Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alsatian Apple Tart

I know I talk a lot about my family on this blog. That's because they make up such a huge part of my life, and frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. A. and I, my parents, several of my aunts and uncles, a few of my cousins and my grandparents, we all live within a square mile radius. Ours is a crazy family -- loud, in each other's business all the time, talking, eating, laughing, arguing, and eating some more. Sometimes, I want to move away to Iceland. Most days, however, I count my blessings because these are some of the best and most important people in the world to me, and I am very lucky to have them around (even though, oh boy, do we ever annoy the crap out of each other sometimes... and also, Iceland -- it's kinda far).

But this post, it's really about my grandmother. She's the matriarch, the Grandmother with the capital G. She's really not like other grandmas, oh no. From the outside, she looks like a sweet, little old Jewish lady, but inside, she's tough, clever, funny and she is very protective of us all. She doesn't like children and she doesn't like outsiders, but for us -- HER children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and appropriate significant others -- she's ready to slay dragons. She rules us all with an iron fist in the proverbial velvet glove, and almost nothing happens without "calling grandma" and getting her approval. My grandma raised two kids -- ALONE -- in post-WWII Russia. After her husband died, she did not remarry because she didn't want her children to have another father. She worked two jobs, one of them in a factory, and she raised two of the most brilliant, amazing women I know, my mom and my aunt. She kept her religion -- underground -- even though the Communist Party told her for her entire life that there is no God. And all this comes in an adorable little package that wears red lipstick and Elizabeth Taylor perfume. It's no wonder that she's something of a living legend in my family and that our love for her is boundless.

Every year, we meet at her house to break the fast after Yom Kippur, and my grandma makes a dizzying array of dishes. She never allows anyone to help her cook (she's notoriously and annoyingly secretive about her recipes) and she never asks anyone to bring anything. It's not because she's trying to be nice and spare you the work -- no, it's because she probably won't like your cooking. I told you, she's not like other grandmas! Imagine my surprise (well, to be accurate, I almost fell off my chair) when I got a telephone call from her asking me to bring "that apple tart you made a few weeks ago." I had to ask her to repeat it twice, just because I wanted to hear it again. It wasn't about vanity. I felt like she was choosing me to continue her traditions, like she was trusting me with something very important. I had made this apple tart before and had given her half, and I put my heart into making it this time. It's very simple, with an earthy, sweet flavor and a delicious aroma of vanilla and baked apples, and it goes really well with home-made whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream. I don't know what it was that my grandma liked so much about it, but that wasn't the point. She patted my hand proudly and beamed at me at the end of the meal, and I felt really, really good.

Alsatian Apple Tart
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

1 Sweet Tart Dough crust, partially baked (to partially bake, just omit the extra 10 minutes of baking described in step 5 after the link)

For the filling:
1 pound medium sized sweet apples
1 cup heavy cream
6 Tb. sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp pear brandy (optional)

Preheat the oven to 374F. Peel, core and slice the apples thinly. Layer the apples in a circle on the bottom of the crust, filling in the middle. Make a second layer on top of the first layer. In a bowl that would be easy to pour out of, mix the eggs and sugar, add the cream and, if using, the brandy. Pour on top of the apples and bake at 375F for 50-55 minutes.

You can finish it off with some confectioners' sugar or glaze with apricot jelly. Because it was the Jewish New Year, I glazed the apples with a bit of honey for a sweet and joyful year. Many happy wishes to everyone!

*Note* Dorie's recipe says to use 3/4 cup of cream, but I found it not to be enough, so I use 1 cup. Also, the filling will puff up a bit, but don't worry, it will come back down when the tart is cooled. I like this at room temperature with slightly sweetened whipped cream.


Jesse said...

Oh wow - she sounds a lot like another little Jewish grandmother I know (mine, of course). So tough to please, but when you did it was the most exciting thing. Your photos are gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tart. The egg and cream in the filling sound delicious. Thanks for your recent visit and comments. I'll be back.

The Food Librarian said...

Great looking tart! And Happy New Year!

PG said...

Within in a square mile...wow. I think I would lock myself in the basement if I lived that close to all of my family.

Your grandmother sounds similar to my baba. My baba came to visit a couple of years ago and brought 10 turker burgers for her to eat at every meal - because she didn't think she would like my food. Then, after each meal - she would say - thank you for lunch/dinner.

I can imagine that the request for your apple tart would be pretty validating. My baba would probably like it too!

Vera said...

What a touching post!
The tart is absolutely gorgeous! And photos are so beautiful!

limonana said...

really sweet post about your grandmama...& lovely tart!

Gretchen Noelle said...

You have great pictures! Lovely job!

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I enjoy reading about your family. You're fortunate to live close to them. Enjoy all the time you can spend together. Great Apple Tart.

Peg said...

Lovely photos! The tart looks delicious. It's the perfect time of year to try your recipe.
My German-heritage mother-in-law is the only other person I know who adds cream to the apple pie.

I liked reading about your family, especially Grandmother.

The Italian Dish said...

Lovely family. Your tart looks amazing and I'm in awe of your photographs!

Anonymous said...

love this post- That tart must be amazing :) I had a grandmother so similar..so much so that while i read your post i could picture her face, that i miss so much-my mum is here teaching me her recipes....hope you are chosen one!

Anonymous said...

i just made this tart this evening. delicious! very wonderful desert. thanks for the recipe.

Irene said...

Jesse, I know just the kind :) Two years ago she didn't think I could boil water, and now she was asking me to make something, I was so excited! Thank you for the compliment.

Cathy, thank you! I had never thought of putting custard in a tart, but it tasted very nice.

Food librarian, love your name! Thank you and a belated happy new year to you as well!

Psychgrad, yeah, sometimes, I definitely feel like locking myself in the basement. Seriously, they are a crazy bunch. But I love 'em! I love the story of the turkey burgers. SO something my grandma would do.

Vera, thank you very much!

Limonana, thanks. I wish you could all meet my grandma. She's adorable.

Gretchen Noelle - thank you :) My husband got me a tiny tripod and I've been using the heck out of it!

Helene - I am very lucky, definitely. My family is big and loud and we drive each other nuts, but they are the best people in the world. Sometimes, I want to bottle up the moments and save them.

Peg - that makes sense, since Alsace kind of went back and forth for a while. Is your grandmother from there by any chance? This tart definitely did not feel like a traditional French tart, but oh, was it good!

The Italian Dish - aw, thank you! *blushing*

Nadia - grandmothers are amazing... all their love and life experience. I am so glad that your grandmother's recipes got passed down to your mom and now to you. That is very special.

Jose - awesome! I'm so glad it worked out well for you!!! (You can say this tart is Jewish-grandmother approved, and as you know, Jewish grandmothers are never wrong, especially about food!)

Anonymous said...

I just made this out of Dorie's book last weekend -- so good, right? Yours looks great.