An Apple Torte for Winter

Here we are, in the dead of winter, at probably the coldest day of the season so far (50 degrees F during the day), and it is time for an apple dessert.  Apples are at their best in the fall and winter and they deserve their day in the spotlight.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours and is absolutely delightful.  It combines the elegance of a tart with the double crust of a pie.  So basically you have a double crusted apple tart=a torte.

Apple Torte
Apple Torte

This torte is filled with applesauce.  I made it once with store bought apple sauce (oh the horror!) and added some vanilla and nutmeg and no one noticed that it wasn’t homemade.  This time I decided to go all the way and make the torte as it deserved to be made, with homemade applesauce and nuts. Yes that is right Rocker Dude – ground almonds in the filling. Rocker Dude has a a fear or maybe just a distaste of eating anything involving nuts, but I figured that because we would be having other people at the meal I could add in the nuts and I wouldn’t get too many vocal complaints ;).

I made this dessert during my usual Friday cooking rush, but made sure at least to spread out the prep so I had my crust ready and chilled in the morning, made the applesauce and chilled that so by 2 pm I was ready to assemble and bake the torte.

Apple Torte Filling

After everyone had eaten the dessert (which would probably be great with some vanilla ice cream) I got certain looks from a certain person about the nuts in the filling.  The comment made was that when you take a bite of the torte, you expect a soft filling and suddenly there is some crunch from the nuts.  I actually liked the texture it added to the torte, but a promise was extracted from me to not make it with nuts again.  So I probably won’t, at least for a while ;).

Recipe (From Baking: From my Home to Yours):

1 double recipe Sweet Tart Dough

Filling:

2 lbs. (about 5 medium) tart or tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider, apple juice or water
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds (apparently optional)
pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt

Divide prepared tart dough into two parts.  Refrigerate one half and press the other half over the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch tart pan.  Butter a piece of aluminum foil and press is lightly against the surface of the dough.  Refrigerate for at least two hours. (Or freeze if you are in a hurry).

When the second half of the dough is chilled, roll it into a circle that is between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into a 10-inch circle and then using a shot glass as a guide, cut a hole in the center of the dough to act as a steam vent. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet a refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Fill the foil over the crust with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  You don’t want it to get too brown because you will be baking it again. Cool to room temperature.

Put the apples, brown sugar, cider and nutmeg in a medium saucepan, cover and bring to a boil.  You want the mixture to stay at a medium bubble.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are so soft that you can almost mash them with the back of a spoon.  Remove the cover and boil for five minutes more.  Add the almonds, if you are using them, and the rest of the spices.  Pour the filling into a  bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Cool. The filling can be made up to two days in advance.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fill the cooled crust with the applesauce filling. Lightly moisten the edges of the crust and lay the chilled top crust on top of the filling.  Press the edges of the crust to seal. Run a rolling pin over the top  to trim off the excess dough.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes.  Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. and cover the tart loosely with a foil tent. Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and cool.

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Applesauce Spice Bars and Yom Haatzmaut

So I know that this is coming a week late, as Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) was last week Monday night, but it’s been a bit busy around here.  Darling hubby got a man-stomach virus (apparently it’s worse than a regular stomach virus) and has been out of commission since Friday night.  Finally yesterday, his fever went down and he could leave the bathroom.  So I have had to take the baby to day care, pick her up, keep her away from him, and take care of him of course.  But it’s over now and the best news is that he was offered a job for this fall.  He is finishing up his teaching degree and was offered a full-time position teaching high school ESL – Congrats sweetie!

On Monday night we had a barbecue with friends, there was a lot of meat and great times.  We hung out with our gang from our first year in university as well as some new ones.  Most of the older moved away, a couple to Haifa, a couple to Jerusalem, and one to America, though he recently came back.  It was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to see them again.

First Batch of Meat

To prepare for this occasion, I made the chockablock cookies and these applesauce spice bars from Dorie Greenspan’s book.  I have been wanting to make these bars for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity to make them.  They travel well, so we could take them to Jerusalem with no problem and they taste delicious.

That's me - the grill chef

I love barbecuing.  I was trained by the best barbecue chef.  My dad is a traditionalist.  He swears by charcoal briquettes.  He would never use a gas grill or anything other than Kingsford charcoal.  For him, grilling is an event.  It means sitting outside, by the grill, with a cold beer and the game on.  He would soak the coals in lighter fluid for 20 minutes, then light the coals and let them burn until they were all white, only then would he put the meat on.  Because it took so long, we didn’t have many barbecues.  It was only when there was a lot of time, like a Sunday afternoon, or a special occasion.

Wings Marinatin'

My brothers and I learned how to do a BBQ at his side.  In fact, when my parents went to Hawaii when I was in high school, my brother and I made a BBQ for a few friends and only told them about it after.  My dad knew that we were well trained and that we would never burn down the house, my mom was not too sure.

So I did the grilling for Yom Haatzmaut, besides, Rocker Dude needed to plan the playlist for the evening.  That’s his specialty anyway.

Playlist Planning

Back to the bars.  These bars are so easy to make, because you start off heating a few ingredients in a saucepan and then just mix everything else in.  No million dirty bowls lying around, no complicated steps.  Heat, mix, mix some more, pour into a pan and bake.

One stop shop!

Even the glaze afterward was a cinch to make.  This is something I highly recommend for when you want to make something delicious and presentable quickly.

Even got to use my little bottle of rum. Right next to the Jack Daniels (Rocker Dude is a die-hard southerner)

Enjoying the party:

Ilan and Anna - Carnivores both
Welcome back Yitzchak!
Rachel, my old roommate - the runner of marathons and Ariel, tai chi master
Ilan, Rocker Dude's partner in crime
Menucha, Ilan's partner in crime (sorry about the redeye)

Oh yeah, and these:

Applesauce Spice Bars

Recipe:

For the Bars:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp, cinnamon

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. applejack, brandy or dark rum (optional)

1 baking apple, peeled, cored and finely diced or chopped

1/2 cup plump raisins (dark or golden)

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Glaze:

2 1/2 tbsp. heavy cream (or soymilk)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

2 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. light corn syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from heat.

Whisk the eggs one at a time into the saucepan.  Mix until they are well blended.  Add he applesauce, vanilla, and applejack, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.    Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the dry ingredients, only until they disappear.  Then mix in the apples, raisins and nuts.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 23-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a baking rack and let the cake cool while you make the glaze.

In a small saucepan whisk together the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup.  Put the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, mixing frequently.  Adjust the heat so that the mixture simmers and cook, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and add the vanilla.  Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.  Let cool to room temperature before you cut the bars.