Thursday, February 5, 2009

Apple Tart - my favourite comfort food.

This is a simple recipe and is delicious! Some people may call it Apple Pie, probably a geographical/cultural/regional preference. I'm not too clear on what the difference (if any) there is between pie and tart though I'm sure there's someone out there who can put me right. All I can say is - it's all good!

Apple tart is ubiquitous in Ireland; the ultimate comfort food either as a dessert or the perfect accompaniment to that national beverage, the cuppa tea. It can be eaten hot or cold, but must be slathered in lashings of whipped cream for total decadence!
There are as many variations as bakers, with everyone having a favourite recipe that tends to be their gold standard, which is often passed down in a family. I know my mother was a whizz at light pastry and I always remember her mantra when I learnt from her as a child - don't overhandle the pastry or it will get heavy. She was right!

I still use her basic pastry recipe, here with a slight variation of egg and a little icing sugar to make it a slightly sweet and richer pastry than her recipe which is a half-pound of flour to a quarter-pound of butter or margarine, and a little cold water to bind.

The apples are from our three cooking apple trees in the garden, which give a wonderful harvest every autumn of big green Bramleys. This is the nicest cooking apple as it bakes and stews to a light fluffy texture.
We have a shedful from September when the first windfalls drop, through harvesting in October before the November storms and wind knock 'em all down, to mid-Spring when they shrivel and dry up and we have to discard those that are past salvaging. I find even then that steeping the dried-up apples in a basin of water will revive them enough to make them perfect for yet another apple tart.

There is something very satisfying and a little virtuous in cooking with fruit from the garden: seeing it through from blossom in May to harvest in Autumn, picked by yourself (or hubby or son!) and safe in the knowledge that no airmiles were harmed in the making of this wonderful treat!

Photo shows finished pastry and some apples - replete with spots and blemishes - wholly organic!

Handy Tips:
  • I always bake pastry in a metal pie dish or flan tin rather than in a glass or ceramic dish; something to do with better heat conduction and it certainly makes the pastry base crisp and prevents soggy bottoms - always desirable in pies and children!

  • You don't need to bake the pastry base "blind" before adding the apples.

  • When assembled, bake immediately or put uncooked pie in the fridge (refrigerator) to ensure perfect pastry.

  • Remember - minimal handling and cold ingredients are keys to perfection - that's why purists will use marble rolling pins and pastry slabs - I don't go to such lengths but there's method in such madness!

Apple Tart (with Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

4-6 large Bramley cooking apples.
1lb/450gm plain flour8oz/225gm chilled butter (preferable to margarine).
2 oz/50gm sugar (or caster sugar or icing sugar).
1 egg.
A few tablespoons of cold water to bind.
Photo: Cooked tart before sprinkling of sugar

Photo: Crumbly flour/butter with egg to bind

1. Add butter to flour, chop up with knife and rub in with fingers to crumbly texture.

2. Add sugar, egg and water to bind stiffly.

3. Minimally handling, knead lightly on floured worktop/table.
4. Roll out enough pastry to cover large (10 inch/26cm diameter or smaller pie dishes if you prefer -makes 1 large or 2 small tarts).

5. Sprinkle flour on pastry base in pie dish.

6. Fill pastry base with sliced peeled cooking apples - Bramleys are best I think!

7. Add 5-6 whole cloves if you like the flavour.

8. Add enough sugar to sweeten apples - I sprinkle a generous amount to cover the apples like snow - see photo! - if you don't want a tart tart!

9. Roll enough pastry to cover the tart - use water on edges to stick pastry top to base.
10. Make some airholes with a fork or knife to let steam escape during baking.
11. Flute pastry edges with fingers or use fork to decorate edges.

12. Decorate top with pastry leaves if you feel creative!

13. Bake in top half of pre-heated oven (190 degrees Centigrade/375 degrees Fahrenheit) until golden brown, then move to lower half, reduce heat and bake for another 15-20 mins., totally about 35-40 mins.

14. Cool on wire rack, sprinkle with sieved icing sugar or caster sugar to decorate.

Photo: Ready to pop in the oven!

Serve hot or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Enjoy guilt-freely and don't think about counting calories!!!


The Cherry Tree Farm said...

This looks delicious, and you are a whiz at pastry, obviously! I can never get the pastry from the board to the dish intact -- there's always a major mishap on the way!

But there's nothing quite so delicious as warm (homemade)apple tart -- OK, so I would call it pie (here is my brief dissertation on the difference -- at least from my observation!). In the US, I believe what we usually call "pie" is like you describe in this post -- pastry crust, cooked-fruit-type of filling (or sometimes a cream filling, or something). When something is described as a "tart," it usually indicates that it has a shortbread-type crust (pressed in the pan, not rolled), and no top crust, and often the filling is a cream one with fruit on top, or a fresh-fruit-in-thickened-sauce. Was that coherent?? I'm not sure! :) One of my favorite things about reading your blog and Lynda's is finally understanding linguistic differences in English -- or learning about new ones. I love it! Some of this stuff I've wondered about for YEARS!

And cooking with your own fruit or veggies from your very own garden -- it's the very best thing! Don't you feel virtuous and connected somehow to the soil? (OK, now I'm getting a bit esoteric ... and long-winded! I'll quit!) kristin

Jeannette StG said...

Aaah, you make me hungry! I'll pass this recipe on to my oldest - her favorite pie to make is apple pie. Thanks for sharing!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Mmmmm ... that looks delicious ! How wonderful that you can use apples from your very own trees to make it, too - I bet it tastes even better that way :)

Peggy said...

Homemade from fruit to pastry, the perfect tart!You go to a lot of trouble with decoration too.Have you ever ordered apple tart in a resturaurant and got thick hard pastry and a smidgin of tinned apple in it? Homemade every time for me.

Linda said...

Kristin, that is frustrating. I am not sure who taught me how to do that. You roll half onto the pin and drag to the tin. I think, lol.

Very interesting post, particularly the name. That will get me thinking. My Mum got me to make the pastry when I was a teenager. I used to cheat and put custard powder in the pastry. I love organic gravensteins with blemishes and stripes and warm even from the ground. It is hot to be reading, but will read post again. Well done!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all your comments, I love to get feedback - specially positive!
Peggy, I know what you mean and I tend to avoid apple tart in restaurants as I have had some disappointments in fancy places, my own is always tastier and I get all annoyed that I've been had!

Lynda, asante sana! the trees are ancient and I tend to take them for granted. They were planted by my grandfather in the 1930s and are cropping still, with no maintenance or pruning, so I should appreciate them a bit more! They are very gnarly and I loved climbing them as a kid. We live in my childhood family home which feels very natural, full circle after so many years away.

Jeanette, thanks for passing on the recipe, share the goodness! I will post a recipe for Dutch Apple Pie which is totally different but equally lovely. You might like to try that for hubby!

Kristin, glad to be a source of enlightenment for the linguistic differences between the continents - was it Churchill that said England and America were two countries divided by a common language?! There are indeed many pitfalls and potential for misunderstanding - the Pie/Tart debate is only one of them! I think you are right about the tart being open, like a quiche.

Keep in touch and thanks again!