Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Means It's Time for Apples!

Here in Northwest Arkansas' Ozarks, people grow a variety of apple I never encountered anywhere else. The variety name is Arkansas Black. Evidently, the strain was originated in the mid 1800's in Benton County, Arkansas. The color is much darker that what we normally see in the grocery, almost a dark burgundy. They are very crisp and crunchy which makes them great for eating raw and very tasty in pies and tarts.
Picture from the Internet - Thanks Fruitguys!

As I am stuck at home today becoming not contagious, but feeling better, I decided to turn several of these guys into an apple tart to surprise the wife when she comes home.

I will not take credit for the recipe. This is almost a word for word transcription from the Free Form Fruit Tart you can find in Cooks Illustrated. If you read the material below you will notice a few changes, but not many.


7.5 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 sticks unsalted butter cut in 3/4 inch cubes and chilled
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 to 6 Tablespoons of ice water
Four or five Arkansas Black apples
juice of a lemon
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the rack lower middle.

Add the salt to the flour in a medium bowl and mix well. Place the chilled butter cubes in the flour and coat them. Using the thumb, pointer and tallman of each hand, squish the butter cubes flat. Toss to make sure all butter is flour covered and squish the flat pieces into two. Toss and repeat until the butter pieces are mostly, but not completely, the size of flattened peas. Work quickly to avoid melting the butter with the heat of your hands.

Notice the butter chunks! Time to add the ice water.
Add one Tablespoon of ice water and use a fork to mix it into the dough. Try not to mix the butter into the flour. Repeat until the water is used or the dough wants to come together, whichever occurs first. Turn the dough out onto the counter and use a bench scrapper to form a rectangular mound.

Using the heel of your hand, start at the far end on the mound and smear the damp flour and butter away from yourself on the counter. Working toward yourself, repeat until the entire mound is flattened. Use the bench scrap to re-mound the dough and repeat once. Bring the dough together without working it and form it into a disk. Wrap the disk tightly in cling film and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour. (If you double wrap the dough, you can refrigerate longer, but the dough must sit at room temperature until workable.)

Notice that you can still see butter splotches.
When the dough has chilled, flour a sheet of parchment and place the disk in the center. Flour the disk top. Rolling away from yourself, roll the dough from the center out and turn the sheet a quarter turn. Repeat until the dough is about 3/16ths of an inch thick. Resist the urge to neaten the edges or cut and place pieces. The less you work the dough the flakier it will be. This is a Free Form, art not architecture. Slide the parchment with dough onto a sheet pan.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes. While the dough chills, peel, core, and slice the apples in quarter inch slices. Toss the slices in lemon juice to stop any oxidation. Sprinkle the cinnamon, nutmeg, and 2 Tablespoons of the sugar over the slices. Toss well.

Remove the sheet pan from the refrigerator and mound the slices in the middle of the dough. Pleat the dough to partially cover the fruit, working your way around the dough. Use a pastry brush and water to brush the outside of the tart and sprinkle the remaining sugar on the dough exterior.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes until the tart is golden brown.

Sometimes they leak.
Like pies, the tart needs to cool and collect itself before you slice and serve.

By the way, in the summer I use peaches and blueberries for the fruit. That may be even better.

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