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Adventures in Apple Tarts and the Art of Simple Food

Last night I set to work on poaching a quince, peeling and slicing eight Granny Smith apples, delicately rolling out pastry dough, and reducing quince poaching liquid to a stickily delicious glaze for an apple tart.  Piper sat at my heels playing with her baby doll, little wooden people, a playground set and two big plastic Halloween candy bowls.  Will busied himself in the kitchen with dinner — a delicious vegan classic: TLT, or tempeh, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

Quince.  I seem to remember naively eating one raw before, and disregarding the astringent fruit completely until now.  I started to simmer a mixture of water and sugar for a simple syrup in which to poach the quince, as suggested in The Art of Simple Food.  I peeled the fruit, then thought I would be able to get through the tough core with an apple corer only to find out the center was indeed much larger and firmer than that of an apple.  With some effort I worked the core out with my small paring knife, and quickly placed the pieces in the hot pot of liquid before they began to brown.  Next, Waters suggests adding some aromatics to enhance and flavor the fruit poaching liquid.  I added the zest and juice of a lemon, half of a vanilla bean (and saved the other half to make vanilla sugar),  and a cinnamon stick.  The spices lent a warm and soothing fragrance that wafted from the pot throughout the kitchen while I went about my other prep work.  A side note: the quince never turned that pretty pink I’ve read about once it was cooked, do they always?

Rolling out the pastry dough was much easier this time.  I love the little trick of rolling the dough around the pin and then unrolling it back over my parchment lined baking sheet.  I hold my breath just a bit each time, though I feel much better about doing this little circus trick than folding it all up into squares and then unfolding it.  It just seems like my dough might stick if I did that.

Then comes the mystery of the concentric circles.  Waters suggests placing the apples into tight concentric circles, end to end around the pastry.  I thought I knew what it meant, instinctively, until Will came around and turned my apples around.  We placed them end to end, beginning our circle clockwise, and then the same way for the next set only starting out circle reverse clockwise.  It seemed to make an aesthetic difference, though I’m not sure how?  When the apples are placed vertically I think I can understand it better, but horizontally I think I was able to fit more apples (and quince, whose slices I tucked in wherever I could).  With the fruit I had leftover I froze for another use.  I’m just now remembering that I’ve left them on their plates in the freezer and forgotten to transfer the pieces to a freezer bag…

I reduced the poaching liquid, adding a bit more sugar to the mix to help it along.  After 45 minutes, I took the tart (or pizza, as Piper called it) out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.  We had some fun taking pictures of it on the cutting board once it cooled a bit, and then had even more fun glazing it with the quince reduction.  All in all I’m tired.  The tart tasted good, though I thought the Granny Smiths were a bit tart combined with the lemon juice in the reduction and the fact that I kept them in lemon water to prevent browning.  Will enjoyed it, Piper took a bite.  Waters did suggest using Granny Smiths, so maybe the dessert is not intended to be intensely sweet.  Though, when I told Will I thought it could be sweeter he looked at me with a raised eyebrow, as if to say “Really?”  I think maybe my taste buds had checked out for the night by then.

Now I’m up early, or it was early when I started this blog post.  Will’s off at work and Piper is sleeping in.  We had this wonderful walk yesterday, and later in the day we painted popsicle stick Jack-o-lanterns.  Oops–she’s up now!  Wishing you all an exciting day, with a slice of sweetness on the side.

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2 thoughts on “Adventures in Apple Tarts and the Art of Simple Food

  1. I was disappointed! I was waiting for the pinkness of the quinces. But I soon got over it as I followed your loving food preparation. I was reminded of a friend we farewelled last week who told me once that sweeping the floor was in fact a meditation – or could be. Your cooking is meditative. I love the arrangement of the apple – it looks like a rose in full bloom. Thank you for your wishes for the day: mine is rich with the presence of my two sons for a holiday weekend.

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