As the holiday season approaches, and the invitations to pot-lucks, company parties, and family dinners begin to circulate, we often find ourselves searching our repertoire for crowd-pleasing recipes. I have found that winning dishes for these occasions are those that offer an element of tradition, but also have the ability to surprise us.
This holiday apple tart recipe does just that. It is apple pie’s more sophisticated and better looking older sibling. And the merits don’t end there. The design also allows for a more consistently crisp crust, and is more fool-proof for the novice baker. We have all cut in to an apple pie to find a filling that is too liquid to be eaten with a fork. The open top allows the steam to escape freely, which results in a pleasing, thick, molten filling.
This tart recipe makes a wonderful vehicle for all kinds of dishes. I would recommend trying different fillings. It would be delicious with pears, or with a mixture of apples and berries. Try mixing nuts or raisins in with the fruit. Or, try using a savory pastry crust and using blanched squash, onions and rosemary as your filling. Once you have the dough making down, your imagination is the limit, and you will never have to stress over what to bring to your in-laws again!
To make the pastry dough:
(Makes enough for two-three tarts, freezes well!)
Sift the flour and the sugar into the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly and fine. Add the lemon zest. Pour in the eggs and the milk. Pulse for a few more seconds until the mixture comes together. Flour your work surface and gently work the dough together until it is in a ball. Do not overwork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To make the filling:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix all of the above ingredients well, except for the sprinkling sugar and egg white.
Dust your work surface with flour. Cut your dough into two or three pieces, depending on how large of a tart you want. Hand roll the cut dough into a ball, and roll out with a rolling pin into a circle that is about 18″ in diameter, turning frequently to make sure it is not sticking. Sprinkle more flour as necessary. Trim the sides to make a pretty even circle and place it on the baking sheet.
Pile the filling high in the middle (it will shrink), leaving about 3 inches around the edge. Fold the edge over the filling, overlapping as necessary, folding and pinching layers to make a tight edge. Brush the edge with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake the tart at 400 degrees until the crust is golden and and the apples are tender, about 55 minutes. Carefully transfer to a rack to cool. Slice into wedges and serve with fresh whip cream or ice cream.
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