It is the month of June,
The month of leaves and roses,
When pleasant sights salute the eyes,
And pleasant scents the noses.
— Nathaniel Parker Willis, “The Month of June”
What is that in the air? Do you smell it? Close your eyes and breathe in deeply … there it is … the soft, sweet smell of June. May was lovely, but June is here now and what does it hold for us?
With any luck it will be a month of beautiful weather that we can all enjoy. Hopefully it will be a month where we will watch our gardens grow and begin to see all the familiar faces at our local farmers’ markets. We have so much to look forward to … bright and sunny mornings, hot afternoons made more bearable with a mint julep, and let’s not forget the pleasure of June nights spent with a gelato or a mojito.
But as lovely as June is, it needs something more. It needs a slight sprinkling of fairy dust to make it just that much more magical. As luck would have it, Cream Puff’s Overburdened Bookshelf has just the thing … a June fairytale called Once Upon a Tart.
In the enchanted land of New York, there is a lovely, little place called Once Upon a Tart, owned by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. As much neighbourhood gem as it is fine bakeshop, Once Upon a Tart is a place where sweet (and savoury) dreams come true. Frank and Jerome began their business to fulfill the lifelong dream of owing an establishment that produced the best food, both savoury and sweet. I just knew that this was the book with which to entice everyone’s tastebuds during the month of June. As a result, it is the Cream Puffs in Venice Flavour of the Month for 2006.
Will it be a month of tarts? A month of salads? A month of sweet snacks? Or a little bit of everything? I don’t know where this fairtyale will take us. But I have a Cream Puff hunch that it will all end happily ever after …
Alsatian Apple Tart
For the tart crust:
- 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons 1-1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- a glass of ice water
For the apple tart:
- 4 large Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced thinly (1/8 inch)
- 1 prepared tart crust unbaked
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light cream 10% cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
- warm water
For the tart crust:
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to combine.
- Add the butter and shortening all at once. Pulse the mixture until it becomes crumbly (between 5 and 10 pulses).
- As soon as the mixture is crumbly, transfer the mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of ice water.
- Either with your hands or a spoon, begin mixing. If the mixture is too dry and does not come together, add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
- The dough is ready when it just comes to together. Do not overmix or your tart crust will be dry and hard. As soon as the dough forms a ball, divide into two pieces, flatten each piece into a disk and refrigerate for 1/2 an hour.
- Remove one of the disks from the refrigerator and on a floured surface, roll to a thickness of a quarter inch. Using a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, carefully transfer the tart crust to the pan.
- Adjust the dough to fit the pan and trip any excess dough from the sides. Refrigerate the tart crust until ready to use.
For the apple tart:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.
- Arrange the apple slices in the prepared tart crust in concentric circles, with the slices overlapping.
- Transfer the tart to a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil (just in case there are any spills).
- In a bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and whisk until the eggs are pale yellow (2 to 3 minutes).
- Add the cream and milk and mix well.
- Carefully pour the liquid mixture over the apples. The mixture will come very close to the top of the tart edge.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake the tart for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The tart is done when the crust and apples are golden and when the custard has set.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, remove the tart ring and carefully slide the tart off the bottom of the tart pan and onto a serving platter.
- In a bowl, combine the apricot jam and 3 or 4 tablespoons of hot water. Stir to combine.
- Strain the jam into a bowl. You should have about a 1/4 cup of apricot glaze. Pour the glaze over the tart. Serve immediately or cover the tart and serve when ready.