Welcome to Pie Week here at Comfortably Domestic! My friends at Inside NanaBread’s Head, Tenaciously Yours, La Petite Pancake, Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, and Decadent Philistines Save the World and I have teamed up in the most delicious pie-making-reindeer-game to bring you Pie Week 2011!
One pie dough recipe…
One different pie made by…
One awesome blogger.
Hooray for Pie Week!
Yes, I am a little excited about pie, why do you ask? Lucky for me, I get to kick off Pie Week with a pie that started as a joke…first on me, then on my mother…before quickly becoming a family favorite. Before we get started, I should probably remind you that I have not always been a pie girl. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved pie, but for a good long time I had major pie crust issues. Not pretty doesn’t even begin to cover it. It was a dark time in my baking history.
a little years of obsessive persistent effort, I was able to overcome my pie crust issues. This pie came about during the dark time in which I threw out more pie dough that I made than was actually edible. It happens. This pie is, in fact, a tart. I found that even a dough that would’ve made a miserable pie, could be coaxed into a respectable tart. Who knew tarts could be so much more forgiving? Oh the pounds of pie dough that hit the trash can before having a chance to shine! That joke was on me.
The second joke was at the expense of my mother. (Love you, Mom!) I used to tease my mom because every time we ate apple pie, should would tell me about when she was a kid, they always ate apple pie with a wedge of cheddar cheese. They’d have one bite of apple pie, then one bite of cheddar. Always. I thought that they must have been nuts. I didn’t understand why anyone would serve the cheese with the pie, unless it was to assuage the guilt of eating dessert.
So my crust-challenged-self made an apple tart with freshly grated cheddar cheese in the streusel topping, as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of thing with my mom. Little did I know how wonderfully the sharp cheddar would compliment the sweetness of the apples. Turns out I was the one that was nuts for doubting the whole institution in the first place. That’s what happens when you make fun of your mama–you are usually wrong.
So please, don’t be like me. Give cheese a chance! I think you’ll be glad that you did.
Apple Tart with Cheddar Streusel
You’ll need: 1 disk of No Excuses Pie Dough, tart apples, all-purpose flour, freshly grated cheddar cheese, brown sugar, unsalted butter, an orange, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and granulated sugar.
First off, preheat the oven to 350º F, and then we need to prep the tart pan. I use a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Most tart pans come with two pieces: a bottom and a ring. Remove the bottom and trace it with a Sharpie or dark pencil line onto a sheet of parchment paper.
Now, since I’m not so adept at accurately cutting large circles, I like to fold the parchment in quarters, being careful to line up the traced lines. Then cut just inside the visible line. Set the parchment aside for a minute.
Put the bottom of the tart pan back into the ring, and grease it with a little shortening.
Unfold the parchment circle and lay it in the pan. Ideally, the circle will fit perfectly into the bottom of the pan. Smear a little shortening on top of the parchment paper. All of this greasing and parchment-ing will enable you to get the finished tart out of the pan, and onto a pretty serving plate. Because I think we can all agree that pretty serving plates are an essential component to delicious tarts.
Set the prepared tart pan aside so that you can tend to the apples. I like to use a mix of my favorite tart apples: Northern Spy, Cortland, and Ida Reds. Use what you like, but steer clear of Macintosh or other soft apples because the finished tart is rather thin, and those apples turn to sauce during baking. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples and toss them into a large bowl.
Squeeze a tablespoon or two of fresh orange juice over the sliced apples. The juice will keep the apples from browning, and the acid will cut through the sweetness of the pie. You can use a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice if you want, but fresh juice is the key.
Dump the sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg onto the apples. You’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot of sugar in this recipe. That’s so that the apples can shine in their own right, without being syrupy.
Give it a stir to coat the apples, then tell the filling mixture to sit tight for a few while you get the topping and the pastry ready. Go ahead–talk to your food!
Grab the disk of pie dough out of the refrigerator, and roll it out until it is a couple of inches wider than the tart pan. The dough should end up about 1/4 of an in inch thick. Carefully roll the dough around the rolling pin to transfer it into the tart pan. Once the dough is in the pan, gently lift the edges of dough around the pan to ensure that the dough has settled to the very bottom of the pan.
Once you are sure that the dough is snug against the bottom of the pan, roll the rolling pin over top of the tart pan to cut away the excess pastry.
Gently press the edges of pastry against the interior of the tart pan ring.
Then, dock the bottom of the tart by pricking it with a fork. These little holes will allow steam to escape during baking, thus keeping the pastry on the bottom of the tart from puffing up with air bubbles. Pop the tart pan back into the ‘fridge while you prepare the streusel topping. We want to keep the pastry cold so as to amp up the flakiness factor.
In a small bowl, combine a little more brown sugar and flour. Cut the butter into cubes, and toss it into the bowl.
Cut the butter into the sugar mixture with a pastry blender or by criss-crossing two knives, until the pieces are pieces are the size of pebbles–the rocks, not the Flintstone.
Toss the freshly shredded cheddar into the mix. Please use only Freshly. Shredded. Cheddar. Thank you.
Gently stir the cheese into the streusel mixture. I usually end up using my hands–it just seems easier that way. Put the streusel into the ‘fridge, and take out the pastry lined tart pan.
At this point, note all of the extra liquid in the bowl of apples. That extra liquid will translate into a soggy tart. Fuhgetaboudit! Spoon the apples into the tart pan, leaving as much of the juice behind as possible. Spread the apples into a thin layer on the bottom of the tart, being sure not to leave any of the bottom pastry exposed.
Sprinkle the streusel atop the apples, and spread to the edges of the pan.
Bake at 350º F for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of tart is a nice, medium golden brown. Allow the tart to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the outer ring of the pan. At this point, you can serve the tart warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and make your family really happy.
Or allow the tart to cool to room temperature and serve it with a dollop of whipped cream and your family will be really happy. Either way, you win!
By the way–when I bought my tart pan, it came in a two pack. So whenever I make tarts, I usually make two. One to eat, and one for the freezer–just in case of emergency.
This tart freezes beautifully! Leave the tart that you want to freeze in the pan until it cools. Once the tart has completely cooled, double wrap it in the pan with plastic wrap–top, bottom, and all around. Then wrap the entire tart pan in aluminum foil. Label the top with the name and date, and freeze it for a month or two. To serve, just let the tart thaw on a counter top. Once thawed, completely unwrap the tart, and cover just the top with foil. Reheat in a 350º F oven for 10 minutes to re-crisp the crust.
Apple Tart with Cheddar-Streusel Topping
For the Pastry:
½ recipe No Excuses Pie Dough (see below)
For the Filling:
5 C. peeled and sliced tart apples (a mix of Northern Spy, Cortland, & Ida Red is nice)
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt (optional)
1-2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
For the Topping:
½ C. packed brown sugar
½ C. all-purpose flour
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
¾ C. freshly shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom of 10-inch tart pan, line it with a circle of parchment paper, then lightly grease the parchment; set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the sliced apples, both sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, orange juice, and orange zest. Let filling mixture sit for 5 minutes to macerate.
- While filling is resting, roll out 1 disk of No Excuses Pie Dough, and line the prepared 10-inch tart pan. Trim any overhang of dough. Dock the pastry by pricking the bottom repeatedly. Place the pastry lined tart pan in the refrigerator while preparing the topping.
- For the topping, stir the brown sugar and flour together in a small bowl. Add the butter, and cut it into the mixture with a pastry blender until it is the size of peas or pebbles. Lightly stir the freshly grated cheddar into the mixture; set aside.
- Remove the tart pan from the ‘fridge. Spoon the filling into the pastry, and level it with the spoon. Sprinkle the topping over the filling, and spread to edges of the pastry.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until topping and crusts are a nice, medium golden brown.
- Remove the tart from oven, and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the tart from the pan. Serve warm or cool to room temperature. Adding a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream when serving is never a bad idea when it comes to an apple tart.
Note: This tart freezes beautifully! Allow to completely cool, then double wrap the entire tart, in the pan, with plastic wrap. Then wrap the entire tart in aluminum foil. Label & date, and freeze for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw overnight on the counter, then reheat covered in just foil, in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes to re-crisp the crust.
No Excuses Pie Dough
Enough for a generous 9-inch Double Crust Pie, a 10-inch double crust pie or two 10-inch tarts
1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
¾ C. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbs. iced water
- Cut butter into ½ inch cubes and freeze for at least one hour.
- Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times (1 second pulses) to mix.
- Add the frozen butter cubes to the food processor bowl, and toss with a fork to coat. Continue pulsing to work the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter is the size of small peas. (‘About 8-12 pulses, depending on the size of the motor on the food processor.)
- While the food processor is running on high, slowly add the iced water through the feed tube, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together, and a stiff dough forms. (This process usually takes 15-20 seconds total in my ‘80’s era food processor.)
- Dump dough onto a clean, floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly shape each half into a ball, and then pat the ball into a ½ inch tall disk. Wrap the disks snugly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out.
- Once dough has chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and use in your favorite pie recipe. OR keep the dough disks tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and then place them in a freezer bag. Dough can be frozen for up to a month. Just let dough thaw overnight on the refrigerator before rolling out.