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Friday, September 16, 2016

Apple Flower Tarts

Inspiration:  It's apple season!  

After spotting these beautiful little pies on Pinterest a few years ago, I have been wanting to try my hand at making them for quite a while.  Turns out, this was a fun project that I imagine kids would love.  The effect is really quite stunning.

The pies are not too sweet and I decided to add a little cinnamon caramel to flavour them.   I used green apples because it is what I had on hand.   You can also use a red apple for colour but just make sure your apples are very hard.  They will need to stand up to being cooked twice as they initially need to be softened to a bendable state to roll and then baked in the oven.

Shower them with some powdered sugar and serve with some rich vanilla ice cream and extra caramel sauce.  Guaranteed oohs and aahs.  Enjoy.

Here's how to make your own shortcrust pastry.   You can also use store bought puff pastry for this.

Apple Flower Tarts:  Makes 10, muffin sized tarts

  • 3 large hard apples, green or red, washed
  • 1/2 of the shortcrust pastry recipe indicated here (keep the rest frozen or make a double batch of these little beauties)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick - 125 ml) of salted butter
  • 6T (90ml) of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) of brown sugar (loosely packed)
  • 1 cup (250ml) of milk 
  • 3/4t of powdered cinnamon
  • a few drops of vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 lemon or  1T (15ml) of lemon juice
  • water
Take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you are ready to roll it out.

Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) or 350°F (180°C) if you have a convection stove.  Butter 10 cups of a muffin tin.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter (1/2 cup - 125ml -1 stick) over medium heat.  Add the flour (6T -  90ml) and whisk to combine, cooking, while stirring for 1 minute (this cooks off the flour taste).  Add the brown sugar (1cup - 250ml), the  milk (1 cup - 250ml) and the cinnamon (3/4t).  Continue whisking until the caramel thickens (about 2 minutes).  Add the few drops of vanilla paste or vanilla extract, blend in and set aside.  You will have a nice thick, spreadable caramel.  This makes more caramel that you will need for the rolls so use the rest for plating (you will just need to loosen it with a little milk or water).

Place a medium bowl of water beside your work surface and squeeze 1/2 lemon into it or 1T (15ml) of lemon juice.  The lemon water will prevent the apples slices from oxidizing and turning brown.

Cut the apples into quarters and remove the core.  Using a mandolin, thinly slice each quarter, you can also do this by hand if you don't have a mandolin.  The thickness of the slices should be about 1/8th of an inch (3mm).  Place the apple slices in the lemon water.

Put the bowl of apple slices and lemon water into the microwave and cook for 2 - 3 minutes to soften the apples.   Check them every minute - you want them just soft enough to be bendable and easy to roll.  If you overcook them, the apples will being to fall apart. Remove, drain and pat dry with a clean dish towel.

Roll out the pastry to a size that will allow you to trim out an even 10 X 13 inch (25.4 X 33cm) rectangle of dough.  The pastry should be thin (about 1/10 of an inch - 2.5 mm) as it will be folded over the apples and then rolled.   You want the ratio of dough to apples to be balanced and the tarts need to fit easily into a muffin pan for baking.  Your dough trimmings will be used to roll out additional bands of dough.

Cut out your bands of dough measuring 1.5inches X 10 inches (3.8cm X 25.4 cm).

Spread the cinnamon caramel (about 1T - 15ml) over the entire band.

Begin to lay down the apple slices on the dough so that the top of the slice is just slightly over the edge of the dough (when you roll the bands, the apples will push out of the top slightly).  Overlap each apple slice about halfway over the previous one.

Bring the bottom edge of the dough over the apples and press down gently so it will stick to the apples.

Begin rolling the bands.  The apple slices may push out of the top a little but if you see that they are coming out too much, use your hand to push them back down into the pastry as you are rolling it.  Use the initial dough trimmings (knead them together to form a ball) to roll out another 2 bands and continue the process.  For me, this recipe made 10 apple flowers.

Place the apple flower into the muffin tin and gently adjust and spread the apples slices to look like real flower petals.  Keep the muffin tin in the refrigerator with the finished flowers while you are making the next one.  Just before baking, sprinkle a little sugar over each tart.

Bake in the lower section of your oven for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, some candied chopped nuts and some of the extra caramel.   Loosen the leftover caramel sauce with a little extra milk or water and smear on the plate when serving.  Enjoy!

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