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Archive for January, 2013

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart 017

The French Apple Tart from Baking With Julia is a beauty with its spiraling topping of apple slices overlaid on a roasted applesauce filling. It made a lovely presentation for a dinner party. Baking it was pretty straightforward if a little fussy and time-consuming, what with pre-baking the pie shell, roasting sliced apples for the filling, and arranging more apple slices for the decorative topping. A restrained amount of sugar and just a hint of cinnamon allowed the apple flavor to shine. The recipe is on pages 379-381 of Baking with Julia, and can also be found on the blog Laws of the Kitchen.

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With a few exceptions, I followed the recipe closely. The flaky pie dough crust called for both butter and shortening. Since I don’t use shortening, I substituted all butter (about 4 ounces for a single crust.) Shortening is supposed to provide the flakiness, but I find that by leaving the butter in largish pieces, I get a flaky crust, and that was true in this case. The dough is chilled, then rolled out and fitted into the tart pan, chilled again, and pre-baked filled with dried beans. I used a 10-inch diameter tart pan, rather than the 9-inch size specified, and it worked out fine, both with the thickness of the crust and the amount of filling.

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After the tart shell is pre-baked at 400°, sliced apples are tossed with sugar, flour, and cinnamon, and roasted at 375°. I think some time could be saved by baking and roasting simultaneously at either temperature. I forgot to add the bread crumbs called for in the roasted apple mixture. Roughly mashed, the roasted apples become a chunky apple compote, thick enough that the bread crumbs were not missed.

French Apple Tart 009

French Apple Tart 012

Assembling the tart was the fun and fussy part: chunky applesauce spread in pre-baked crust, apple slices arranged on top, a brushing with melted butter and sprinkling of Turbinado sugar, then into the oven for the final baking. I ran the tart under the broiler for a minute or so at the end of baking to char the edges of the apples. The butter and sugar created a beautiful glaze. And it’s not just pretty either…it’s deliciously apple-y with contrasting textures of crispy crust, smooth compote, and tart topping.

French Apple Tart 013

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Pizza with Onion Confit 004-001

One of the interesting things about baking along with the Tuesdays with Dorie – Baking with Julia group has been finding my expectations challenged. Not being in control of the recipe selection process has led to some surprising results for me. For instance, this pizza with onion confit confounded my expectations for both the dough and the topping.

I’ve made pizza dough a lot and have a couple of recipes from Jim Lahey that I’m happy with. Recently I’ve been using the one from his book, My Pizza – it’s a no-knead recipe featuring a little yeast and extended fermentation, which “strengthens the dough.” There are some specifics about the baking process that are a little complicated with an electric oven, but the results are fabulous.

I thought I didn’t need another pizza dough recipe, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this dough was exceptionally easy to handle and baked into a thin crispy crust with a minimum of fuss. The process involves mixing up a sponge with water, yeast, olive oil, and about half the flour, which is left to rise until it’s bubbly. Then the remaining flour is added, the dough is kneaded in a mixer and left to rise again.

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Pizza with Onion Confit 006

I love onions, especially when they’re slowly braised or carmelized, and they make a great topping for pizza. This onion confit is made by softening sliced onions in butter and then braising them in red wine and a little red wine vinegar for an hour. They’re seasoned with a bit of sugar and some thyme. I didn’t use the optional crème de cassis.

Pizza with Onion Confit 001

Pizza with Onion Confit 011

The dough was surprisingly manageable, stretching effortlessly to a thin roughly oval shape without tearing, and then sliding easily off the peel. Maybe I was lucky…I’ll have to see if it goes as smoothly with the second half of the dough which I plan to bake tomorrow. In addition to the onion confit, I scattered some chopped olives and gorgonzola cheese over the pizza.

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Pizza with Onion Confit 017

I like the concentrated sweetness of carmelized onions and wasn’t crazy about the vinegary flavor of the onion confit. I’ll have to experiment with the onions, maybe cook them a little longer in the butter before adding wine, definitely omit the vinegar, and try substituting white wine for the red. But I’ll absolutely be making this pizza again.

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