Last week, I received by mail a copy of Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz. I began immediately to flag the pages (a sure sign that I may actually cook from a book) but then paused on page 90, at a recipe titled, Apple-Red Wine Tart. David, what a great idea!
I poach pears and apples in red wine and a variety of spices nearly every fall, but it never occurred to me to expand the concept into a tart. How lovely that would that be. I actually went as far as buying a bottle of inexpensive, but hopefully decent, Merlot to try the recipe when another mental pause occurred.
What if I macerated the apples in reduced apple cider, instead of wine? I knew from past cooking adventures, such as Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, that reducing and then caramelizing apple cider produces the most sublime nectar imaginable. I wondered if I could combine this idea with my Caramelized Pear & Anise Tart (not yet posted). And this superb tart is the result of all that wondering–and David’s inspiring new cookbook.
The only thing that was a bit off in my testing was the way that I sliced the apples (into 16 wedges per apple). Now, that may be customary for Tarte Tatin, but it is not the way I make the Caramelized Pear & Anise Tart. I didn’t notice the faux pas until I inverted the tart onto the serving platter and then saw that it was flat, rather than convex as I expected.
The reason for this is of course the way I cut the apples. For a more rounded finished appearance, cut the apples in quarters. The taste is the same either way, so you decide which look you prefer.
Caramelized Apple Cider Tart
This is a luscious upside-down tart, covered with a rich glaze of spiced apple cider caramel. Because this tart is almost delicate and not-too-sweet, it works best on its own with afternoon tea or following a meal that does not include a “wow” level of herbs, spices, or chiles.
Equipment Note The success of this dish depends a great deal on the proper pan. Ideally, you should use a heavy, shallow, sloping-sided skillet with an 8-inch bottom diameter. A non-stick, heavy-duty aluminum omelet pan of this size works well. The pan should be dark in color to facilitate the browning of the caramel and have a handle that can take a 35-minute stay in a hot oven. If you aren’t sure the handle can take the heat, wrap it with damp paper towels, and enclose tightly with foil.
Timing Note You must begin this tart a day ahead.
Ingredient Note Trader Joe’s sells an excellent apple juice, which although pasteurized, contains nothing but the juice of McIntosh apples. As unpasteurized apple cider is not available in the Northwest in September, it’s a good alternative.
8 cups fresh apple cider (or bottled pure apple juice or cider with no additives of any kind; not from concentrate)
6 fresh, tart apples; peeled, cored, and quartered (about 1¾ pound before peeling and coring; about 1 pound after peeling and coring)
Quick & Easy, Flaky, All Butter, Short-Crust Pastry, rolled out to a 9-10-inch circle (remember, the pan is larger at the top), and cut with a fluted quiche pan rim.
2 tablespoons cornstarch
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup cream, whipped and sweetened
- In a large saucepan, simmer the apple cider until reduced by half (to 4 cups) and then remove from heat, pour into a large bowl, and let cool to room temperature.
- After the reduced cider is cool, peel and slice the apples and add to the cider. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove the sliced apples from the apple cider, drain, put into a mixing bowl, and toss with cornstarch, lemon peel, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and salt.
- In your 8-inch bottom diameter (see introduction), melt the butter and mix in 1/3 cup sugar over low heat. Continue cooking slowly until the sugar melts.
- Arrange apples evenly around the pan, starting from the middle and working outward.
- The narrower ends should be pointed toward the center and the pieces should be placed curved-side down. (Don’t worry too much about how the apples look at this point; they will hold together for you.)
- Pour any juices remaining in the mixing bowl over the apples in the pan. There is usually about 2-4 tablespoons.
- Cook the apples over medium heat until the sugar just begins to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t overdo it at this point. The caramelization process will continue in the oven. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent the apples from sticking and burning.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over the apples and carefully set the prepared pastry dough on top. Puncture the dough in several places to allow steam to escape.
- Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.
- With heavy oven mitt, remove the skillet from the oven, and swirl and shake it over high heat for a minute to loosen the caramel. Don’t forget that the handle to the pan is now extremely hot, as is the caramel! Very carefully, invert the tart onto a serving platter.
Note The best way to do this is to place the serving platter on top of the pan and then holding both the platter and the pan tightly together, turn them over together in unison. Admittedly, this requires some wrist strength, and if you are in doubt as to whether you have the strength, do not try this. There is nothing more dangerous in the kitchen than hot caramel.
- Serve warm with whipped cream.
Serves 2-6. (Well, MauiJim and I ate the whole thing in one evening, so I’m just sayin’.)