin wedges and drop them into the bowl with the lemon water to keep them from browning.

When the apples are completely chilled, take them and the tart pan our of the fridge. Spread the cooled apples over the bottom of the tart pan and even it out.

Now it's time for some decorative apple placement. Start at the outer edge and make an overlapping circle of apple wedges. I you have small pieces of apple slices set them aside. Make another ring overlapping that one slightly, with apples facing the opposite direction. Take a look at the top photo if this isn't making complete sense. Depending on the size of your apple slices, you may need a tiny third ring or other decorative placement to cover the inner part of the tart.

Place the crecents and leaf shapes on the pie in whatever decorative pattern you choose, or look at the photo for my version.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush the butter over the apples and the decorative pastry bits. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the top of the pie. If you don't have vanilla sugar, regular sugar is fine. 

Put the tart on a baking sheet to catch any spillover, and put it in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake for about 50-70 minutes, until the tops of the apples are golden brown.

Remove the tart from the oven put it on a rack to cool before you remove it from the tart pan.

Serve warm, cool, or cold.

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