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tuesdays with dorie / baking with julie: french apple tart

French Apple Tartlette

This week’s recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was a patisserie-worthy French Apple Tart.

Tarts are my favorite kind of dessert. I’m not clear on the difference between a tart and a pie, but somehow when something is baked in a tart pan with its fluted edges and served freestanding on a pretty plate, it tastes that much better to me. Come to think of it, I’ve baked most pie fillings in tart shells for years and couldn’t say the last time I actually made a pie.

This tart has a number of components, so it takes a while to make from official start to end. However, with advanced planning, it would be much quicker.

Once again, I found myself without an occasion to share and no need to eat an entire tart singlehandedly. All I can say is thank heavens for miniature baking dishes. Rather than make one 9-inch tart, I halved the recipe and made two 4-inch tarts with some leftover un-tarted ingredients.

As with any tart, you start with the flaky pastry crust. I didn’t use the book’s recipe for this one, preferring my favorite all-butter crust from Mark Bittman to one that contains shortening.

Next, you make an apple compote which is like a thick oven-roasted applesauce. Tart Granny Smith apples are roasted with sugar, cinnamon, flour, bread crumbs, and a bit of lemon until they are soft enough to mash up. The compote is used to fill the partially-baked tart shells.

Filled with Compote

Finally, the filled shells are topped with a circle of thinly sliced apples brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar. The tart is baked until the apples are tender and start to burn on the edges. I was surprised that step took the full baking time for a whole tart even for my mini-tart.

Topped with Apples and Glazed

The tarts looked very professional. I impressed myself. The contrast of the tender apple slices and the compote was delicious. If you didn’t know what was inside and were expecting all apple slices, it would be a pleasant apple-y surprise. French Apple Tart will definitely go on the list of desserts to make again. Next time, I hope my apples end up a little browner.

For the recipe, visit this week’s host Gaye (a fellow Dorista) at Laws of the Kitchen. The recipe can also be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book, written with Julia Child, Baking with Julia.

To read about other bakers’ tarts. follow their links from the LYL link for this recipe on the Tuesdays with Dorie site.

tuesdays with dorie / baking with julia: gingerbread baby cakes

Delicious Cake

I’m definitely more of a cook than a baker. Exercising and expanding my baking horizons is one of the reasons I’m participating in the latest incarnation of Tuesdays with Dorie. This week’s recipe for Gingerbread Baby Cakes comes from Johanne Killeen. Who can resist a simple everyday cake like this one, especially when it comes in a seemingly personal size as these 4-inch darlings do?

I have admired Johanne Killeen and her husband George Germon for years. My first introduction to them was in the early 1990’s. They had just published their book Cucina Simpatica. They were sitting at a tiny folding table outside an equally tiny cookbook shop in Porter Square, Cambridge, offering samples of food, bruschetta, I think, and signing their book. Years later, I had a wonderful meal at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. They also ran a restaurant in Boston for a few years where I had lunch. Many years after that initial introduction, I finally bought their book and have enjoyed an assortment of their recipes in the comfort of my own home.

Because I had no occasion to serve dessert to 8 this week, I decided to make a half batch. When I was setting up to bake, I discovered that I owned only 2 4-inch (springform) pans, not the four I thought I had, so I ended up making a very small batch of just two little cakes (one quarter of the recipe).

I like that this recipe uses typical pantry items that I always have on hand. One deterrent to spontaneous cake is that cake recipes often call for milk, not a usual item in my fridge. This is a milkless cake, making it even more perfect to have in my arsenal of quick sweets to whip up on a whim.

I used my stand mixer. With such a small quantity of batter, I had to beat things a bit longer to combine everything thoroughly, but overall it was super easy. Butter and brown sugar are creamed together. Then the egg is added. Freshly grated ginger and molasses smooth out the batter. Finally, the dry ingredients, including a hefty dose of ground ginger and freshly ground pepper are folded in.

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My cakes were still visibly wobbly in the middle after 25 minutes, but after thirty, they seemed springy and slightly cracked. I treated myself to a late-night dessert of warm gingerbread sprinkled with powdered sugar. The cake was slightly too moist in the very center, so next time I would let the cakes bake for a just few more minutes.

The baby gingerbreads really hit the spot. The warm temperature combined with the warm and spicy flavors were delicious and perfect for the colder season. The cakes also get high marks for their cuteness factor. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for some more tiny cake pans to add to my inventory so I can make a larger batch to share.

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For the recipe, visit this week’s TWD host Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories. The recipe can also be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book, written with Julia Child, Baking with Julia.

To read about other bakers’ baby cakes, follow their links here.