I have a cookbook that was given to me last year on my birthday that I haven’t really gotten into until recently. I’m not sure why, because the recipes all look delicious if you enjoy Spanish cuisine. Perhaps I went to it when I was searching for new tapas to make for a get together. I suppose I rarely looked past the tapas section — Chapter One. Now, how sad is that? But now that I’ve had more time to look through the book, I’ve tagged quite a few delectable main dishes to enjoy in the future. And this past weekend, I had the opportunity to decide whether I’d make the “Basque Apple Custard Tart” or the “Exremadura-Style Cheese Tart.”
Since it was recently my birthday, I had hoped to have the opportunity to make myself a cheesecake like my mother always did, and since we’d invited ourselves to a friend’s house for dinner, I decided I could get my cheesecake cravings satisfied, and treat my friends to the calories all at the same time. Smart thinking, yes?
The “Cheese Tart” seemed perfect until I got online and searched for the Torta de La Serena or Torta del Casar cheese in my area. I did find one, yes ONE cheese shop called Venissimo that stocked both cheeses, but none was available. I’m sure it’s because many cheeses are only available at certain times in the year, and I’m not familiar with when. Just for fun, and since the opportunity presented itself, I sent an email to the kind folks at Venissimo not expecting a response any time soon — at least that day. Well, was I surprised when not minutes later, my email in-box chimed and I’d received a response — texted from a Blackberry no less! Now, that’s what I call service! Unfortunately, I now have to wait for them to contact me about when either of the cheeses arrives. I now have something to look forward to and thanks to Venissimo, I will hopefully be able to sample the cheese tart when the product arrives.
In the meantime, I decided to settle for “Basque Apple Custard Tart” on the very hottest day we’ve had in the five years we’ve lived in this house. I was so miserable, that we turned on the AC as soon as the oven cooled down and we’d left for the dinner party with tart in tow, anticipating a very cool house upon our return. It’s been on since then and I cringe to know what the electricity bill will be.
This “Tarta Vasca de Manzana de Baserri Maitea” or “Baserri Maitea’s Basque Apple Custard Tart” is from Penelope Casas’ La Cocina de Mama. If you enjoy tapas, you may be familiar with another of her cookbooks, Tapas.
The recipe calls for a 9″ tart pan, but I couldn’t resist breaking out my thin rectangular pan. I rarely use it as I have too many people to serve. Since I was committed to using it this time, I decided people would just have to eat smaller pieces. Surprisingly, it fed six quite well.
Basque Apple Custard Tart
For the apple filling…
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and cut into 1/8″ slices
1-1/2 c. apple juice
3 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
For the pastry…
1 c. unbleached flour
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 T chilled unsalted butter
1 T egg yolk
2 T heavy cream
For the pastry creme…
1 c. milk
1/2 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 large egg yolks
1/4 c. sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 tsp. unsalted butter
2 T apricot preserves
Arrange the apples in a flat-bottomed bowl. In a saucepan, combine the apple juice, sugar, cloves, and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Simmer, reducing to half. Pour the syrup over the apples and let sit at room temperature for several hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the pastry crust, combine in a bowl the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Work in the butter wit your fingers, then stir in the egg yolk and cream with a fork. Turn out on a work surface and work lightly to form a ball. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll out between sheets of wax paper into an 11-inch circle (chill briefly if the dough becomes too soft). Fit into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming any excess by pressing and cutting off at the rim. Prick all over with a fork and bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn off the oven.
To make the pastry cream, bring the milk with the cinnamon stick and lemon zest to a boil in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool briefly, then discard the cinnamon and lemon.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then whisk in the cornstarch and gradually stir in the warm milk. Return to the saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Cool, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Pour the custard into the prepared crust. Remove the apples from the syrup and arrange in tightly overlapping rows on top. Bake for 10 minutes.
Heat the apricot preserves until they have liquefied and brush over the tart. Cool, remove the sides of the tart pan, and serve, preferably warm.
This is a beautiful and very delicate tasting tart that I’m sure you will love. I’d like to try it now with tart apples, just for comparison. Or pears…The custard is delicious.
- I used a mandoline to slice the apples to 1/8″ thickness. I was tempted not to, but am glad I did. The golden delicious apples were much softer than what I normally use to bake with, and that make them a bit challenging to work with, but it was worth it as the flavor was very delicate and something you will enjoy.
- I used a narrow rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom which measured about 13-1/4″ x 4″
- I did NOT alter the amount of the ingredients in any of the recipe and only had left over apples.
- I chilled the pastry dough which was VERY delicate, and pressed it into the pan instead of rolling it. I chilled it again for 15 minutes after pressing it.
- I did not weight the pie dough when I blind baked it, but should have since it did slip a bit on one end. Pricking it with the fork around the edges does help, so it could have been worse, and I should have weighted it anyway just because I know better.
- I used a convection setting in my small oven, placing the tart on a baking sheet with a silicone mat.
- We served the tart with vanilla ice cream, caramel, and pecans, although it tastes quite wonderfully all by itself.