Monday, December 31, 2012

Grubbus Cooks: Apple Tart

So, by part three of my New Year's Eve posting marathon, you may be wondering - what's up with the year-end spree after just about disappearing this fall? And all this home cooking? Grubbus? Hello?

Grubbus has been a little light lately because, well, I'm writing a book. I'm still getting used to how that sounds. A few months back, I signed a publishing contract with an amazing little publisher out of Charlotte, The History Press, to write a book we're calling Austin Food: The Story of a Local Eating Revolution. Very excited about this. We're chugging along getting that all researched and written, and, as a result, Grubbus hasn't had quite the attention it had before. That's fixing to change in 2013, but for now, that's what's been keeping the posts infrequent.

So infrequent, that, round about this afternoon, I figured out I was a couple of posts short of where Grubbus needed to be, year-end-wise. And so, this. Three of my favorite recipes of 2012. Things that I've made for friends, food that's marked special occasions all year.

This recipe - the last one for tonight - is for a wickedly simple, absolutely beautiful apple tart.

Apple Tart

The Filling:
2 lbs apples (my favorite: half granny smith and half braeburns)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3-4 tablespoons sugar (I like coarse sugar best here)

The Tart Dough
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1/4 cup cold water

The Dough Part 1:
Work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives. It just takes a few minutes - and you don't need to worry about consistency - some decent-sized pieces of butter will still be in place. You can also run this about 5 seconds in a food processor. Pour in the water, just a little at a time, and work the dough until it comes together in a ball. Get it good and stuck together, flatten it a little, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

The Filling:
Peel and core the apples, and cut into thin slices - about 1/8 inch. If you happen to have a Mandoline - game on - it's perfect for this. Sprinkle the slices with the lemon juice and set aside while you roll out the dough.

The Dough Part 2:
Preheat the oven to 400.

Unwrap the dough and set out on a floured board. If it's really cold you may need to let it sit a bit. Roll it out from the center to the edges, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking, until it's about 1/8 inch thick. This is a free form tart, and, just like the empanadas, I like to use a plate as a template to cut it into a circle - in this case I use a 10 1/2 inch dinner plate.

Put the rolled out crust on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lay the apple slices on the tart dough in concentric overlapping rings, starting about an inch from the outside edge and working your way in. You should be able to fit 2 overlapping layers with a little space left in the middle. Overlapping is the key here: I try to cover about a third of the apple slice next in line for each slice within the ring, and layer the next ring about a third over the last one, with the slices facing the opposite direction. This all sounds harder than it is - just approximate the illustration, and you're golden.

To close up the crust, just pinch a little of the dough together every inch or so along the perimeter. This will lift up the dough to make a short wall around the apples. Brush the pinched-together outer edge with the butter. It's a lot of butter. Keep brushing. Drop the extra butter chunks over the apples, and start sprinkling sugar, with extra attention to heavy sprinkling on the crust.

Bake for about 40 minutes - you're looking for golden brown on the crust.

That's it. Wickedly simple. Absolutely beautiful.

Adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food.

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