Last night I posted a picture of an Apple Creme Brulee tart, or what essentially could be called the love child of a creme brulee and an apple tart. The response was so overwhelming that I thought about publishing the recipe in a new book: How To Get Fat(ter) During a Quarantine: 75 Delicious Recipes to Stress Eat To. Perhaps a little dark gallows humor that I hope offends no one. Humor and eating are my coping mechanisms for all the stress of losing a job and the world crumbling around me.
My wife will testify (or complain) that I really do not make enough desserts at home. Since desserts are proven to relieve stress I thought what could be more soothing than a warm apple tart just like my mother used to make? This tart is the French equivalent to still warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies served with the obligatory ice-cold glass of whole milk. I originally developed the recipe for a speech I presented at the 11th annual International Alsace Varietals Festival held in Boonville, California. I had all my pairings down except for the final, most important bite. The rest of the meal could be mediocre, but the last bite is a statement.
Luckily I was handed a bottle of Husch Vineyards 2013 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer to pair the final bite with. I knew the battle was pretty much won. Even if the food was only meh, this wine is so amazing it would compensate for any misstep or lack of skill on my part. The late harvest Gewurztraminer is a powerhouse of a wine exploding with exotic fruit flavors. Gewurztraminer, other than being a hard to pronounce word for many Americans, is one of four noble grapes from Alsace.
I spoke with the winemaker at Husch Vineyards and found out how they handled this vintage. “In 2013 we rolled the dice and left a large portion of our Gewurztraminer un-leafed, with hopes of encouraging ‘noble-rot’, formerly known as botrytis. As the growing season progressed, the cool, foggy mornings and warm days lead to the onset of botrytis in some areas of the vineyard. To cap it off and push the sugars even higher, we used an age-old technique the French call passerillage. This entails cutting the canes, which in turn stops the transport of water to the grapes.” What they ended up with was an 11.5% alcohol dessert wine with a delicious sweetness balanced with brilliant acidity. The winemaker recommended either a strong cheese like a Roquefort or a Munster or even a creme brulee or apple crisp.
This got my mind thinking, what would happen if I married an apple crisp to a creme brulee? I invited friends and consummate foodies Kate, Holly, and Paul over to help judge the final results. Lisa poured the honey-colored wine into everyone’s glass and we tasted it. Subtle flavors of melon, kumquat, passion fruit, orange marmalade, and cloves danced on my tongue. We tasted the wine again, this time with the apple creme brulee tart. The combination was sublime. The clove flavors present in both the wine and tart bridged together and flushed out an explosion of lush, fresh apricots still warm from the sun. The flavors seductively melded, spooning together in youthful bliss leaving me craving more. Eyes closed, I held onto the last sensations as they faded gently away into a sweet memory.
While we may not be able to get a hold of a late harvest Gewurt to pair with it, we can still take solace and comfort by making this delicious Apple tart today!
My new cookbook ‘French Cooking for Beginners’ is out March 31st on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through my webpage
Apple Creme Brulee Tart
- 12 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 8 ounces unsalted butter cut in small pieces
- 1/2 cup cold water maybe less, maybe a tad more
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 6 each Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, then cut into 1/8ths
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 each orange just use the grated zest
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 each large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
To Make the Dough
To make the dough, in a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and baking powder together. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. With the motor running, add just enough ice-cold water so that the dough forms into a loose ball. Gather the dough into a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 full hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
On a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Use your rolling pin to roll up the dough and unroll over the tart pan. Press dough into the corners and pinch tightly on the edges. Do not worry if the edges look ragged. It is important to pinch tight because this will keep the dough from shrinking. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
To Caramelize the Apples
In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy. Add the granulated sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to caramelize and turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, orange zest, cloves, and cinnamon until the apples are well coated. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples start to brown, about 10 minutes.
Assemble the tart
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bake the tart shell until the dough is very lightly brown, about 15 minutes.
Whisk the cream, egg yolk, honey, and vanilla together then put aside.
Remove the tart shell from the oven and arrange the apple wedges in a circle. Pour cream mixture over and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cream is set.
Optional: You could take the creme brulee aspect one step further and dust with superfine sugar and take a blow torch to the top to caramelize the sugar.