Caramel Apple Tart

Okay, I promised you a recipe that uses that homemade caramel sauce I wrote about, and then I teased you all mercilessly by giving you a salad instead. My bad. So here’s the dessert you’ve been waiting for. Because despite the evergreen boughs and chocolate advent calendars that are popping up around here– not to mention the cloyingly cheerful rendition of “Sleigh Ride” that made me stomp out of a clothing store in disgust yesterday– it is still technically fall. And this caramel apple tart would be happy to sit close to the center of your Thanksgiving dessert table. (No matter what, pumpkin pie gets the starring role. Tradition.)

This dessert features my new favorite tart crust: a super simple, no rolling necessary, easy-breezy-in-the-food-processor crust from America’s Test Kitchen. (This crust is also delightful for savory dishes by taking out the sugar and using whole wheat pastry flour.) Cover the pre-baked crust with a layer of tart apples, then a crumbly oatmeal streusel topping, and finish it off with a drizzle of that delectable caramel. Lo and behold, you get something that looks fancy but doesn’t require you to break a sweat. So you can save that energy for wrestling your Thanksgiving turkey, and then relax by gobble gobbling this dessert right up.

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

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Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, chilled and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. ice water

Filling

  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 lb. granny smith apples (about 2-3 large or 4-5 small)

Topping

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • homemade or store-bought caramel sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Make the tart crust: Add flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until well-combined. Add butter and pulse about 15 times, until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal. Add ice water and pulse again for a few seconds, until the mixture comes together and no longer looks powdery.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round tart pan with walnut-sized balls of the tart dough. Use your hand to gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, filling in any cracks and smoothing it as best you can. Press your thumb against the top of the pan to even out the top of the crust. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough and smooth it out one more time. Place tart pan on a plate and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes, until solid.

Remove the tart pan from the freezer and place it on a baking sheet. Cover the crust with a double layer of aluminum foil, and place dried beans or pie weights on top of the foil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.  Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Peel and core the apples and evenly slice them, about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. Toss them in the bowl with the flour mixture until they’re evenly coated. Layer them evenly in the pre-baked tart shell.

Make the topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined.

Assemble the tart: Evenly sprinkle the oat topping over the tart. Bake at 350° F for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Let cool at room temperature, then drizzle some caramel sauce over the whole thing. Slice and serve.

Store tart in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.

Serves 8-12.

Source: Tart crust from America’s Test Kitchen. Filling and topping from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Thanksgivukkah Recap

Alrighty, I promised you all a recap of our first and last Thanksgivukkah. Despite the fact that my dreidel cookies turned out slightly… lopsided… and my turkey breast took a full 45 minutes longer than I’d planned (more wine!) a good time was had by all. As my third time as Thanksgiving hostess would prove, it’s always better to let go and just relax.

Thanksgivukkah recap- place settings

Like I said before, the color theme was blue and orange, and I had fun pulling different elements of those colors together at the last minute. I made tiny vases for each place setting out of spice jars and blue washi tape. (Yep, I temporarily relocated some dried herbs. All in the name of decorating. Still haven’t put them back yet either…) I also amused myself by designing and printing out place cards and “Thanksgivukkah Fun Facts.” The table was rounded out with blue and orange napkins, a shiny pumpkin, gelt, dreidels, and our hanukkiyah.

Thanksgivukkah recap- table

Despite my plan to have a “pared down” menu, we used all the recipes I posted last week, and at the last minute I decided to make cranberry sauce and roasted garlic. Not together; that would be weird. Dinner was on the table at 4:35 instead of 4:05 like I’d hoped, but we still got to eat more than we wanted with leftovers to spare. And when all was cleaned up at the end of the night, I had a big pot of turkey stock simmering on the stove. That’s success in my book.

Thanksgivukkah recap- menu

I just have to leave you with the silly story of my dreidel cookies. I tried to make homemade slice-n-bake cookies with a dreidel shape in the middle, and they turned out… different. I started by forming a long extrusion of blue cookie dough that would look like a dreidel when cross-sectioned. Then I planned to wrap plain cookie dough around the dreidel log to form a round cookie. (Yes, it required some math and advanced planning.) Unfortunately I wasn’t patient enough to let the dreidel log chill sufficiently, and it got a wee bit squished when I wrapped it with the plain cookie dough.

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies

So they kind of looked like blue chili pepper cookies. I found the whole situation hilarious and served them anyway. Luckily they still tasted good! And now it’s Christmas-cookie season, so I have plenty of time to practice my slice-n-bake cookie-making. Unless, of course, I find some holiday to celebrate that includes blue peppers. You never know. :)

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies

Preparing for Thanksgivukkah

Gobble tov! I’m busy preparing for our first (and last) ever Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-chaim event, if you will. While I don’t want to totally ruin the surprise for my guests, here’s a little sneak preview of the menu I’m planning, two days out. I’ll do a full recap, for sure, but I wanted to throw out some helpful links before the main event in case anyone is still looking for Thanksgivukkah recipes.

Thanksgivukkah Menu:

The decor will revolve around the two complementary colors of blue (for Hanukkah) and orange (for Thanksgiving). Seems like even the color wheel wanted these two holidays to collide. Alrighty, gotta run. Challah’s going in the oven!

Preparing for Thanksgivukkah

Thanksgiving Dinner Prep

It’s T minus two days until Turkey Day! I’m looking forward to having nine lovely people in my home for the holiday. Gabe and I have been trying to clean out the fridge so there will be room for all the food, which means I’m having a lunch of Triscuits, cream cheese, and salsa. Super gourmet, I know.

Right now I’m having fun dreaming up table settings before our big grocery run this evening. My favorite (and super cheap) way to dress up the table is to use scrapbook paper for placemats. It’s win-win: I don’t have to worry about wine spills on tablecloths, and the lovely natural wood table gets to shine. I’m thinking about adding texture by using a few loops of twine as napkin rings. Relaxed and fun!

Right now it’s sort of the calm before the storm. Ever since my first dinner as hostess last year, I’ve taken some cues from my Aunt Pat. Tip number one: make a list. I call this my “game plan” and it lays out everything I need to do right down to the minute. I might be a little crazy, but dinner is always on time. :)

What are your plans this Thanksgiving? Wishing all my friends and family members (both present and absent) a lovely holiday!

Crisis Management

When preparing a large holiday meal, crises are inevitable.  This was the first Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever planned and executed, so I received a crash course in crisis management.

First, of course, was the infamous blender mutiny.  It was pretty funny until the night before Thanksgiving, when I finally noticed splattered carrot all over the kitchen ceiling.  The solution?  Prevent my guests from looking up.  The cleanup will have to wait.

Next came the lovely surprise of an unexpected houseguest.  I was forced to remake candied pecans and rolls, and the parmesan crisps went straight in the trash without time to make them again.  (Whole Foods cheese straws to the rescue!)

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Two Days Until Thanksgiving!

After yesterday’s blender mutiny, it took a teensy bit of willpower to get back in the kitchen this morning and keep prepping for Thanksgiving.  Good thing I come from a line of strong Polish women!  :)

Today’s accomplishments: sage and mushroom stuffing, Parker House rolls, lactose-free evaporated milk, pumpkin pie filling, and cinnamon ice cream batter.  And a hot bubble bath.

And because that wasn’t enough fun, I’m working on some recipes that use leftover Thanksgiving ingredients.  For lunch, I whipped up herbed linguine with brown butter, fresh sage, mushrooms, salt ‘n’ pepper, and a little bit of milk (to make it creamy).

Now that's what I call "leftovers"

I’ve never cooked with fresh sage before and was amused to find that the leaves are fuzzy, sort of like a velvety peach skin.  They smell like pine but taste delicious when sautéed.

The other dish I made is still in the oven, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.  Let’s just say that the concept induced eye-rolls from Gabe and my sisters… although that’s not too hard to do!

Here We Go!

It’s a good thing I don’t have class this week; my schedule is crammed with cooking and baking!  Since Thanksgiving is a holiday where it’s all about the food, I decided to do my grocery shopping at Costco.  The grand total?

  • 10 lbs potatoes
  • 5 lbs onions
  • 3 lbs carrots
  • 3 lbs kosher salt
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 2 lbs pecans
  • 2 lbs mushrooms
  • 2 loaves French bread
  • 15 oz pumpkin puree

And this doesn’t even include the turkey yet!  Phew!