What could be more soothing and comforting than a warm apple tart lovingly baked by your own sweet maman? It is the French equivalent to still warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies served with a cold glass of milk. My maman had a natural talent for making delicious tarts and would bake them often. Everytime I eat one now it brings me back to my childhood. It’s like a warm embrace from my maman on a cold, dreary Portland afternoon.
My wife will testify I really do not make enough desserts at home. This weekend I was developing food and wine pairings for an upcoming speech I am presenting 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. When you are structuring a meal, you need to understand most people often only remember the last thing they eat. It has to sum up everything you did prior and pleasantly linger long on the palate. The rest of the meal could be mediocre. The last bite is a statement. Giving a memorable speech is no different, you really need to finish big.
Luckily I was given a bottle of Husch Vineyards 2013 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer to pair the final bite with. 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. The late harvest Gewurztraminer is a powerhouse of a wine exploding with exotic fruit flavors. Gewurztraminer, other than being a word hard for many of us Americans to pronounce, 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 a 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 and 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 alone, on it’s own merit. 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 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.
- 12 ounces flour
- pinch sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 8 ounces butter, unsalted, cut in small pieces
- ½ cup cold water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut in ⅛ths
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- Put flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade and pulse several times to mix.
- Add diced butter, and pulse till flour resembles cornmeal.
- With the motor running, add just enough cold water to bring the dough into a ball.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour to relax the gluten.
- Melt butter in a large saute pan. Add apples and saute over high heat till apples just start turning golden brown.
- Add sugar, cloves and cinnamon and toss well.
- Continue to cook till apples are fully golden brown and well coated with everything.
- Mix heavy cream, egg yolk, honey and vanilla together and put aside.
- Preheat over to 400 degrees.
- Roll dough out on a floured surface to ⅛th inch thick.
- Use your rolling pin to roll up dough and unroll over tart pan.
- Press dough into corners and pinch tight on the edges. Do not worry if the edges look ragged. It is important to pinch tight because this will keep dough from shrinking.
- Refrigerate dough for one hour.
- Put tart shell in your oven and cook till dough is very lightly brown, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and arrange apples in any design that pleases you.
- Pour cream mixture over and bake for 15 minutes, or until cream is set.
- 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. Your choice.