Apple Tartlets with Salted Caramel

Apple Tartlets with Salted Caramel

Serving individual desserts is a nice way to make the people around your table feel special. Especially after a big, family-style dinner when everyone is sharing large platters of food, a little something sweet plated just for one is a nice touch at the end of a meal.

I love the simplicity of this apple tartlet – it looks bakery-special, but it’s easy to put together. I like to use a high quality prepared all-butter puff pastry that I can buy frozen at Whole Foods, but use whatever pastry dough is your favorite.

The only real project with this recipe is making the caramel, which can be made days – and up to 2 weeks – ahead. It just needs to be warmed to a pourable consistency just before serving.  (You could (shhhhh) use a prepared caramel sauce to make life even easier)

But do try to use flaked salt such as Maldon - it adds a delicate crunch that doesn’t really happen with regular or coarse salt.

Apple Tartlets with Salted Caramel

Ingredients

Caramel Sauce:

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon butter

For tart:

1 sheet all-butter frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted in the refrigerator (I like Dufour brand)

2 apples, peeled

1 tablespoon melted butter

4 teaspoons sugar

Flaked sea salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. To make the caramel sauce, put the sugar in a 2 -3 quart heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the sugar until it melts into syrup, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon (NOT a metal spoon, which will get very hot and burn your hand).
  2. Once the sugar is completely melted, let it cook undisturbed until it’s amber-colored. Lower the heat and very slowly dribble the cream into the pan. The mixture will bubble up intensely so be careful. When the bubbling subsides, bring the caramel to a simmer, whisking until any hardened lumps melt back into the sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and butter until smooth. If you end up with a few stubborn pieces of hardened sugar, you can strain the sauce into a heatproof glass measuring cup.
  3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to flatten slightly. Cut out 4 5-inch diameter circles with a pastry cutter or use the upside-down rim of a small bowl.
  5. Transfer the circles to an ungreased baking sheet. Cut the apples in half and remove the core. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices, keeping them together as you slice. Unfurl the slices onto each pastry circle, fanning them in a circular pattern to cover the dough. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon sugar.
  6. Bake 15 – 20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the edges of the tarts are puffed and golden.
  7. Reheat the caramel to pouring consistency if has cooled, and spoon some sauce over each tart. Sprinkle with a little flaked salt and serve warm.
  8. You’ll have more caramel sauce than you need for the tarts, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks to use in any way you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/10/apple-tartlets-with-salted-caramel/

Peaches Poached in Prosecco with Homemade Amaretti

Peaches Poached in Prosecco

I had an image of a classic, sparkling Bellini in my head while I was deciding what to do with some late summer fruit; and then I went from cocktail thoughts to the idea of sweet, chilled peaches in syrup, which made me want a crunchy little something to go with it, which led me to the oven to make some amaretti cookies. If you give a mouse a glass of Prosecco…

Poaching a peach softens its texture a bit, so it’s a good idea to use fruits that aren’t fully tree-ripened and ready to eat (if you’re lucky enough to get some of those), but not rock-hard, which is the way you’ll find most peaches when you bring them home from the cold-storage chill of the grocery store.  Getting the fruit a day in advance and leaving them out at room temperature overnight seems to do the trick.

These amaretti cookies are a lot like macaroons in texture – I prefer to very slightly underbake them to get a crunchy exterior and a chewy inside. The recipe makes more cookies than you’ll probably need for dipping into the peachy syrup, but they keep for weeks in an airtight container. They would be delicious crumbled over chocolate gelato or ice cream and a little whipped cream.

Homemade Amaretti Cookies

Peaches Poached in Prosecco with Homemade Amaretti

Serving Size: about 4 servings

Ingredients

4 peaches (freestone)

1 bottle Prosecco or dry sparkling wine

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon peach flavored liqueur

Pinch sea salt

Lemon verbena leaves, optional

For the amaretti cookies:

1 2/3 cups blanched slivered almonds, lightly toasted and cooled

2 cups powdered sugar

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon Amaretto (or add another teaspoon almond extract)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Score an X on the bottom of each peach with a small sharp knife. Drop the peaches into a 3 -or 4 -quart saucepan of boiling water and simmer 5 minutes. Drain them and let cool for a few minutes before slipping off the skins. Slice the peaches into halves and remove the pits.
  2. Pour 3 cups Prosecco into the same saucepan. If the Prosecco is nice and cold, pour the remaining ½ cup into a glass and take a sip. If for some reason you’re not indulging in the bubbly, just pour the whole bottle into the pan (sadly).
  3. Stir the sugar, lemon juice, liqueur, salt and lemon verbena leaves if using into the Prosecco.
  4. Bring to a simmer and gently drop the peaches into the pan. Simmer the peaches until just tender when you poke them with a toothpick but not mushy, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to chill at least 4 hours. Discard the lemon verbena leaves.
  5. To make the cookies: Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Grind the almonds with the powdered sugar in a food processor until finely ground, being careful not to grind too much or you’ll make almond paste.
  7. Whip the egg whites in a standing mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add the extract and amaretto; with the mixer running gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until the egg whites are very stiff and fluffy.
  8. Pour the almond mixture over the egg whites and gently fold with a spatula until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Scoop the batter into tablespoon-sized mounds 1-inch apart on the baking sheets (I like to use this stainless steel cookie scoop).
  9. Bake 12 – 15 minutes for a lightly golden cookie with a soft and chewy interior. Rotate the pans from front to back  and top to bottom halfway through baking so they bake evenly. Cool the cookies completely.
  10. Serve the peaches in small bowls with the cookies along side or crumbled over.

Notes

Amaretti recipe adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich.

http://familystylefood.com/2012/09/peaches-poached-in-prosecco-with-homemade-amaretti/

Blueberry Buttermilk Shortcakes

I’m pretty sure that after graduating as a young cook from the recipe on the side of the yellow bag for chocolate chip cookies, my next adventure in baking was making shortcakes.

This is a recipe that I’ve never bothered to tweak, change or otherwise tamper with, and it’s straight out of the Joy of Cooking. It’s a great way to introduce kids to baking because the dough is fun to play with; you get to pat it out and cut it into chunky circles. And because they bake in about 10 minutes and should be served warm from the oven –with sweet berries and freshly whipped cream! – we’re talking immediate gratification at its finest.