I was recently the lucky recipient of a large box of fall fruit from my uncle who had just been in the Okanogan. The Bartlett pears were divine, my favorite fruit when they are the perfect ripeness. A little trick I learned from the pear growers: pears ripen from the inside out so don't squeeze the flesh to judge ripeness, instead feel the ends. If they are starting to soften eat the pear. If the outside is getting soft the inside is usually turning brown and is unpleasantly mushy.
But this is about apples. Also in the box were various kinds of apples, all very authentic with their matte, just picked off the tree look. We have been eating them like crazy, but I decided to do something extra special with some of them. As I have mentioned before I don't really like pastry, but do love the baked apple cinnamon taste of the filling. My all time favorite dessert is cheese cake and one of my favorite cookies is shortbread...when I came across the recipe for this apple tart on the Joy of Baking website there was no decision to made. Start to preheat the oven!
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
One 8-ounce package of light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups BC apples, cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 2-3 large apples)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Spray a 9 inch (23 cm) spring form pan with non-stick spray. I think you could use a pie pan as well.
Crust: In the bowl of your food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and pulse to blend together. Add the butter and pulse until dough just begins to come together. Pat the dough onto the bottom and one inch up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator while you make the filling. My crust was still quite powdery, it didn’t “come together” as the recipe states. I was thinking flop for sure, but it turned out fine. I still was able to press it into the pan.
Filling: In a food processor process the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix well. Blend in the egg and vanilla extract and process until smooth. Remove the crust from the fridge and pour in the filling.
Topping: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss the sliced apples in the sugar mixture. Spoon the apples evenly over the cream cheese layer and sprinkle with almonds. Place the spring form pan on a larger baking sheet to catch any drips.
Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is brown, the apples are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, and the filling is almost set. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve at room temperature. Leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. Adapted from here.
So what did I do differently? I used whole wheat flour instead of white, I reduced the amount of sugar, used light cream cheese and didn't peel the apples. Didn't make an ounce of difference in the taste, I loved every bite...no maybe savored is a better description. I do think butter is essential to the short bread crust. Making shortbread cookies with margarine is a crime as far as I am concerned, so not happening with the crust either. A slice of this tart comes in at 273 calories, 16 grams of fat and 8 grams of sugar. A slice of apple pie is 400 calories, 21 grams of fat and 23 grams of sugar, quite the savings and a much better taste if I do say so myself.
I would also like to plug my hand blender that is pictured above (I used this in place of a food processor with this recipe). Love this thing...I hesitate to call it a gadget as that implies something more gimmicky. It is a motor top portion that attaches to either an emersion blender (great for soups and making baby foods), food processing unit (use it for fresh salsa, guacamole, dips) and a whisk attachment (perfect for small jobs where a mixer is over kill). The best part - all dishwasher safe. Every time I use it it makes me happy.
Anyways the tart was a hit all around. It is also a way to appreciate the changing seasons and all they have to offer. The smell of apples baking evokes crisp mornings, crunching leaves underfoot and all else that fall means to you.
Tiffany McFadden, RD