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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Apple Pecan Tart with Chestnut Pastry and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

This healthy dessert contains whole fruit, nuts and whole grains, with just a touch of maple syrup. It's a healthy alternative to traditional pecan and apple pies laden with white flour, sugar and sometimes even corn syrup.

The filling is a mixture of pecans, which make it nutty and creamy, and apples, which make it soft and smooth. Because I leave the apple peels intact, this dish is an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants.

When I was cooking the apples for the filling, I added a dry rosé of Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes, because I happened to have an open bottle in the fridge. Any sort of liquid is helpful in getting the sauce started, so feel free to substitute a dry white wine, apple cider, the juice of an orange, or even a splash of water.

I bake my tarts in a lightly-buttered 9-inch square tart pan with a removable bottom, but you can use any pie dish.

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 cup roasted, shelled, roughly chopped chestnuts (or 3.5 oz vacuum packed)
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup grass-fed butter, cubed
  • 5 tbsp ice water

Chill the ingredients before you begin: place the butter and chestnuts in the fridge and freeze the oats and flour in the bowl of a food processor, with the blade, for 20 minutes. Prepare a glass of ice water and a tablespoon measure.

Assemble the food processor and pulse the chestnuts, oats, whole wheat flour and butter together until pea-sized pieces appear. Continue mixing while you add just enough water (4 to 5 tablespoons of water) until the dough forms a ball. Gather the dough together and wrap it in aluminum foil before you transfer to the fridge for at least one hour to rest.

For the filling:
  • 4 medium apples (Opalescent, Stayman Winesap and Granny Smith work well)
  • Splash of dry rosé wine
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 1 cup raw pecan pieces
Core and dice the apples (the smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook). Add them to a large sauce pan with the wine, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apple pieces break down into a sauce, about 30 minutes. Stir in the pecans and set aside to cool.

Once cool, pureé until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.

For assembly:
  • 2 apples that will hold their shape (McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a clean, dry, smooth surface lightly coated with whole wheat pastry flour.

Once the dough has lost its chill, roll it out from the center, turning frequently, until it is an inch or two larger than your tart pan. Gently lift it into the pan and fit the dough into the corners and along the sides. Do not stretch the dough. Trim off any extra dough along the edges. Line the tart dough it with aluminum foil and fill it with dry beans to hold the shape. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans (save them for future baking projects) and bake for 5 more minutes.

While the tart shell bakes, quarter the apples and remove the seeds. Thinly slice each quarter into 6 pieces. Set aside.

Spoon the apple-pecan purée into the pre-baked tart shell and smooth the top. Arrange the thin apple slices on top of the filling in any pattern. Bake for 50 minutes or more, until the apples start to brown on top. Cool completely.

If you'll be serving freshly whipped cream with the tart, place a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl and a whisk or attachments for an electric mixer in the freezer to chill while the tart cools.

To serve:

I like to serve this tart with organic cream, unsweetened and freshly whipped with a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Fresh grass-fed cream
  • Pinch cinnamon
Pour some fresh cream, about 1 tablespoon per person, and a pinch of cinnamon into the chilled bowl and whip until sufficiently light and airy.

Cut the pie into individual portions and serve with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream.

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