by Sheila Connolly
I won the book The Spirit of Christmas (Book 6) in a holiday drawing, and during our seemingly endless round of snowstorms (hush—it may not be over yet) I gave in to my urge to bake, so I decided to try this recipe.
But there was another reason: during the peak of the storm cycle, when the snow was, oh, four or five feet high in my yard, I looked out the kitchen window one morning and saw a single apple sitting on the snow. No footprints anywhere nearby. No dents or grooves to suggest that it had been tossed there. Perfectly straight, its stem at the top, all by itself on the pristine snow. I took it as a sign—of what, I’m not sure. So I baked an apple tart.
As you may notice, this is a no-roll crust (hallelujah!). It also contains graham crackers and orange juice. It’s actually quite tasty, and the dough easy to handle (it's a keeper!).
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tblsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2-2/3 cup heavy cream
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp cornstarch
1 Tblsp water
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples and/or pears
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk, concentrate and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour and cracker crumbs and knead in the bowl until a soft dough forms.
Press into a 9”x9” tart pan (yup, it’s my favorite Irish one again—it’s getting a lot of use!) with a removable bottom. Prick the crust with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a rack.
The filling is basically custard. I was worried that it wouldn’t gel enough to be able to slice the cake pieces, but after a night in the refrigerator it worked just fine.
In a medium pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Slowly stir in the cream and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook 2-3 minutes or until it thickens.
Stir about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture into the beaten eggs (so they don’t scramble!), then add the eggs and vanilla to the pan and whisk. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Let cool to room temperature and pour into the cooled crust. (See why this is a good recipe for a snowbound day? You have to cool each part before you combine them.)
For the topping, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir to form a paste.
In a medium saucepan, combine the wine and the sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (don’t worry—the alcohol evaporates with the cooking). Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the wine mixture.
Stir in the chopped fruit. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook 5-8 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat.
Spread the fruit mixture evenly on top of the filling. Cover the pie and refrigerate for at least one hour (I did it overnight, and the cake unmolded without a hitch).
Remove from the pan to serve.
I think if I make it again, I will add some freshly grated orange peel to the topping to brighten up the flavor, at least if I’m using apples. With pears, you might want to try a different spicing, or a different wine. And I have a blood orange in my fridge, that I was tempted to use. Feel free to experiment!
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