Saturday, May 29, 2010

Freaky Good Apple Tart

Amy Finley won The Next Food Network Star contest in 2007 and got a show, but it had a pretty short run. During that time, she had a few recipes that I thought were worth trying. This was one of my favorites.

The fact that she called it "freaky good" probably helped to sell it to me.

This recipe seems a bit complicated, but if you take it one step at a time, it's not too bad. You can break up the process over several days. In fact, since the crust and the cooked apples need to chill thoroughly, it makes some sense to tackle those steps one day and finish the process the next day.

If you take the time to arrange the apple slices decoratively, it makes a really good impression. I also used some of the leftover bits of pie crust to make a few more decorative pieces for the top.

Since this is baked in a tart pan rather than a pie pan, and it's easier to slice and serve pretty pieces.
What I really liked about this recipe was something that it left out: cinnamon. Now, I like cinnamon a whole lot, but it seems like every apple pie get has cinnamon in it. And that's what you taste. Might as well call it cinnamon pie with apples.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but the vanilla with the apples, and without the cinnamon, was the perfect touch. The apples were highlighted instead of being masked.

For the pie dough, I used a variation of the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough. That's the one that uses vodka. Instead of plain vodka, I used a vanilla-infused vodka.

This recipe is a keeper.

Amy's Freaky Good Apple Tart

Adapted from Amy Finley's recipe on the Food Network website

10 large apples (I used several varieties)
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon
Pie dough (single crust recipe)

Flour your work surface lightly and roll the pie dough to about an 11-inch circle. Transfer the dough to your tart pan, pressing the dough into the bottom and up the sides. Pinch away the excess dough at the top. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Peel, halve, and core 6 of the apples. With a mandoline, vegetable slicer, or sharp knife, cut the apples into thin 1/4-inch thick slices.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the apple slices to the pan, toss them to coat in the butter, then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cook until the apples are soft and almost falling apart and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 to 25 minutes. Cool this mixture completely.

Peel, halve, and core the remaining 4 apples and, with a mandoline, vegetable slicer, or sharp knife, cut into very thin 1/8-inch thick slices lengthwise. Squeeze the lemon juice over the slices to prevent browning.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

When the dough and cooked apples are properly chilled, spread the filling over the bottom of the tart.

Starting at the outside edge of the tart, make a ring of tightly overlapping 1/8-inch thick apple slices on top of the filling, tucking the last slice under the first when finished to make an unbroken circle.

Make a second ring in the same manner, inside and slightly overlapping the first ring. There will be a tiny opening in the center: Arrange some apple slices to cover that gap.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and brush all over the top of the apples, being careful not to disturb the pattern. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees on the bottom rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the crust and the tops of the apples are golden.

Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.