For Jeremy's recent birthday, Craig very sweetly gave a gift not only to Jeremy but also to me, since I played just a bit part in the reason for the festivities ... :)
He gave me a cookbook - one of my very favorite things, of course! Simca's Cuisine was written by Simone "Simca" Beck, who co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking with the beloved Julia Child. The book "gives us her own cuisine in delectable recipes ... arranged in menus for every occasion."
I selected a recipe from the section entitled "Un Diner à la Compagne" [uh dee-NAY ah lah cohm-PAHN-yuh] - A Dinner in the Country. The apple-almond tart Simca recommended serving for dessert was perfect for my Tu B'Shevat [TOO bay sheh-VAHT] dinner, celebrating the Jewish New Year of the Trees.
Trees are very important in Judaism, as is tikkun olam [tee-KOON oh-LAHM], which is "repairing the world." Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai even taught the following lesson: "If you have a sapling in your hand and someone tells you the Messiah has arrived, first plant the sapling and then go out to welcome the Messiah." Planting trees is a means to providing food, shelter, and many other benefits to both current and - especially - future generations.
And so, on the 15th day of the month of Shevat (on the Hebrew calendar), it is customary to eat fruits, particularly those which come from trees. Many people partake of a seder, a formal celebration, in which ritual foods are eaten; these include fruits with an inedible shell, those with an inedible inner pit, and fruits with no shell and no pit.
Thus, this beautiful French tart with almonds, apricots, and raisins, as well as apples, combines traditional representative foods in one lovely, sweet, delicious dessert. It was perfect for the holiday, and would be ideal at any time that a simple but sophisticated dessert is needed.
On a completely unrelated note: in the past I've mentioned my fixation upon the Bocuse d'Or, the bi-annual culinary "Olympics" which took place in France last week. Here are the final results, for those who weren't parked in front of their computer screens obsessively watching the streaming presentation of meat and fish platters while sipping their morning coffee before work!
Best Promotion: Guatemala
Best Poster: Hungary
Best Commis ([coh-MEE] = assistant): Kristian Curtis, United Kingdom
Best Fish Platter: Norway
Best Meat Platter: United Kingdom
Bronze: Japan (the commis was in tears ... it was so sweet!)
Silver: Denmark (gold medalists in 2011)
Gold: France (they almost feel it's their birthright to win this, so they're very happy!)
French Apple Tart
(slightly adapted from a recipe in Simca's Cuisine by Simone "Simca" Beck)
- 1-1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/8 cup shortening, at room temperature
- 2-3 tablespoons (or more) ice water
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt. With a fork, mix in butter and shortening until mixture resembles meal. Stir in 2 tablespoons water with the fork, until the dough starts to form a ball. Add water by the tablespoon if more is needed. Form into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- 1/3 cup Solo Apricot pastry filling
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup whole almonds, ground fine
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 2 large Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, grated
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- ice cream, for serving (either vanilla or rum raisin would be ideal)
Roll dough out into a 12" circle and place into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom (or into a 9" pie pan). Press dough into the bottom of the pan and up against the sides, then trim dough even with edge of pan. Spread apricot filling over bottom of crust, then refrigerate while making filling.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Stir in the ground almonds and the raisins. Stir in the grated apples, then pour filling into the prepared crust.
Place the tart pan onto a larger baking sheet, to catch drips, then bake for 20 minutes.
Prick the tart all over with a fork, then pour butter over the top of the tart and let it seep into the filling. Raise oven temperature to 375F, then bake for 15 more minutes until tart is golden and set.
Let cool completely, then remove rim from tart pan. Place tart onto a platter and serve with ice cream.
Makes 12 servings.
Tomorrow, by the way, is World Nutella Day - yay!!! So here are some recipes to choose from, for your celebration:
Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love Tart
Peanut Butter Pancakes with Nutella Sauce
Banana Nutella Cake with Coffee Glaze
Krispy Kreme Peanut Butter Dream Sandwich
Chocolate Cake with Nutella Buttercream Frosting