Heirloom Apples

These uncommon heirloom apple varieties are rich with flavors that intrigue and delight.

By Deborah Madison

Photography by Christa Neu

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plain-jane freeform apple tartPlain-Jane freeform apple tart
The dough includes a portion of whole-wheat flour and the apples are not gussied up with cream or caramel, which means this tart is quite plain looking, but it is delicious. When using a rare apple, why cover it with a lot of other flavors? The secret to tender apples is to slice them thinly. I've made this with 'Cortland', 'Macoun', and 'Empire' apples. One sampler responded to the 'Empire' version by saying, "This tastes like a real American pie!"

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

 

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flours, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter by hand or use a stand mixer with paddle attachment, leaving some chunks slightly larger than pea-sized.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and vinegar together with 4 tablespoons of the ice water. Drizzle into the flour-butter mixture, tossing with a fork (or using the paddle attachment) until you can bring the dough together with your hands. If the dough is too dry, add the last tablespoon of ice water.

3. Divide into two pieces weighing about 9 ounces each. Wrap each one in plastic film, then gently press each into a round disk. (If you wish, freeze one disk for later.) Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, as a chilled dough is easier to roll out, easier to handle, and absorbs less extra flour, keeping the texture as it should be.

Makes enough for 2 (10-inch) tarts (if planning to make only one tart, you can freeze the other portion of dough for later use)

For the apple tart:

  • 1 round of dough, opposite (1⁄2 recipe)
  • 4 apples ('Macoun', 'Cortland', or 'Empire'), about 1 1⁄4 pounds peeled and sliced 1⁄8 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • About 1 tablespoon sugar
     

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll the dough into a circle 11 to 12 inches across, then transfer it to the parchment paper. Arrange the apples on the dough, overlapping the slices and leaving a one-inch rim. Fold the rim over, making pleats to create a circle.

2. Brush melted butter over the dough and apples, then scatter the sugar over the apples. Bake in the top third of the oven until the apples are soft and the crust is golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove, and cool slightly before serving.

Makes 1 (10-inch) tart

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