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For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen challenged us to make Tarte Tatin from scratch. This classic French dessert is basically the apple pie version of an upside-down cake: apples are caramelized in sugar in a saucepan, covered with pastry and baked, and then inverted on a plate to serve. It’s a great example of the magic of caramelized sugar: the apples take on a deep, rich mahogany colour and become infused with the complex flavours of a well-cooked caramel, and the crisp puff pastry base also becomes practically candied with caramel at the edges, resulting in a fantastic mix of soft, crunchy, and chewy textures.

The tart is named after the Tatin sisters, who ran a hotel near Paris in the 1880s. Apparently, one day one of the sisters forgot to put a bottom crust on her apple pie, but instead of the disaster she was expecting to pull out of the oven, she ended up with a dessert so loved by the hotel guests that it became the hotel’s signature dish. However, this sweet story conflicts with the fact that a similar upside-down apple tart called tarte Solognotte (named after the Sologne region in France) existed long before the tarte Tatin, suggesting that the Tatin sisters’ creation was actually just an updated and improved version of the tarte Solognotte. Either way, it is a stunningly delicious yet simple and rustic dessert.

While apples are the classic and most common filling for tarte Tatin, it can be made with almost any fruit or vegetable, sweet or savoury! Generally, tarte Tatin is baked in a large, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof saucepan but the filling can first be cooked on the stove in whatever saucepan you have and then transferred to a cake tin, covered with pastry, and baked. The best apples for tarte Tatin can be either tart or sweet, but they should be firm apples that hold their shape during cooking – otherwise you’ll end up with a pan full of applesauce. Good varieties available in North America include Granny Smith, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold.

For my trial version, I used a mixture of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith South African apples and served the finished tarte with vanilla bean ice cream. Like many I thought that the caramel was way too much for the amount of apples in the recipe and was quite afraid to have the apples turn to mush or the pastry base being too soggy. I did not have a heavy saucepan to bake the tarte in so I went ahead with an 8-inch cake tin, double lined with foil to make cleaning up easy, and to my amazement, it turned out beautifully with not a single apple piece sticking to the pan.

TARTE TATIN

Ingredients:

For the Rough Puff Pastry

1 cup (250 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour

2/3 cup (160 ml) (5 oz) (140 gm) unsalted butter, cold

¼ teaspoon fine kitchen salt

¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water

For the Tarte Tatin Filling

6 large or 7-8 medium-sized apples

Juice of half a lemon

6 tablespoons (90 ml) (3 oz) (85 gm) unsalted butter

1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (9½ oz) (265 gm) sugar, divided

Method:

  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour.
  • With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter.
  • Make a well in the middle and pour in the ice cold water. Toss the flour and butter and water together.

 

  • Combine with a fork until the dough starts to clump together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
  • Do not worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times.
  • Bring it together into a square [a bench scraper is helpful for this]. Be careful not to overwork dough.

 

  • There should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough. Lightly flour the work surface.
  • Lightly flour the rolling pin as well and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 10 inch (25 cm) long.
  • Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle and fold the top third down, as in folding a letter.

 

  • This is one fold. Turn the dough a one quarter turn so that one of the open edges faces you and roll out.
  • Roll into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again [second fold]. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times.
  • You should make a total of 5 folds and your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold.

  • If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  • After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic.
  • Chill dough for a least 1 hour, or overnight. For the filling, peel the apples and cut them into quarters.

 

  • Remove the cores in such a way that each apple quarter has a flat inner side, it should sit on a flat base.
  • Place apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-1/2 oz) (65 gm) sugar.
  • This will help draw out some of the moisture from the apples and prevent an overly runny caramel.

  • Set apple mixture aside for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5.
  • Melt the butter in a very heavy, 9” or 10” (23 cm or 24 cm) oven-proof saucepan over medium heat.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) sugar. Stir with a whisk until sugar melts.

  • It should become a pale and smooth caramel. The sugar will seem dry at first, then it will start to melt.
  • If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce.
  • Remove from heat. Discard the liquid that has come out and then add the apple quarters to the caramel.

  • They won’t all fit in a single layer at first, but as they cook they will shrink a bit. Cook over medium heat.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes, pressing down gently on apples with a spoon to cover them in the caramel liquid.
  • Move the apples around the pan gently so that they all cook evenly, trying to keep them round side down.

  • The apples should have shrunk to fit in a single layer and are starting to soften but still keep their shape.
  • Arrange the apples, round side down in a single layer of concentric circles covering the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove pastry from fridge, roll it out and trim it into a circle about 1″diameter larger than the saucepan.

  • Lay it over filling, tucking in the edges between the sides of the pan. Cut a few steam vents in the pastry.
  • Place the saucepan on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides).
  • Place in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/190°C/gas mark 5 oven. Bake tart for 30 to 35 minutes.

  • Increase oven temperature to moderately hot 400˚F/200°C/gas mark 6 during the last 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let sit just until caramel stops bubbling. Place a serving platter over the pastry.
  • Grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the tart onto the platter.

  • If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them onto the tart with a spatula.
  • The tarte tatin can be served warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
  • It does not keep or store particularly well and it is best served on the same day it is made. Serves 8-10.

Daring Bakers February Challenge

Start your day with these healthy breakfast muffins from Delicious magazine!

APPLE, PECAN AND RAISIN MUFFINS

Ingredients:

75g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

300ml skimmed milk

125g natural oat bran

2 eggs, room temperature

75g light muscovado sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

60g whole meal flour

125g self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped

2 tablespoon raisins soaked in 2 tablespoon orange juice

25g pecan nuts, toasted and chopped

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 190°C/ Fan 170°C/ Gas5. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray with a little butter.
  • Put the milk and oat bran in a bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla.

  • In a larger bowl, sift together the flours, salt and baking powder and then stir in the apple.
  • Mix bran into egg mixture, then briefly stir this into the dry ingredients. Divide it into two.

  • Briefly stir the raisins into one half of the muffin batter, and the pecans into the other half.
  • Put a heaped dessertspoonful of each mixture into muffin holes so you get 6 of each flavor.

  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until risen and golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  • Then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve the muffins warm or at room temperature. Makes 12.

Healthy Breakfast Muffins

Recovering from a bad bout of viral gastro, I had to stay away from baking and blogging for a while. So I’m posting about the pretty braided bread I tried a week back: the Danish. Coming from the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs, Danish dough is less complex than puff pastry and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general. The June 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? and their challenge was to get all Daring Bakers to make and work with yeasted laminated dough.

According to many sources, Danish dough was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread. Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there. In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce ‘foreign’ breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

Luckily, I did not have to go that far to bring this deliciously flaky bread to my kitchen. The fact that the dough can be made well ahead and remain forgotten at the back of the freezer compartment until required makes it handy for a last-minute special breakfast. For the filling, I went along with the Daring Bakers challenge that ended in a glorious blend of Granny Smith apples, caramelised sugar, browned butter and cinnamon. You can, of course, switch to any fruit of your choice but it would be best not to mess with this detectable apple filling which was way above my expectations.

DANISH BRAID

Ingredients:

For the Dough/Detrempe

1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup sugar

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

2 large eggs, chilled

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

For the Butter Block/Beurrage

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the Apple Filling

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled and cored

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Method:

  • For the dough, combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
  • Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.

  • Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed as the flour is incorporated.
  • Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.

  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • For the butter block, combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

  • Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more.
  • Set aside at room temperature. 2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

  • Roll the dough into a rectangle approx. 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, keep dusting with flour.
  • Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right.

  • It should cover half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn is complete.
  • Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.

  • Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left.

  • Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.
  • Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.

  • No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.

  • Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.
  • The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.

  • To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.
  • Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

  • For the filling, toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • It will turn slightly nutty in color, after about 6 to 8 minutes. Cut apples into ¼-inch pieces and add to the butter mixture.

  • Sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet.
  • Cool completely before forming the braid. The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

  • To assemble the braid, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough.
  • It should be shaped into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

  • If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.
  • Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife, each about 1 inch apart.

  • Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
  • Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle.

  • Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.
  • Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling.

  • Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.
  • Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends. Lightly brush the braid with egg wash [1 whole egg + 1 yolk].

  • Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature for about 2 hours.
  • It will be doubled in volume and light to the touch. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan, lower temperature to 350 oF.
  • Bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve warm from the oven or at room temperature.

Happy Bread Baking

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