Warm Apple Tarts
The secret of this aromatic filling is a pinch of Chinese five-spice powder in lieu of the usual nutmeg and cinnamon. These homey tarts bake very quickly because the filling is cooked in advance. The tarts may be baked up to 6 hours ahead of time, then reheated for 5 minutes in a 350 F oven before serving.
- All-Purpose Flour - 1-1/2 cups
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Cold Unsalted butter - 1/2 cup (1 stick), cut into small pieces
- Ice Water - 1/4 cup
- Granny Smith or other tart green apples - 3 to 4 large
- Unsalted Butter - 1 tablespoon
- Sugar - 1/4 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons
- Chinese five-spice powder - 1/4 teaspoon
- Egg - 1, lightly beaten (egg wash)
- Caramel sauce - 1/2 cup, warmed
- Crème Fraîche (optional) - 4 tablespoons
- Fresh mint sprigs - 4
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)
To make the pastry: Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the mixture resembles large peas. Pour in the ice water and use your fingertips to work in the water until it is completely incorporated. On a lightly floured board or work surface, form the dough into a log about 8 inches long. With the heel of your hand, push down on the dough to smear it across the surface of the board. Gather up the dough, form it back into a log, and repeat. Gather it into a ball and knead it for a minute or two. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
To make the tarts: Peel and core the apples, then cut them into eighths. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming and begins to brown, add the apples and toss them gently to coat them with the butter. Add the 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and continue to cook, stirring frequently. When the apples are a dark, golden brown, add the five-spice powder and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a floured board, divide the pastry into 4 balls and roll each out into a 1/4-inch-thick free-form round. Divide the apples between the circles of pastry, then crimp the sides of each tart around the filling to form an edge. Brush the tart dough with the beaten egg (egg wash) and sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar. Using a metal spatula, place the tarts on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.
To serve: Place each tart on a warmed plate. Drizzle with warm caramel sauce. Spoon 1 tablespoon of crème fraîche onto each tart and garnish with fresh mint, or, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and garnish with fresh mint.