One of my favorite treats are simple handmade tarts because they give me an opportunity to test flavor combinations and don’t require much time to make. These sweet little apple tarts are an easy treat to make when friends come over at the last minute or the kids needs something fun after school. The trick to making them quickly is to have filling in your freezer.
Throughout the seasons, I normally put up between 15-30 lbs of any given fruit. This year I purchased Fuji apples from Eastern Carolina Organics. Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, they’ll have several varieties come in at one time and I am able to get a mix of some of the ‘seconds’ from each of the boxes. The year before last I was able to get local organically grown apples from different farmers’ markets. If you have an opportunity to mix several types, you’ll find that your apple butter, apple sauce and apple pie filling turn out more complex.
Generally, I like to cube the apples and cook them a little while in a sauté pan with some spices, butter, maple syrup and maple sugar as well as slice some for the dehydrator (to use in smoothies). The cooked apples are put into small containers and frozen but canning works just as well. The containers will thaw in just an hour so it’s something you can pull out quickly if you have unexpected guests. If you like canning, it’s even more simple to open a jar of filling.
The dough for these tarts can be store-bought or homemade. When I run out of my dough, I use a brand that doesn’t contain hydrogenated oils. Using rolled pie crust dough, I cut the rolled dough into about 5 pieces that are about 1.5″ long. It probably represents about 2 tablespoons of dough. Using the palm of my hand, I press the balls out into round disks on parchment paper until they are about 3-4″ in diameter. Then I sprinkle about a half teaspoon of pastry flour on each side of each disk. Use a rolling pin to continue to flatten the disks out to around 5-6″ in diameter. This is also the point where you can add dried spices, fresh herbs, grated cheese or bacon bits into the dough as you are rolling it out. Simply sprinkle your choice of additives over both sides of the dough when you get close to finishing and it will be incorporated into the outside layer of the dough. The flour helps dry out the dough so it doesn’t stick to your rolling pin and it will bake better once you apply the egg wash.
Once you have them rolled out on the parchment paper, you can mix your apples with a couple of other ingredients. For this batch I used a ratio of 1 cup of apples to tablespoon of apple butter from the farmers market. I placed enough filling on the disks to form a layer about 1/2″ high and left 1″ rim without filling on the outside edge. Your filling should look moist but not be running to the edges at all.
When you’re finished filling, simply fold up the edges. You don’t have to press them. And then with a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of egg wash on the outside of the pastry avoiding drips at the bottom edges. If you remember, you can coat the inside of the pastry before filling it up, but I forget to do it as much as I remember. It helps seal the inside of the dough so it doesn’t absorb the filling liquid and get soggy before and after baking. It’s also possible to add some fresh herbs, grated cheese or sugar to the outside dough after you brush with the egg wash so it sticks to the dough. It will dress up the presentation a bit and provides an opportunity to test flavor combinations.
Slide your baking sheet under the parchment paper that contains the filled tarts. Cover the tarts with another sheet of parchment paper to avoid burning. Bake at 400-425F for around 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.
When the tarts are finished, while they are warm, add some nuts, granola, or toasted seeds. In this case I added some Candied Pecans that I lightly cooked for about 3-4 minutes in a cast iron skillet with a little butter, salt and maple syrup and let cool on parchment paper. I also added some finely shopped Candied Ginger that I made from fresh baby ginger root earlier in the season. I have added granola and enjoy that combination as well. If you add these pre-cooked toppings earlier, they tend to dry out or burn.