Spring is continuing to make itself known through the longer days, the onset of allergy season and all those freshly sprung cherry tree blossoms. A recent visit to my apparently island initiated local big brand supermarket left me searching for any local (read BC grown) produce in the vegetable and fruit aisles.
We are all going to have to wait a little longer for the boom in local soft fruits and delicacies like asparagus but one BC grown item that did appear to be in abundance came in the shape of apples, which I assume have just been well stored.
Now I must admit that this foray into “local” food is rather lackluster this time around and I promise the next post will include a far greater effort on my part. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for Lapin Au Vin (or local rabbit in wine…).
Anyway, onwards with the apples. I was inspired recently by a very good friend of mine called Liz Benotti and her own excellent blog called Once Upon a Tomato. In the last week she had posted a recipe for squash pie and included what looked like a fool proof recipe for homemade short-crust pastry.
So I found myself with a ready supply of BC Granny Smiths and a great recipe for pastry. What else could I make but an apple pie?! The thing is that one problem with not having lived in Victoria for a long time and living on a limited budget I don’t really have a fully stocked kitchen to work with.
Making a pie without a pie tin poses a number of problems so my alternative involved a miniature muffin tin I had bought a few months previous in order to make miniature Yorkshire puddings, as an unusual and distinctly British canapé option.
What follows therefore is my recipe for Spiced Apple Tartlets. As with many recipes these days you could trace the origins of this particular creation to a number of locations, (including my friend’s blog). I have no doubt that there are many apple tart and pie experts out there, all I can say is that these tartlets were made on Saturday and were all gone by Monday night. Their size makes them perfect for sharing and giving away (two batches of mine were gifted to friends) and this recipe makes around 24-26.
the recipe: spiced apple tartlets
(I reduced the amount by around half from Liz’s original recipe as I knew I wouldn’t need as much. I also made this by hand as I don’t have a magimix or comparable kitchen aid).
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (local option available from True Grain Bakery)
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
1. Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make sure it is well combined.
2. Add the butter and rub through the flour mix until you reach a consistency of small bread crumbs. For perfectly smooth pastry you want the butter to be well distributed throughout the flour mix.
3. Make sure you hands are cold and very slowly add the iced water, leaving the ice cubes behind! Mix with either your hands or a wooden spoon, adding more and more water until you have a smooth dough forming. Do not add too much water, it is best done in segments, continually checking the consistency.
4. When it is ready form into a smooth ball and place in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for at least 30mins.
2x Medium Organic BC Granny Smith Apples (or any other cooking apple)
½ – 1 cup of unrefined caster sugar
Tsp ground ginger
Tsp ground cinnamon
Few rasps of fresh nutmeg (or ½ Tsp if using ready ground)
Dash of Vanilla extract or the seeds from one vanilla pod
A dash of either milk, light cream or water in order to ensure the filling doesn’t dry up. Add as needed.
1. Peel the apples and chop into ¼ inch or 1/2cm cubes. You want them fairly regular for presentation and smaller than you would cut for a large tart or pie.
2. Add ¾ of these to a bowl and reserve the rest for adding to the tarts just before baking (this allows you to pre-cook the mixture and keep some apple pieces uncooked for a greater depth of texture).
3. Add the sugar (the amount will change according to the original sweetness of the apples. Give them a taste test first) to the bowl, with the cinnamon, ginger nutmeg and vanilla. Mix this well ensuring the sugar is distributed throughout the apple.
4. Place the mixture in a large saucepan and heat gently, making sure the sugar doesn’t burn and the mixture remains moist. This is where the water, cream or milk would come in.
5. When this process is ready the pastry should be nicely cooled and rested and can be taken out of the fridge and rolled on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. Once again I don’t have a suitable rolling pin, but an empty bottle of Jameson’s performed the task just fine.
6. Cut the pastry into suitably sized rounds, you can see from the image I used an old tin from Victoria’s Silkroad Tea shop as it fitted my miniature muffin tin perfectly.
7. Lightly butter the tin and push the rounds deep into the recesses. If the pastry is well rested and well made the pastry should flex and stretch without splitting.
8. Add the pre-cooked apple mixture and top with the uncooked apple pieces. Overfill the tartlets as the mixture will puff through cooking and recede almost immediately after taking out of the oven (if you want them to look full then I suggest you serve them piping hot).
9. Put the tray on the middle shelf of a preheated oven (about 375f). Keep an eye on them to ensure they just colour and the apple pieces don’t burn (they took about 20-25mins). When the pastry is nicely browned take them out and serve immediately, or leave them to cool on a wire rack.
These turned out great and were well received by all. The sweetness and spice level was just right, but you can adjust to your own tastes. I served them on their own but would go great warmed with a serving of vanilla ice cream or sweetened, whipped cream.
Try them out and let us know how you got on. All those tart and pie making experts out there should also put their two cents in. What’s your favourite pie filling? Any secrets to that perfect pastry crust?
Once again, thanks for reading I hope you are all enjoying the lovely spring weather.