My mom and I leave for Paris on Saturday and I have been a bit of a crazy person the past few days. I’m pretty set when it comes to packing my suitcase, but it’s the backpack/purse I’m going to be carrying with me daily that has been causing all of the angst and I started to second-guess my plan. In a nutshell, I ended up buying two anti-theft bags and one was too small and one was the right size, but very uncomfortable. I’m returning both of them and sticking with my original plan!
Does anyone else turn into a maniac and change your mind a million times before packing for a big trip?! I can’t wait until I’m all packed and out the door. I feel like then I can settle in and just be excited.
Anyway, I decided I would try a French recipe before we leave, so I made an apple tart from The Cook’s Atelier cookbook for a labor day weekend gathering with friends…
First of all, this whole endeavor was poorly planned on my part. I didn’t have a tart pan, so I was running around town trying to find one just hours before the get-together. I did find one and was able to get the tart put together pretty quickly. I was racing around the kitchen like I was a contestant on a timed cooking competition, though! Jeff told the boys to stay out of my way and then everyone needed a snack.
I was a little less-than-confident in my pastry making skills, so I took the easy way out and used a box of refrigerator pie dough. I actually used two 9″ crusts and rolled them together to make the tart shell. It was a “cheat”, but it turned out great and then I wasn’t worried about my crust being crumbly or chewy or overworked.
I had a few minutes to take some pictures just before I wrapped it up to take to our dinner. It was a crowd-pleaser and went so fast that Jeff didn’t even get to have a piece!
My mom saw the picture of the tart on Instagram and thought I made it for them and she was sad to read it wasn’t. Marshall got to have a piece, but he was begging me to make more. So, with people I love wanting apple tart, I made another one. And this time, I didn’t wimp out on the crust…
I followed their recipe and made a crust I was very proud of! As I was cutting into the finished tart, I scratched the bottom of the crust with a knife, checking the integrity of the bake and I felt a little like I was having a Paul Hollywood moment. (He’s a judge on the Great British Baking Show and he’s always poking and prodding baked goods.) You could eat a piece like a slice of pizza without any sagging or crumbling and, beyond that, it tasted great.
I did have to add a little more cream than the recipe called for to bring it together. That may have been due to the size of my egg yolks or something else. I’m not an expert, but I do know there are lots of variables in baking, which is why so many pastry recipes will give a range for the amount of moisture you should add.
I also put the dough in the fridge overnight, as the recipe encouraged, and I think that helped it come together. It was a little iffy even as I was rolling it out, but it worked! I like the rustic look of the handmade crust and it did taste better than the boxed crust, of course.
The recipe called for two ingredients that I didn’t have and couldn’t pull together in time. (Which was a cue to me that I should read through the cookbook and give myself time to prepare for the recipes I want to make.) Anyway, one was vanilla bean seeds, scraped from a vodka-soaked bean. I didn’t have fresh vanilla beans that have been hanging out in vodka for a few months. I was just going to use extract, but I happened upon a bottle of bourbon vanilla bean paste when I was hunting for a tart tin, so I bought it and it worked great. The flavor was rich and definitely better than plain vanilla extract.
The other ingredient I had to substitute was the vanilla sugar. It’s sugar that has been infused with dried vanilla beans. It’s another ingredient that needs to be hanging out for a while before use, so I just used cinnamon sugar. It’s different, but again, it was fine.
I added a couple of things to the mashed apples – a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I always add those two things to my apple pie filling, so it felt right to throw them into the pan. Otherwise, I followed the recipe faithfully and it was so delicious. I already have requests to make it once more when I get back from our trip.
I can’t wait to try more recipes from this book! I wouldn’t say it helped me conquer pastry dough, but it’s made me more confident to try it again.
And it’s definitely made me excited to eat some French food. Our time in Paris is now being planned by Paris Perfect (I’ll share all about that exciting development soon) and a part of that is a patisserie tour! You had better believe I’m going to be sampling a bunch of tasty treats that day…