September 13th, 2012

A Perfect Apple Tart, and a Peek into Luisa Weiss’s Berlin Kitchen

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These cool September mornings have me thinking about transitions. Soon, the fall harvests, and bushels of apples picked from area orchards will be arriving at the markets. Red and Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys and Granny Smiths, Winesaps and Arkansas Blacks. Beautiful varieties, each with a distinct taste and culinary use.

I welcome this time of year. It ushers in another wave of foods and festivities that bring people together.

From my office perch looking out into the backyard, I see signs of a season in shift. Leaves getting tinged with yellow. Persimmons ripening on the rugged tree by the alley. Hummingbirds gorging on nectar before making their migration further south. I’ve lived in middle Tennessee for a long time, lived out many long hot summers. Autumn always invigorates me with its crisp clear air and blaze of color. I relish the changes of the seasons. Although anything can happen, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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A sense of place. That gets entwined with many things, especially in a transient society. Where we were born, where we grew up, where we went to school, where we work, all play a part in grounding us, informing that deepest part of us about where we belong. We all have the right place to be.

It’s a potent and poignant theme that Luisa Weiss explores in her food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen. Known to many as The Wednesday Chef, Luisa tells her story of finding that sense of place. A confluence of cultures is at the heart of her journey.

In 1977, she was born to an Italian mother and an American father in West Berlin. At age three, her parents divorced and she moved to Boston with her father. She grew up, traveling back and forth, straddling two homes, two worlds. Her divided life, in a way, paralleled Berlin of the Cold War.

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As a young adult living in New York, Luisa worked as a cookbook editor. A touchstone to memory, an anchor for comfort, food and cooking became central in her life. In 2005, she launched her blog, initially as a way to plow through the scads of recipes she’d clipped and saved. The Wednesday Chef became more than a food blog; readers worldwide followed her journal as she came to grips with the feeling that her life in New York, ideal as it appeared with a terrific job, fiance, and circle of friends, was not where she belonged.

My Berlin Kitchen chronicles that larger arc of self-discovery, and courage to make bold change. It is a love story, sprinkled with delectable recipes, gleaned from her world travels. Many have an intriguing, decidedly Berliner bent. Roast goose, braised red cabbage, poppyseed whirligig buns, white asparagus salad, spiced plum butter…

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I enjoyed reading her story, and found real inspiration in her recipes. Today, I made her Apple Tart.

I call it a Perfect Apple Tart, for it truly honors the apple, in all its crisp sweet-tart glory. In Luisa’s words, ” This tart is about the pure, clear taste of apples, sugar, and a little bit of butter. There are no spices to muddle the flavors.”

And, its crust—the crust could be reason alone to make the tart: thin and golden, immeasurably buttery and flaky.

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She credits her recipe to four culinary luminaries: Jacques Pepin, who originally conceived it; Alice Waters, who has kept it a constant offering at Chez Panisse; Deb Perelman, who brought it out into the wide world through her blog, Smitten Kitchen; and Melissa Clark, whose New York Times pastry-making video showed that leaving the butter in larger, lima bean (rather than pea) sized pieces in the dough insured a richer, flakier crust.

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Of course, your tart will only be as wonderful as your apples. Select firm ones. Luisa recommends Golden Delicious. I chose Ginger Golds, an early harvest variety with a spicy-tart finish. They are good to eat out of hand, and bake into pies or cakes.

As we come into apple season, you’ll no doubt find other varieties that will appeal to you.

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Here’s the tart’s magic. You peel and core the apples before slicing them. Then, you immerse those trimmings in water with sugar, and cook them down. After straining, you reduce the apple-infused liquid to a marvelous syrupy glaze.

After baking and cooling, you brush the tart–apples and crust– with apple syrup. Oh, my!

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Apple-Apple-Apple! The tart is all about the apples, not-too-sweet, baked tender in a butter-crisp rustic crust:

From Jacques Pepin to Alice Waters, Deb Perelman to Melissa Clarke, from Luisa Weiss to me, and now to you.

Wishing you contentment wherever you are, Nancy

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A PERFECT APPLE TART from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

The Crust
1 cup All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
6 tablespoons well-chilled unsalted Butter, cut into 1″ pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons icy water

food processor fitted with pastry cutter

Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is broken down into lima bean shaped pieces. Pulse in water, a spoonful at a time, until dough comes together.

Dump out onto lightly floured work surface and gather it together, flattening into 4″ wide disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes. (or up to 3 days)

The Apple Filling
2 lbs. crisp firm Apples (I used Ginger Gold) peeled, cored. and thinly sliced–Save the peels and cores
2 tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted
3-5 tablespoons Sugar (I used 4 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 degrees, if using a convection oven).

Remove pastry dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and roll out onto a flour-dusted work counter.
Rolling and rotating the dough, dust with more flour to prevent sticking. Continue rolling until you’ve made a 14″-16″ thin round.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the rolled dough round on it.

Place the apple slices in overlapping circles on the dough, leaving a 2″ border. Crowd as many apple slices as possible.
They will cook down in the oven.

Fold the edges of the crust over the tart, creating a rustic look, leaving the center of the tart exposed.
Brush melted butter over the apples and onto the crust. Sprinkle the sugar over the crust and apples as well.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, rotating the tart after 20-22 minutes.
The crust will become golden brown, as will the edges of the apples.

While the tart bakes, make the apple syrup. (recipe below)
Remove the baked tart and let it cool for 15 minutes before brushing the apples and crust with apple syrup.

Serve warm or room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

The Apple Syrup
Reserved Apple Cores and Peels
1/2 cup Sugar

Put cores and peels into a saucepan along with sugar. Pour in water–enough to cover.
Bring to a boil, them simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid; discard the apple trimmings, and return liquid to saucepan.
Reduce on low heat for another 10-15 minutes, until it becomes thickened and syrupy.

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Posted in Articles, Desserts, Fruit, Recipes

26 Responses to “A Perfect Apple Tart, and a Peek into Luisa Weiss’s Berlin Kitchen”
  1. Tammy Says:

    That’s beautiful. I have never made anything so lovely but we do have apples here and maybe I will venture out.

  2. Maggie Says:

    Nancy, this is lovely! I’ve made many tarts like this but always with a bit of cinnamon. I like the apple syrup idea instead. And thank you, for the book recommendation…

  3. Barbara Says:

    Oh Nance- this looks wonderful, and a perfect dessert to have now that we are fast approaching fall. I too have never made anything like this-never made pastry, but this looks very doable, very delicious.

  4. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    How can you go wrong with chefs like Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters and Melissa Clark? This really does look like the perfect apple tart.

  5. fluffy Says:

    this is amazing not too sweet just right

  6. Wendy Says:

    Such a beautiful tart. I want a slice to nibble on while perusing the life journey of the interesting Luisa Weiss.

  7. Barbara Says:

    Beautiful post, Nancy.
    I love Luisa….have not read her book, but it sounds as though I better.
    Your tart is lovely…rustic, party-ready and strongly apple flavored. What a super idea to boil down the trimmings.

  8. Renee Says:

    I can’t wait to try this tart! Tony will love it. I am also looking forward to reading Luisa’s book; thanks for bringing both to my attention.

  9. Beth Says:

    This apple tart looks truly wonderful. Nothing says fall to me like apple desserts. And you’ve intrigued me about her blog – I’m on my way to check it out!

  10. Emma Says:

    Wonderful post. I know where I belong, at the table with a slice of that perfect apple tart!

  11. Jayne Says:

    Love The Wednesday Chef
    I’ll be on lookout for her book

  12. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    Beautiful Apple Tart my friend. I have such a fondness for any food that has a rustic, hands-on look such as your lovely dessert has. Perfection has never interested me and although your tart is “perfect” it is not “perfect”.
    Another wonderful post.

  13. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    oh nancy! Wow! A rustic tart is all i need. It looks amazing. Who wants a nice dainty little apple pie when you can have a quick easy delicious tart. I love it.

  14. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Beautiful tart. Lovely golden crust. I’m looking forward to reading Luisa’s book.

  15. Magda | My Little Expat Kitchen Says:

    Hello Nancy. Your tart is gorgeous and those apples look stunning. I can’t believe autumn is really here.
    Here in Holland, it’s raining like crazy these last few days.
    Thanks for the introduction to Luisa’s book. It sounds interesting.

  16. Faith Says:

    What a tart! I love that apple glaze that’s made from the trimmings. I hate wasting anything and this is the perfect way to get use out of everything. Looks like a wonderful book!

  17. Rach Says:

    This is lovely Nancy, all of it, your take on the changing season, the words about Luisa’s book and the apple apple apple tart with apple syrup, my oh my indeed. I will be making this.

  18. Kath Says:

    Having read both yours and Rachel’s review of this book I must see if I can get it. That pie looks very good indeed. I love the sound of Arkansas black. What do they look and taste like?

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Kath–Luisa’s book has just been released and should be available at bookstores, and certainly via online purchase.
    The Arkansas Black apple has a deep dark purple-red skin and a bright crisp-tart flavor. They keep very well, becoming even darker over time, and softer-sweeter too.

  20. Nic@diningwithastud Says:

    Gorgeous :) I love the rustic tarts – so good!

  21. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I’ve read several of Luisa’s blog posts but was not aware of her history. I am going to have to try this recipe given that apple season is in full swing. Oh this would be the perfect way to start the day.

  22. Kath Says:

    I have it winging its way to me and I am looking forward to it. I like the sound of that apple very much.

  23. Barbara Says:

    That is, indeed, a perfect tart, Nancy. I love the way the glaze is made.
    Luisa always finds the best recipes to post. She’s a delight and I learn so much from her discoveries. I wish her luck with the book.

    RE the move:At least I don’t have a basement! Or attic. But I dread my storage unit and most of all….the kitchen.

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