Time flies and last Thursday marked my third Thanksgiving in St Louis. It seems only like yesterday when I confronted my first turkey breast. Although it was only 7 pounds, it was nonetheless the biggest piece of meat I have ever handled.
I remembered back then I was hesitant to invite anybody over as I wasn't sure my first turkey would be edible at all. When we finally decided to extend the invitations to friends, we didn't have a particular menu in mind. Needless to say, our first Thanksgiving meal wasn't a conventional one. Turkey breast with ready-made gravy and stuffing, uneven chunks of "mashed" potato, steamed vegetables and two quiches. I cannot recall what was dessert although I suspect it must be something made of chocolate.
That was how it began. That Thanksgiving dinner marked the beginning of many parties at our little one bedroom apartment, and the revelation of my pleasure from caring and serving others with home-cooked meals.
Thanksgiving is also a time I reflect on the kindness others have showered me, and their acceptance of me into their lives. I count my blessings and thank God for friends and family in my life. With that, I cooked and baked for the people I care. It has always been my way to say "Thank you" and "I love you".
These feelings were epitomized with the Normandy Apple Tart. The apple sauce was made painstalking by sieving over my only strainer, which was unfortunately too fine for such a task. The resulting apple sauce used for the filling of the tart was very smooth, making me feel that all the time and effort spent were worthwhile. I first saw the Normandy Apple Tart in Dorie Greenspan'sBaking: From My Home to Yours, and subsequently saw it made by Anita and Christine. Their beautiful tarts and the abundance of apples at the farmer's market inspired me to overcome my inertia to finally making it.
Although mine didn't turn out as stunning as theirs, I gave myself a pat on the shoulder when our friends commented that the tart was delicious. The credit was all Greenspan's, who came up with the recipe; and of course the farmer who grew the apples.
This Normandy Tart is not a difficult recipe, I believe anybody can make it with some prior planning and lots of patience. Although one can use the store-bought apple sauce, I agree with Greenspan that homemade apple sauce, (especially in this time of year) made a difference in the Normandy Tart. I don't have a mandoline, so I used a very sharp knife to finely slice the apples for topping.
I baked the tart on the Thanksgiving morning, and believe that it would taste even better if I have the time to bake and serve it straight from the oven. The filling was a bit loose, but can easily be disguised with some fine ice cream (which I did!)
Seeing that the topless tart has been selected as the theme for this month's "Waiter there's something in my ..." by Cooksister, I am submitting the Normandy Tart as my entry.
In case you want to know, these are what we had on Thanksgiving. The mostly Gourmet inspired recipes:
Stuffed Turkey with Lemon, Oregano and Red Onion (I used rosemary in place of oregano, and added in some white wine in the basting liquid)
Make Ahead Mashed Potato
Quick Stovetop Gravy
Roasted Japanese Sweet Potato with Scallion Butter
Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing
Normandy Apple Tart
Alice Medrich Fastest Fudge Cake (as a backup in case the Normandy Apple tart was inedible ;p)
No photos on the meal, as I was a little behind the schedule, and I couldn't bring myself to let the guests wait on hungry stomachs!
Normandy Apple Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan'sBaking: From My Home to Yours and as seen in Dessert First and Hot.Sour.Salty.Sweet and Umami
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 pounds baking apples,(about 6 medium) such as Empire, Cortland, McIntosh, or Pippin
1/4 cup water, or more
1 tablespoon (packed) light brown sugar
1-4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract (optional)
2 medium-sized, firm apples,(preferably firm Golden Delicious or Granny Smith, not the mealy type you used for applesauce)
1 egg, beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water, for egg wash
1/3 cup apple jelly for glaze (I used apricot jelly)
To make the applesauce:
Peel and core the apples, and cut into chunks. Toss them into a 2-3 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. (or leave the skin on for a rosier color) . Add in the water and brown sugar, and stir to combine.
Cover the saucepan and cook the apples over the medium-low heat.Don't go far from the stove and stir the apples from time to time to keep them from scorching.
If the water is boiling away too quickly, add more by driblets. When the apples are soft enough to be mashed with a spoon, about 20-25 minutes, remove the pan from heat and pass the apples through a food mill or press them through a sturdy strainer into a bowl.
If the applesauce seems thin (if liquid accumulates around the edges), return the sauce to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until the sauce is just thick enough to sit up on a spoon. Taste the sauce , adding granulated sugar if you think it needs it (bearing in mind that the applesauce for this tart was not very sweet)and vanilla, if you want it.
Pour the applesauce into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and refrigerate until it is no longer warm before using. (The applesauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.)
For the tart shell:
Combine the flour, confectioner's sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to become clumpy. Taking care not to overwork the dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, knead dough lightly to incorporate any dry ingredients that escaped mixing.
If you are using a pastry cutter, combine all dry ingredients and cut butter into the sizes of peas. Add in eggyolk and mix until all ingredients come together into a ball. Add in one or two tablespoons of cold water if the ingredients is too dry.
Butter a 9-in fluted tart pan with removable bottom.Lightly press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the fridge to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.
Freeze the tart shell for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer. Bake it in a 375 degrees.
To partially bake the tart shell:
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
For the tart:
When ready to finish baking the tart, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill the tart shell almost to the top of the rim with the applesauce and smooth the top. Place the tart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.
For the topping:
Peel,core and quarter two apples. Cut each apple quarter into about 7 slices.
Arrange the apple slices over the top of the applesauce in any pattern that strike your fancy, overlapping slices slightly as they will shrink a little after baking.
Make a egg wash by beating the egg with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush,paint the egg wash over the sliced apples.
Bake the tart in the oven for about 50 minutes- it will look as though the applesauce and apples have risne a bit. The apple should be golden, a little burnt around the edges and soft enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. If you'd like to enhance the color around the edges of the apples, run the tart under the broiler just unitl you get the color you're after. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.
To make the optional glaze:
Bring the jelly and water to a boil. When the jelly is liquefied, brush a thin layer over the topof the tart with a pastry brush. Return the pan to the rack and cool the tart until it is just warm or at room temperature.
The tart can be served when it is only just warm or when it reaches room temperature. Try to eat it as soon as it is baked,to prevent it from getting soggy.