tarte aux pommes

I did it!!!!!  I made a classic French apple tart… and not only was it beautiful – it was delicious.  Seriously – DE.LIC.IOUS.  YUM.

Today is my father’s birthday.  Marielle (my stepmother) got him a chef’s coat and hat… doesn’t he look professional :0)

Bonne fête Papa!

Since I was visiting him over the weekend, we obviously had to celebrate the occasion.  I wanted to make something extra special for him – last year I baked a bunch of pies – a pecan pie (his favourite), an apple date pie (great combo), and a fig walnut pie.  They were good… but I think I’ve improved my pie-making skills in the last year.  It was time to show him what I could do!

Classic French apple tart.  It’s a beautiful thing ; a thin pastry crust, filled with a light applesauce, topped by thin slices of apples.  Oh… it’s a thing of beauty.  And … as it turns out, isn’t all that difficult to make either.  I’d always been a little put off by having to thinly slice the apples – perhaps the time I’ve spent at the Whalesbone has taught me a little patience when it comes to these tasks :0) 

I am so proud of this tart.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about making something since… well… since Thanksgiving and that sweet potato cheesecake.  At this point we all know that baking makes me happy – but really – if you want to feel self-satisfied… try this recipe.  You’ll be patting yourself on the back (even 48 hours after making the thing!).

I used a different pastry recipe this time round – I decided to go a little sweeter; and rather than use my short crust pastry, I decided to make a pâte brisée sucrée – it was… spectacular.  I’m not just saying that.  Nope.  My father, stepmother, brother, his friend – they all agreed – heck, my father said it was the best pie he’d ever had!  Amazing!

I made the pastry in the food processor – something I haven’t done since I purchased my KitchenAid – but it turned out brilliantly.  After chilling in the fridge for a few hours, it rolled out perfectly.  Exhale huge sigh of relief. 

Other than dealing with pastry dough, this recipe is pretty darn simple.  All you need are apples, sugar, a vanilla bean, apricot jam, and butter.  That’s it.  And if cutting apples into fine, thin slices doesn’t really thrill you… think of how pretty it all looks :0)  So worth it.

pâte brisée sucrée

ingredients:

2 c. flour, sifted

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 c. cold butter, cut into cubes

7 tbsp. heavy cream

2 tbsp water

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Then add the cubes of cold butter and the heavy cream.  Pulse again, about 30 – 45 seconds – you want the dough to look powdery (like grated parmesan cheese).  Pinche a piece – if it falls apart in your fingers, add the extra 2 tbsp of water.  Process everything together – another quick 15 seconds.  At this point, you should be ready.

Pour the dough out of the food processor bowl and flatten it into a disk.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour (otherwise, you can freeze up to 1 month).

tart aux pommes

ingredients:

1 recipe pâte brisée sucrée

8 large apples

1 lemon, cut in half

1/2 c. sugar, plus 1 tbsp for the top

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

1/2 c. water

3 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp apricot jam, heated so it becomes a thick glaze

Peel, halve and core 4 of the apples.  Rub each half with half the lemon. 

Dice the apples halves into 1/3-inch cubes – you don’t want them too finely diced, but you want them small enough. 

In the bowl of a medium saucepan, combine the juice of half the lemon, the diced apple, the sugar, vanilla bean and water together.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally (you don’t want to break down the apple cubes).  This should take about 15 – 20 minutes, the apples will soften and all the liquid will absorb.

Allow the applesauce to cool.

As your applesauce is cooling, turn your attention to the 4 remaining apples.

Peel, core and thinly slice each apple; squeezing lemon juice (the remaining half of lemon) evenly over all the slices of apple.  The lemon juice prevents the apple from oxidizing and turning brown… plus it adds a nice little tartness to them.

At the point you should be ready to assemble.

Heat your oven to 375 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry dough – you want it to be a little larger than your tart pan.

Line your pan with your dough.  Top the dough with your cooled applesauce (remember to remove the vanilla bean); then start placing the slices of apple around the side of the tart, overlapping the pieces so that they fit tightly against one another. 

You are creating a ring of apple slices around the outside… and continuing through to the centre of the tart. 

Brush generously with the melted butter and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.

Place on the lower rack in your oven and bake for about 30 minutes. 

At that point, move the tart to the centre of the oven (it’ll allow the apple slices to caramelize a little) – and if your tart crust is darkening a little too much (as occurred in my case) – cover the exposed rim with some tin foil (it prevents the dough from burning and allows the top to turn a golden colour).  Bake for another 10 minutes – you want the apples to be tender and the juices will be bubbling.

Take the tart out of the oven, and brush it with the warm apricot glaze (I removed the excess crust – that had slightly burnt).

That’s it.  Simple eh? 

Je suis tellement fière!  :0)

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sweetgrass aboriginal bistro

I finally made it to Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro.  After my memorable experience sampling their food at Oz Kafe‘s industry night – I’ve  been anxious to actually dine at the restaurant.

I didn’t know what to expect – memories of the rabbit rillet from Oz Kafe filled my head… and so although I was certain that the food would live up to my expectations,  I was curious to actually dine in the restaurant itself.

Super cute!  The bistro is really laid back – warm and welcoming.  Perfect little spot to hang out, chill and enjoy a good meal among friends.

My first reason to heart this place – they serve popcorn.  Yep.  A bowl of popcorn – which I gobbled right up (put popcorn in front of me and I can’t resist).  Loved it!

I then decided to start with the Three Sister Soup – based on the three traditional staples: corn, carrots, beans.  It was a flavourful broth based soup: exactly the type of thing you want to eat on a cold, damp night (I also tasted the soup of the day, a broccoli leek potage – amazing).

I debated about ordering the Sweetgrass Cassoulet – Braised Lamb Flank, House made kielbasa, Duck Confit and Bacon, with Great northern beans and Spinach.  I know… it sounds so good… and it looked good (a guy at another table ordered it… I know this because I interrupted his meal to ask him what he was eating); but in the end, I wasn’t super hungry… I wanted to get something a little lighter.

And that’s how I ended up with the Elk Dumplings – Slow cooked elk stuffed dumplings, sautéed mushrooms and spring onions, mustard crème fraiche.  Ridiculously delicious. 

I don’t regret my decision.  Imagine cutting into a dumpling, dipping the elk meat in the mustard crème fraiche, piling some sautéed mushrooms on your fork and enjoying that bite.  Oh… so good.  So very very good.

It was then time for dessert.  It’s a nice dessert menu – lots of options; but only one really pulled at me. 

double chocolate brownie  chocolate brownie, covered in chocolate ganache, topped with hazelnut ice cream, white chocolate and dark chocolate sauce, sprig of mint.

All I can say is…. WOW.  It was decadent, delicious, intense, rich, wonderful… once I started eating, I really had to remind myself to stop.

one little piece left…

I’m eager to return and actually try the Sweetgrass Cassoulet… or maybe the Bistro Buffalo Burger…

elimination challenge: petit fours

You might remember that I admitted to being a shoe whore… I adore shoes – flats, boots, heels, point- toed, open-toed… any type of shoe can catch my eye at any time.  It can be slightly dangerous (trip to San Francisco… I came home with 5 new pairs of shoes… seriously)… but oh so much fun!

Which could explain why I LOVED participating in this week’s Top Chef Just Desserts online elimination challenge – it all started with a pair of shoes.

On last week’s episode, the cheftestants selected a pair of shoes each, and then were asked to do the following:

1.  design an edible dress.  Yes that’s right an edible dress.

2.  create 2 different petit fours that would become the “accessories” to the dress and shoes.

Awesome eh?  Super creative and super fun (I’m actually re-watching the episode as I write this entry).

The online challenge requires us only to create the petit fours – no edible dress for me (thank goodness… holy heck that would have been insane)… and I decided to try two new recipes.

I was inspired by my new Michael Kors: I bought them in San Francisco… they have 4 inch heels.  Oh how I heart these shoes. 

Pretty slammin’ eh? (Marianne… thanks for convincing me to buy them!)

They deserved good accessories.  Done and Done!

I started with turnovers.  Not just any turnover… apple peach rum turnover.  Yes… puff pastry, apples, peaches and a nice hit of Sailor Jerrys rum.  Delish!

I was hemming and hawing over what I should make next… and became inspired by the thought of truffles: dark chocolate espresso truffles.  My little yin and yang of baking – the freshness of the turnovers – light and airy vs. the rich, decadent truffles… soooo goooood.

apple peach rum turnovers

ingredients:

quick puff pastry (thawed in the fridge overnight)

2 apples

2 peaches

2 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 c. water

1/4 c. sailor jerrys rum

1 egg and pinch of salt, creates an egg wash

coarse white sugar, to sprinkle

Peel, core and dice your apples and peaches (FYI – you end up with too much compote – but it’s so good… I just ate spoonfuls of it the following day – it’s already all gone!).

 

In a medium saucepan, combine the diced apples and peaches, water, sugar, cinnamon and salt; bring to a boil, cover and allow to simmer for about 4 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to cook the fruit for about 15 minutes – adding the rum as the mixture thickens.  Stir (not continuously, but often enough) in order to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan and burning.  Once thick and the liquid has evaporated, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the filling to cool.  Refrigerate until cold.

Remove your puff pastry from the fridge, and roll it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  You want the pastry to be slightly thicker than 1/8-inch.  Place the cookie sheet in your freezer and allow the pastry to get firm, but not hard (not frozen).  AtOnce firm, use a round cookie cutter and cut out disks – I was able to get 9 disks out of my sheet of puff pastry.  Pull away the trimmings and return the puff pastry to the fridge.

At this point, your filling should be cold.  Preheat your oven to 425 F.

Make your egg wash by beating your egg and adding a pinch of salt.  That’s it.  Super easy eh?

Place 1 tsp of the cold apple peach filling slightly off centre on each of the puff pastry disks. 

Brush the opposite half of the disk with egg wash, fold the puff pastry over and seal – gently press on the edges and then grab a fork and press again, making it all pretty :0)

Brush the turnovers with egg wash, sprinkle each turnover with your coarse sugar. 

Place your cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes – until golden brown (it seems my oven cooks slightly faster than I thought… so really watch your oven).

These are actually best served at room temperature, the following day – it allows the flavours to really come through in the filling.

In terms of the challenge; these turnovers are considered a cute little clutch (purse).  Adorable non?

dark chocolate espresso truffles

ingredients:

9 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. honey

1 tsp espresso powder

cocoa powder, to roll in

Place the coarsely chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl.  Grab a fine-mesh strainer, set both aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, honey and espresso powder:  allow the mixture to just get to a boil.  That’ll take no time :0)

Remove the saucepan from heat, and pour the cream through the strainer right on top of the chocolate.  Let all of that just sit together for 2 minutes; that’s right… don’t stir anything … yet.

Now… gently stir the mixture (centre outward) until it is smooth and shiny. 

Cover the entire bowl in plastic wrap – ensuring that the plastic touches the surface of the chocolate mixture.  Refrigerate for 5 hours or until firm.  (I made mine the night before).

When you’re ready to shape the truffles, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop out the ganache with a small teaspoon, drop onto the parchment paper in balls (well… almost balls, they aren’t perfect).  Once completed, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Time to roll the truffles!

Ok, grab some cocoa powder, sift it nicely and place it in a bowl.  Roll the truffle around in the cocoa powder, gently tap any excess powder off the ball and place back on your cookie sheet.  I had to do this in batches – since my little ganache balls got pretty soft at one point; I threw the cookie sheet with the un-rolled truffles back into the freezer and allowed them to “harden” again.

I seem to have done something wrong… or maybe this has happened to you too? You see… my truffles look good, taste gobsmacking amazing (rich dark chocolate + honey + espresso = deliciousness), but they umm…. aren’t hard.  They are still soft and gooey – even after spending the night in the freezer (airtight tupperware, pieces of wax paper between the layers).  I wonder what happened there… ???

That’s ok… they still look good… and go well with my shoes :0)