This weekend I had the chance to do something I've never done before—apple picking!
On Saturday the boy and I drove to Valley Orchard, ~1.5 hr away from Chicago (just outside of Rockford, Illinois). Not only did they have a great variety of U-pick apples and insanely flavorful raspberries, they also had delicious baked goods for sale (the best apple-cider cake donuts I've ever had, and apple pies that looked incredible). Plus, it wasn't one of those carnival-like orchards with corn mazes and hay rides and crazed kids running around.
It was, ultimately, a relaxing and low-key excursion, just what we both needed.
Although it was about 80 degrees out that day, fall was out in full-force, with mums and squash and pumpkins galore!
It was a super simple recipe, but made much more interesting baking with a 2 1/2 year old!
I took a bunch of pictures both days, so I hope you'll indulge me in sharing. Otherwise, simply scroll down to the bottom for the awesome tart recipe.
they almost tasted like artificial raspberries!
but loved finding the lady bugs on these plants
Four simple steps to delicious tart: (1) Make dough. (2) Slice apples. (3) Place apples on top of dough, with a bit of butter and sugar. (4) Bake.
Also, notice the varying colors of the apples' flesh: Snow Sweet were pure white, the Empire apples had a green-ish hue, and Jonagold (or Senshu?) were more cream colored. So fascinating how different all the apples were in flavor, texture, and color.
I also couldn't be happier with how the tart came out. While I absolutely love really involved, well-crafted desserts, there is just something about a dessert that showcases the natural beauty of the delicious fruit I'm about to consume.
Yours in deciding to forgo laundry and spend a gorgeous weekend gettin' down with nature and enjoying her delicious bounty with loved ones,
Apple tart, adapted from Smitten Kitchen (which she adapted from Alice Waters)
If you're ever going to make a pie crust, please read this amazing blog post by Sassy Radish. It has the best tips/tricks for dealing with an all-butter crust I've ever come across. I highly recommend reading the entire post, but if I were to summarize it in a few words it would be "cold" and "visible": make sure everything is super cold (from your butter to all your utensils) and make sure you don't overwork the butter in your crust—you want visible pieces of butter. I only followed half her rules and ended up with the flakiest dough I've ever made, so I can't wait to follow her advice to the letter next time.
1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 85 grams) unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 ml) chilled water
2 pounds (910 grams) apples (tart, firm variety), peeled, cored, and sliced (save peels and cores)
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted
3 to 5 tablespoons (65 grams) sugar, or cinnamon sugar (I prefer to use this apple pie spice in place of cinnamon, but either works)
1/4 cup (100 grams) sugar
leftover apple peels and cores
The glaze isn't necessary, but makes a delicious apple-flavored simple syrup that you can use on the pie, but also in cocktails and such.
Make the dough:
- Sift the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and blend using a pastry cutter until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter and mix until the biggest pieces are the size of lima beans. (Recipes will tell you to mix it to the size of peas but that's too much—you want visible pieces of butter!)
- Add the ice water, 1 TBSP at a time, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball.
- Hot tip: Beware of adding too much liquid to your dough. Mine was still a teeny tiny bit crumbly, but after resting in the fridge the dough was perfectly hydrated. To test if you've added enough liquid squeeze the dough into a ball with 1 hand—if it completely falls apart add more water. If it just comes together it's good. (You want something akin to moistened sand, not mud.)
- Flatten the dough into a 4-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Prep the tart:
- When ready to roll out the dough, preheat oven to 400°F. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)
- After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, remove and let it soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.
- Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it.
- Overlap apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself.
- Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle up to 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons over apples.
Bake the tart:
- Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown. Check after 40 - 45 minutes, but your tart might need more time like mine to make sure the crust is cooked. Rotate tart every 15 minutes.
- While tart is baking, make your glaze. Put reserved peels and cores in a medium to large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup.
- When the tart is done baking, remove from oven and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.
- Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve—preferable warm with some cold vanilla ice cream!