Yesterday I came up with my own challenge. I baked an apple tart. But not just any apple tart. It was a French apple tart with vanilla custard beneath the apples and a shortbread style crust. All made from scratch. It wasn't overly sweet. It was a nice, light dessert that I suspect would be excellent with a dessert wine.
I was in a hurry to take it to a friend's party but it was so pretty I snapped a few pictures with my iPhone before heading out the door.
This recipe is from the "Bistro" cookbook which is from one of my favorite series of cookbooks: Casual Cuisines of the World.
The only thing I want to change in the future is adding an apricot glaze to the top to make the apples shiny. Next time.
The tart was a little time consuming but quite easy to make. I say easy IF you have the proper tools for the job. With the right ingredients, tools, and attention to detail, baking is not as complicated as most people seem to think it is.
If you try to make a tart like this and want those very thin and even apples slices I can tell you that using a mandolin is the best way to uniformly slice the apples to a 1/8" thickness. I purchased mine around 20 years ago so it has a catch tray beneath it that doesn't seem to be available with current models.
The front platform between the blade and handle is adjustable so you're able to vary the thickness of what you're cutting.
The smaller rectangular piece is a hand guard so that when you get past the thickest part of the fruit or vegetable you're slicing you can lay the guard over the remaining portion and the pointy teeth on the underside will hold the fruit or veggie in place so that you don't risk slicing off the tip of your finger. NEVER try to hold the last bit of fruit or veggie in your hand to get those last slices in. You will cut yourself. For sure. Everyone I know who owns a mandolin has done it.
Tin plated steel tart pan with a removable bottom
And to bake a perfect tart shell with the beautifully scalloped edge you'll need a two part tart pan. The difference between it and a one piece pan is that the bottom separates from the sidewall. So after the tart has baked you can hold the pan from the bottom and the ring will fall down your arm allowing you to set the tart on a rack to cool with the tart shell exposed. Any kitchen specialty store should have them. If no one does where you live, you can also purchase them online.
You can see in the photo of the tart I baked how the crust shrank down and away from the pan itself making it even easier to separate the two.
So go forth and bake! I'm thinking of renewing myself in 2013 and taking on the monthly challenges with the Daring Bakers once again. It was both fun and delicious. A win-win.