harvest noir

October has just flown by.

I honestly don’t know where to start.

It started with a wedding.  Not my wedding … but I did bake a cake and 200 cupcakes for this wedding.  Plus an assortment of other lovely treats for the post-wedding luncheon.

That was the same weekend as Thanksgiving.

It was also the same weekend that I threw out my back.

What a pain (literally and figuratively speaking).

Sigh.

And then last Saturday was the weekend I’d been looking forward too for several weeks …

Harvest Noir.

The premise of the event … an elegant “dress your best in black” picnic and dance party … inspired by a  23-year old tradition of genteel annual picnic dining in Paris.

Oh yeah … and the location … unknown until 4 hours before it begins.

Cool?

TOTALLY.

As soon as I heard about it (thank you Kailey) I knew I just had to participate.

Now you’ll probably laugh at me … you see … I signed up after watching this youtube video (which is pretty awesome … doesn’t it make YOU want to participate next year???).

It was only after that I clued to the fact that I was responsible for bringing food.  And cutlery, dishes, glasses, linens …

I know.

Picnic = bring your own food … duh?  Apparently I’m a little slow.

And so … after assembling our table of 7 (Kailey, Alain, Tonya, Allison, Amanda, Platonic Jeff & I) … we all offered to bring a component of the meal – cheese, bread, patés, meats, dips, vegetables, assorted salads, goulash … and I brought dessert (no big surprise there).

The entire point of harvest noir is to use local and seasonal fare – I decided to whip up some mini french apple tarts (local apples) and then some mini butternut squash cupcakes, topped with cinnamon sour cream frosting and a home-made (as in by ME – yay!cinnamon gelato (not the smartest picnic food… although delicious).

I decided to use a favourite recipe – the classic french apple tart recipe I used for my father’s birthday dessert last year.  Only this time, I changed up the filling.

For this recipe, you’ll need a standard pastry dough.  Use your favourite recipe … or feel free to use mine.

You’ll also need enough apples to make your filling (I needed about 1 dozen small apples), as well as a couple apples to top the tarts (I used 2 and 1/2 apples).  If you aren’t going to serve with ice cream and/or caramel sauce, you might want to use a little apricot jam (warmed and lightly brushed over the baked tarts).

apple tart filling

ingredients:

1 dozen apples (they were quite small); peeled, cored and diced

1/2 c. sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Once you peel, core and dice your apples, put them in a medium saucepan, and add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Place the saucepan over medium heat, covered, and allow the apples to start cooking down in their own juices.  Check them from time to time, stirring (so that the bottom doesn’t burn), and as the apples break down, lower the heat, remove the lid, and continue to reduce the apple mixture until it’s thick – basically, you’re making apple sauce.  Only with diced chunks of apple :0)

Once you’ve gotten it where you’d like it to be – remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

At this point, take your pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it out.  Remember to generously flour your surface, and roll the dough quite thin.

Using a small knife, cut small circles out of the dough – enough to line the base of your mini tart pans (or, you can also use a cupcake pan).

I was able to get 1 dozen tarts lined using half my pastry dough recipe.

Fill each tart with your apple filling – you’ll probably use about 1 tbsp of filling. Once your tarts are filled, grab those remaining apples and peel, core and finely slice them.  You want thin slices of apple; they cover your tart (since this isn’t a double crust tart).

Place the tarts on a cookie sheet and then place the cookie sheet on your lower rack – baking at 350 F for about 15 minutes (you be the judge of how your pastry is cooking).  Then move the cookie sheet to the upper rack and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes – you want your apples to be baked.  You should see the juices bubbling underneath.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

These tarts travel really well – which makes them totally perfect for an outdoor picnic.

heart this event.

500+ people (of all ages) … surprise location (museum of civilization) … a light drizzle of rain … and inspired food.  Followed by dancing (which… I had to sit out of, but it was all good) and a pretty darn amazing hula hoop demonstration (totally cool).  I can’t wait for next year.