Vanilla Bean Caramel Apple Tart

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Although March is not apple season, we’re a week away from Spring and my heart is already thinking about Autumn! I picked up pink lady apples and decided to try out this tart. What could be more simple and delicious than store-bought puff pastry? Almost nothing. When you’re in a pinch, it’s texture can’t be beat. It’s a beautiful canvas for just about anything. The apples are slightly cooked in a little caramel sauce and baked till super soft, contrasting beautifully with every bite of crispy pastry. You can try this with any tart apple like honeycrisp, granny smith or braeburn. Quick, easy and with so much reward. This is my new breakfast on rotation.

  • 5 tart apples (such as pink lady) peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sheet fresh puff pastry (14 oz package)
  • all-purpose flour, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut apples as close to core as possible into three lobes. In a small, heavy pot, add sugar, water, and scrape in vanilla seeds; discard pod. Cook over medium heat until sugar comes to a boil is dissolved, as it starts to caramelize, 6–8 minutes. Keep at a boil (under 375 degrees with a candy thermometer). Don’t stir! When it becomes a nice amber color, remove from heat immediately and shock pot in an ice bath. Stir in butter, vinegar, and salt.
  2. Add apples into a skillet and cook until they start giving up some of their juices and shrink slightly, 5–8 minutes. Remove apples from skillet and combine with  caramel, pouring into prepared 9″ baking dish. Carefully turn apples so the cut side is facing up and scoot them together so they overlap slightly. (The apples will shrink more as they bake, so they need to be tightly packed.)
  3. Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases; cut into a round that will fit snugly inside your pan. Drape puff pastry over apples.
  4. Bake until pastry is puffed and starting to brown in spots, 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown and cooked all the way through, 20 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Don’t wait too long to invert or else the apples with stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.

Mulled Hot Apple Riesling

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

For years, my family has taken an annual trip to a farm on the East end of Long Island. I close my eyes: the October air is crisp on my face. Corn mazes, hay rides, and apple trees await plucking from all sides. Children laugh with their siblings as they run though the pumpkin patch. Mom and Dad pull their youngest in a wagon and search for a pumpkin without flaw for their doorstep. The warm, inviting scent of roasted corn in butter, turkey legs and apple cider fill the air. This is my happy place.

After an hour or so of brisk fall fun, all I can think about is sinking my teeth into a roasted ear of corn and sipping on a cup of hot cider. There’s no better feeling than warming the chill in your bones with a hot, soothing drink. I adapted this version of a mulled cider with the addition of my favorite white wine and a little brandy. I imagine this to be just the ticket for pre-dinner on Thanksgiving Day. It’s smooth and warm all the way down. The Riesling and apple cider is mulled with rich cardamom and allspice. A “mulled” drink is one that has been heated with a combination of spices (typically cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg in addition to a fruit like apple or orange peel). Heated low and slow over your burner for an hour or two, all those beautiful spices infuse themselves into the drink. Of course, you can still mull the apple cider as follows without the alcohol for a kid-friendly version. Served hot or cold, this cocktail is a guaranteed Autumn winner! Garnish with a single thin apple slice and cinnamon stick (you’ll impress all your friends). Happy drink making!

Serves: 6 — Hands on time: 10-15 minutes — Cook time: 1 – 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of Riesling (crisp, dry, sweet: perfect! I like Clean Slate Riesling from Germany at under $10)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 Tablespoon good maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, sliced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 10 whole allspice
  • 8 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cup apple brandy (I used Calvados)
  • Apple slices and cinnamon sticks for garnish
  1. In a large pot, combine Riesling, apple cider, maple and honey. Add ginger slices, allspice and cardamom to the pot. Cover and cook on low-heat for 3 hours or medium heat for 1 hour (I think low and slow works best, if you have the time. If using medium-high heat, make sure you do not boil).
  2. Stir in brandy. Pour into 6 cocktail glasses (each should hold about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Serve hot for my preference! If not serving hot, refrigerate and try serving on the rocks. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Country Style Apple Galette

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I have always loved how pretty a galette looks. To me, it’s like half a pie. Or maybe its an open-face pie. However you see it, its a fun alternative to a traditional apple pie. And don’t feel limited to just apples, either. Think about trying this with peaches when in season, figs, a mix of berries or even vegetables for a savory version. Any way you slice it, this pastry is versatile enough to be either a starter or a dessert. My favorite part about this style is that it is great looking in freeform. No need for perfection here. I want to see those organic shapes! Rectangular, circular or something in between. There’s nothing interesting about perfection, right? I mentioned last week when I made apple butter (recipe below) that I was given an obscene amount of apples and thought: how in the world am I going to use all of these? Well, this galette took the last of them. There are about 5 small/medium sized apples layered in here. Apple season is at is peak in New York right now. Take a weekend trip to your local farm and bag up some apples! Don’t forget about the pumpkins… they’re on my farm stand shopping list next week. Get ready, October is just around the corner!


Yield: 8 servings — Total Time: 1 hr 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup ice water (must be very cold!)
  • 4-5 Golden delicious or other sweet apple (Gala, Macintosh)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. In a food processor, combine the flour with the sugar, salt and butter and process for about 5 seconds. I like to add the butter in a little at a time and process after each time. You just want to coat the butter in the flour, not mix it in. Sprinkle the ice water a little at a time over the flour mixture and process until the pastry just begins to come together, about 10 seconds; you should still be able to see small pieces of butter in it. Transfer the pastry to a work surface, gather it together and pat into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate until chilled. (You can also roll out the pastry and use it right away.)
  2. Peel, halve and core the apples and slice them crosswise 1/4 inch thick. Set aside the larger center slices and coarsely chop the end slices and any broken ones; about half of the slices should be chopped. Mix in the cinnamon and sugar.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 12-by-14-inch rectangle or circle and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the chopped apples over the pastry to within 1 inch of the edge. Drizzle the honey over the chopped apples. Decoratively arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles or in slightly overlapping rows. Dot the top of the apples with the pieces of butter. Fold the pastry edge up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border. Spray the crust with coconut oil or brush with egg wash so it gets nice and golden brown.
  4. Bake the galette for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp and all of the apples are tender. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the galette cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com, Recipes from Essential Pépin by Jacques Pépin.

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco