Monday, November 5, 2012

Normandy Apple Tart: Homemade Is Worth It

This tart comes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. I'm trying to bake my way through it, inspired by the group Tuesdays with Dorie. I've decided that I won't share unmodified recipes from this book, since I use it so heavily it seems rather unethical to do so. However, I still want to share tips and tricks and hope that you will be inspired my creations to do some baking of your own.  Ms. Greenspan's easy instructions and guidance have really made me the confident baker I am today, so I encourage you to buy the book if you're interested in recipes.
Anyway, today's lovely creation is called a Normandy Apple Tart, named after an apple loving region of France. It is three parts: tart crust, apple sauce, and sliced apples.  For each component, you are offered a choice: make your own or buy it. (Yes, you can even buy pre-sliced apples. Please don't.) I made my own, and encourage you to do so whenever possible.  But why bother?

Are the apples ugly, or is it just my counter?

Homemade is almost always superior in quality, and frequently easier on your pocket book. It also greatly reduces the amount of packaging in your kitchen. All the foil, plastic, and cardboard that surrounds pre-made food is a pervasive and often overlooked contributor to your carbon footprint. 

Making applesauce was much simpler than I had anticipated.  My CSA gave me a big bag of tiny, rather ugly apples that were just begging to be sauced.  Unfortunately, according to Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, by Jennifer Reese, homemade is slightly more expensive than storebought, provided you don't have an apple tree of your own.  Homemade certainly tastes more expensive, with a much thicker texture, richer apple flavor, and a delightful pink color from the peels.

Apples +

The recipe called for a crust made of pâté sucre, a sweet tart dough I've made many times. It tastes like a shortbread cookie, and uses over a stick of butter. The last time I used it,  the resulting tart was just too damned rich, forcing me to eat only the slightest sliver at a time. Thats probably the proper French way of ingesting a tart, but I'm an American and we like giant, inelegant slices.  More practically, it ended up going bad far before we could eat most of it, and I don't like wasting things. So I decided that I need an alternate recipe for tart crust.

This time, I used a tart dough recipe I usually use for quiches and other savory tarts. It uses less butter and sugar, resulting in a flavor much more akin to pie dough. The result was delicious and crispy, and most importantly, allowed me eat a reasonably sized slice without feeling like my arteries were filling with butter.

If you've never made your own tart or pie dough, I encourage you to give it a shot.  It's cheaper and healthier than store bought, and isn't that difficult.  Chances are it won't be perfect on your first try, but I've made many an imperfect pie crust with no complaints. It's hard to complain with a mouthful of free pie.

Free pie and ice water.  An essential part of my Halloween table, apparently.
I wouldn't judge you for slapping a jar of applesauce in a prefab crust and topping it with a slice of apples. But I am setting out to show why you should think about making stuff yourself, some of the time. In the end, the tart that I made was greater than the sum of its very yummy parts. Moreover, it was made with care and love. And after all, isn't love the best ingredient of all? (Aww).

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