Just because there are Brooklyn Bridge-sized gaps between my baking posts, doesn't mean I haven't been spending time in the kitchen. It just means I've been baking my standard issue sweet stuff, some of which I've already posted about here.
Now that the holiday season is gearing up, so am I. Baking and winter go together like central and heating, and when the days start getting progressively chillier, nothing warms me up physically or psychologically like working in a toasty kitchen making something sweet to eat. And then forcing those sweets onto unsuspecting friends and family. After all, if I'm going to add five pounds onto my rear end because of it, everyone else must suffer, too.
Baking is also wonderful therapy. When I'm up to my neck in work, frustrating deadlines, and any other number of life's little hassles, I shake things loose in my brain by doing something that requires both physical and mental exercise. Kind of like running, only I get to lick the bowl when I'm done.
This is what I made yesterday. Actually, it started the night before, when on a lark I decided to make a batch of caramel sauce, using the recipe in my tried and true copy of Williams and Sonoma's Pies and Tarts.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
In a heavy duty saucepan over medium high heat, stir together the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Stir just until mixed and then leave it alone, or your sugar will crystallize. Allow to cook until the sugar melts and just begins to turn a golden color. Turn heat to medium low and cook, shaking or tiling pan on occasion but not stirring, until a golden brown color. Remove from heat and add in the cream, pouring through a sieve to prevent splashing. Stir until cream is incorporated.
It will look like this. And it tastes fabulous. Better than anything you can buy in a store.
I have made caramel!
Now, what to do with it, other than eating it by the spoonful in front of the television? Why, make a tart, of course.
Normally, I'd use it to make a cranberry/almond tart, but since I didn't have any cranberries and I didn't have any slivered almonds, I decided to use apples and . . . what? Raisins? Nah. Pecans? Double nah. Then I remembered an apple and Gorgonzola pie I used to order at one of my favorite restaurants in Albuquerque, the now sadly defunct Chef du Jour. Man, it was delicious and I've never tried to replicate it. But blue cheese in some form or another is something I always have in my refrigerator, so there you go.
For the dough:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons ice cold water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the apple filling:
2 large or 3 medium cooking apples of your choice
2 ounces blue veined cheese of your choice, crumbled
4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
Blend together flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a larger bowl, either with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. You can also do this in a food processor. Mixture should look like this:
Beat together the egg yolk, water, and vanilla then pour into middle of flour mixture and use fork to stir until a rough dough forms. Again, you can also do this in a food processor.
Then, pour mixture out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead very briefly until a dough forms:
Do not overmix or your tart dough will be tough.
If making tart right away, roll dough out on a thoroughly floured work space to a little less than 1/4" thick. Place inside a 10" non-stick tart pan with removable bottom and freeze for 30 minutes.
At the 15 minute mark, place rack in the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 375 degrees F. Line tart pan with heavy duty tin foil and fill with pie weights or beans to weigh down. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, core and peel apples. Cut in half, then cut the halves from the top or bottom end into wedges 1/8" thick.
Once tart is pre-baked, remove from oven and start layering apple slices in an overlapped, circular pattern.
Pour the caramel on top, making sure to coat the apples evenly.
Bake tart in oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the cheeses. Place back in oven for another five minutes to melt.
Remove, cool, and place in refrigerator. Tart should be served cold.
If any of you is the person who consistently outbids Moi on eBay for these plates, stop it!