Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Modern bakers



Despite the fact that I just got two new cookbooks for Christmas, when a 40% off Borders coupon appeared in my inbox, I just couldn't resist.  So after work on Monday, I made a quick stop at the bookstore.  I didn't have much time, so I picked up a book that I've borrowed from the library, the King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking.  Right, another huge book that I don't have room for. =)  But it's in keeping with my recent attempts to make our diet healthier.

As I was quickly browsing, a book cover caught my eye.  It was Nick Malgieri's new book, The Modern Baker.  I'll have to take a closer look at it the next time I'm at the bookstore.  But it got me thinking about how lucky today's home bakers are.  We have access to a lot of tools that just weren't easily available to home bakers not that long ago.  For instance, I love my scale and parchment paper, just to name a couple things.  And we have access to some fantastic ingredients, either online, in specialty stores, or often in our neighborhood grocery stores.  

But I think the greatest thing we have available to us is the knowledge and experience of others.  The Tuesdays with Dorie group of bakers is a great example.  We have the collective experience of several hundred bakers to draw on.  We can ask each other questions, through the weekly P&Q posts, by email, on Facebook...  Each week we can read about each others experiences, mistakes, new ideas, best practices...  And it just amazes me that we can so easily connect with Dorie Greenspan herself, the author of the cookbook we're baking from.


Which leads me to this week's TWD recipe.  The way our group works is that each week, a different person selects a recipe for everyone else to make.  Well, for the start of the new year, Laurie asked Dorie to choose a recipe for us and bake along with us.  What a great idea!  She chose the French Pear Tart.

The biggest change I made to the recipe was to use apples instead of pears, since I don't like pears.  I thought of Nancy over at The Dogs Eat the Crumbs as I picked up some macoun apples at Central Market on Friday night.  I made the Sweet Tart Dough for the base, adding a little freshly grated nutmeg, since I like nutmeg with apples.  The almond cream filling came together quickly in my food processor.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy almond meal in the bulk section at Central Market.  Then I peeled and sliced the apples to place on top of the filling.  


I baked the tart for about 45 minutes, until the almond cream was getting browned on top.  But after taking it out of the oven, I realized that the middle didn't look done enough.  So I ended up putting the tart back in the oven for another 15 minutes, with foil over the edges to keep it from browning too much.  I'm still not sure it was quite done enough, since the filling was pretty soft in the middle.  Dorie suggests brushing the tops of the apples (or pears) with apple jelly as a glaze.  My apples looked pretty dry on top, so they definitely needed something, but I didn't have any jelly that seemed like a good flavor match.  So while the tart was cooling, I made a quick batch of caramel syrup to brush onto the apples.

Okay, that last statement really sums up how far I've come in the last year.  I never would have said that I could quickly make caramel anything this time last year. =)  Some of the confidence comes from practice, but some of it comes from the great tips I've gotten from other bakers.


The verdict?  Wow.  I loved this dessert.  The flavors were delicious together.  My crust got really browned around the edges, which was fantastic.  The apples were just right, and I was surprised how much I liked the almond cream, since I'm not that fond of almonds.  I especially liked how it got crisp on top and sort of melded with the crust near the edges of the tart.  I liked it the first day, but I think I liked it even more the next, once the flavors had more time to blend together.  Jamie liked it a lot too, and so did Gillian.  Brianna just liked the crust, so maybe I should just make her some shortbread cookies. =)

For the recipe, head on over to Dorie's blog.  Don't forget to check out all the other wonderful French Tarts on the TWD blogroll.  And for a special anniversary treat this week, read Dorie's answers to many of the questions that the TWD members have wanted to ask her over the past year.  



29 comments:

  1. Di, I don't know where to even start! Your apple-fanning technique is perfection itself and I love how your tart looks with its syrupy glaze. I found it tricky to get the tarts cooked through also. I'll bet this was delicious with Macoun apples. I still have some chilling in the garage, so I may make this again with those. Oh, and that KA book is on my wishlist!
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey! A Normand almond pie! ...what a great idea! I'm sure it was just as succulent!
    Very, very well done, Di!

    ReplyDelete
  3. A great idea to use apples, although I was surprised how tasty it was with pears. Great work, well done!

    Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your apple tart is perfection, Di! And I agree with everything you said about TWD -- the absolute best part is learning from other bakers. I feel my confidence in the kitchen growing each week. And the crust really was like a shortbread cookie, wasn't it? Beautiful tart!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I loved the apples too. Its a keeper. So glad you loved it too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This sounds just wonderful with apples. I loved the almond cream so much, I'm looking forward to trying this tart with many different fruits. Your tart looks lovely. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your tart is nothing short of spectacular. Great job.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The KA Whole Grain cookbook is on my wishlist. Let us know how you like it!

    Your tart looks great!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful! I love your fanned apples! BTW that Modern Baker book is great! I nabbed it at Costco just after it came out and have tried a few recipes so far.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very lovely...how on earth is everyone getting that crust to look so darn good? I kept baking and baking and it just seemed to get more dry...I need to try this one again.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Caramel syrup? Go on with your bad self! An apple tart with caramel syrup sounds divine.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wonderful! Love the change up to apples....glad to know I can use those next time!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Beautiful apple tart. I cannot wait to try this one - about 50 lbs from now.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Caramel syrup? GENIUS! I bet it tasted awesome with the apples. I am totally stealing that idea now. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!
    Clara @ iheartfood4thought

    ReplyDelete
  15. I thought about using apples, too. And I think that the caramel syrup was a definite plus. It's truly something that I would do. Which is why I didn't do it! Everyone's been saying that this was a top recipe for them, though. I know I will try it in the near future. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh my - what a beautiful tart! I'm in awe. And I love apples so I am sure I would love this. Plus the caramel on top. YOu did an outstanding job Di!
    And thanks for stopping by, the DH is feeling way better now.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your tart is beautiful!

    I can't resist new cookbooks either...I have a sickness.

    I really like Nick Malgieri. I first saw him on "Cooking Live" with Sara Moulton about 8 years ago. He is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Apples, caramel, browned crust...YUM!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, I love caramel syrup! What a great idea.
    I used 4" tart pans and had no problem with not getting done in the middle, but I did have to check it more often, as I was unsure exactly how long they would take.

    ReplyDelete
  20. That looks fabulous! I know just what you mean about learning so much from others, it's wonderful. I bet caramel syrup was the perfect addition, too!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wow -- yours is the first tart I've seen that didn't use pears. Now I have something else I have to try!

    ReplyDelete
  22. hehe--i also got the borders coupon and immediately bought the new flo braker book, "baking for all occasions." your tart looks fantastic!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Very pretty modern apple tart. the crust looks beautiful.
    Love new cookbooks-bought myself Ina's Back to Basics after Christmas. he he Then my friend in San Antonio sent me Cooking with LesDames D'Escoffier
    Score!
    AmyRuth

    ReplyDelete
  24. Lovely! I too have learned to make caramel syrup over the last year, thanks to TWD. Isn't it great?

    I love Nick Malgieri's books in general, but I give a mixed review to The Modern Baker. I took it out of the library and thought that the sections on "how to bake" were fabulous, but the recipes themselves were not as varied and interesting as some of his other books. (With some exceptions.)

    ReplyDelete
  25. you did a fantastic job slicing those pears - great presentation :) mine was a little off in presentation but still tasted great :)

    ReplyDelete