Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cherry & Cranberry Tart with Almond Crumble

(Listening: John Abercrombie Quartet: 39 Steps)*

Every pie or tart begins with the crust which for many can be intimidating, what with all of the warnings that go with making the crust—"Don’t overwork the dough, don’t add too much water, make sure you use enough water, roll the dough in one direction...."
For tarts, I use pate sablee, which is essentially a cookie-style dough which is hard to mess up. It can be re-rolled and patched more easily than traditional pie dough. Unfortunately, you can only use it for tarts.
Pate brisee, which is what the French call our traditional-style crust  dough does take a little practice. I have found that if you make a double batch (a two crust recipe), the water necessary (3/4 cup) works out more easily than the tablespoon approach for one crust. Divide the dough and freeze what you don’t use. (Crust dough recipes and tips can be found in previous posts).
And this leads to the shortening vs. butter argument. I always use shortening. It makes for a flakier crust. Truthfully, the flakiest crusts are made with lard, the mention of which sends people running for cover. But lard is lower in saturated fat than butter so for occasional use, especially when flakiness is sought, lard could be your shortening of choice. (One of my nephews used to laugh uncontrollably at the mention of the word "lard." Kids!).
You could also use a combination of butter and shortening.
Then there’s the argument about the trans fats in vegetable shortening.
But I didn’t come here for an argument. I came to make this week’s pie/tart.
In the summer, when sour cherries were available at the farmer’s market I froze some and suggested you could do the same and said I would return with a recipe. It’s that time.
This is a recipe suitable for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Not quite traditional but it does include that seasonal staple, cranberries.

The filling is cooked separately then spooned into the crust. Cherries give off a lot of juice and by thickening the fruit before you bake the tart assures that your filling shouldn’t run when the tart is cut.

Remember what I learned years ago: Even if you make a mistake, there will always be plenty of people to eat what you have made.

Cherry and Cranberry Tart with Almond Crumb
You will need one recipe pate sablee for a 10” tart. This can also be made as a 9” pie.

6 ounces cranberries (almost 2 cups)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 cups (pitted) sour cherries
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
1. Remove the pate sablee from the refrigerator and let soften. Knead the dough lightly on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll the dough out to an  1/8th inch thickness. Fit the dough into a 10” tart
pan, trimming the excess dough from the edge of the tart pan. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the dough. Refrigerate the tart shell for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. When the tart dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator. Place the tart pan onto a baking pan. Line the tart shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill it with dried beans/rice/or pie weights. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes; after 15 minutes remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the foil with the pie weights. Return the empty tart pan to the oven and bake for a final 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. While the tart shell is baking, prepare the filling. Rinse and pick over the cranberries; discard any that may be soft or bruised. Place the cherries into a bowl, add the sugar and stir.
4. Place the cranberries, sugar, and water into a large sauté pan. Place the pan over medium heat and cook the cranberries until they pop, stirring as they cook. When the cranberries have cooked (about 4 to 5 minutes) add the cherries and their juice. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and the water. When the fruit begins to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook the fruit until it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool.
5. Prepare the almond crumble topping:

Almond Crumble
4 ounces (1 cup) slivered almonds
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

To prepare the crumble topping, place the almonds into a food processor and pulse them until finely ground. (You could also use already ground almonds).
Remove the ground almonds from the food processor and place them into a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, sugars, and salt to the almonds and using the paddle attachment, mix to combine. Add the butter into the flour mixture and mix until small crumbs form. (This can also be done by hand using a fork or a pastry cutter). Set completed almond crumble mixture aside.

Assembling the tart

Keeping the tart shell on the baking tray, spoon the completed filling into the tart shell with a slotted
spoon: you may not need all of the fruit juices. Cover the top of the tart with the crumble mixture; there may be about ¼ cup of the crumb mixture leftover.
Place the tart into a 350 degree oven and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Remove tart from the oven and let cool before serving. Wait for the pie night revellers to arrive then slice and serve.

Could this be the start of a new holiday tradition?

And watch for pits! Sorry guys.

* The first Abercombie quartet, which also featured pianist Richie Beirach, recorded three albums between 1979 and 1981 and was one of my favorite groups at the time. The "piano quartet" has reformed with Marc Copland on piano (Since 2000, Beirach has been teaching at the Leipzig conservatory "Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy"). Here is a moment from a recent performance:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sour Cream Apple Tart with Walnut Crumble

Listening: Gretchen Parlato: Live in NYC*

If you are a reader of these dispatches sent out over the world wild web, you might know of our weekly pie night which gives us a chance to connect with friends and relax over pie.
My wife, the red-haired food co-pilot, recently took on a new position which has had her working crazy hours; we still reconnect over dinner, whatever time that might be, but we’ve had to skip a few pie nights. This week she had an obligation so pie night went on the road. She needed “something” for a reception, so as the ace up her sleeve I settled on this.
Much of the prep- the pate sablee, the assembly of the tart shell, the walnut crumble, even the precooking of the apples can be done in advance leaving only the final assembly and baking.
I used some Macoun apples I picked up at the last day of one of our farmers markets and mixed them with some Fuji apples. Use whichever apple you like.

Sour Cream Apple Tart with Walnut Crumble
You will need one recipe of pate sablee for a 10” tart

For one 10" tart:      
1 ¾ pounds apples, peeled and cut into ½” slices
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup (fresh) apple cider
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2  Grade A large Eggs

1. Place the apple slices into a bowl, add the sugar and mix; set aside.
2. Place a sauté pan large enough to hold the apple slices onto the stove. Pour the apple cider into the
pan, turn the heat to medium-high and bring the cider to a simmer. When the cider is hot, add the apple slices to the pan. Poach the apples until they are just tender; the point of a knife should just pierce the flesh of the apple. Remove the pan from the heat, drain the apples and set them aside to cool.
3. While the apples are cooling, roll out the pate sablee to 1/8th inch thickness and fit it into a 10” tart pan. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom of the tart. Refrigerate or freeze the tart until ready to bake.
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator or freezer. Fit a piece of aluminum foil into the pan to cover the dough. Fill the foil with dry beans, rice or pie weights. Place the tart pan onto a baking tray and bake the tart shell for 15 minutes; after 15 minutes remove the tart from the oven; remove the foil with the beans/rice/pie weights and return the tart shell to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the partially baked tart shell from the oven; set aside and let cool.
5. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Whisk together until smooth; set aside. Layer the apples into the tart pan. Pour the sour cream custard over the apples; use a spatula to spread the custard over the apples. Lightly sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the tart. Place the tart into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove tart from oven. When the tart is cool, send it off with your wife. Wait for her to return with your reward of some leftover Nanaimo bars. That’s fair enough.

Walnut Crumble
This recipe makes more crumble than you will need. It’s really a light sprinkle of crumb over the sour cream not meant to cover the tart entirely. You can freeze the leftover crumb mixture and use it for another tart.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1. Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix them together. Add the butter and mix until small crumbs form. (This can also be done by hand). Remove and use. Leftover can be stored in a sealable plastic bag.

* Last fall my wife and I along with two friends were lucky to catch Gretchen Parlato at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At that time, she was touring so extensively I wondered when she would find time to record her next album. It turned out that a live recording was planned for the upcoming weeks, now released and titled “Live in NYC.”