Apples + Pears + Toffee

If you like sweets, Abu Dhabi has you covered.  In addition to the beautiful dates in every waiting area or lobby, most every cafe has a decadent array of cakes, cookies and cupcakes to complement a tropical rainbow of freshly squeezed fruit juices, sweetened teas or iced coffee shakes. If you choose, you can easily be buzzing around all day simply from your sugar high!

    I am usually not too tempted by the windows of frosting on offer, however, there are a few French bakeries that always manage to stop me.  No matter what time of day (or night- since malls are open until midnight on the weekends), once I smell those buttery, freshly baked apple tarts, I have to stop in.  After numerous attempts to shield my eyes and plug my nose, I always lose the battle.

  So this past weekend when I found some beautiful apples and pears at the market, I decided to make my own version...using a velvety homemade toffee sauce instead of plain boring sugar.  

I used a basic tart dough recipe and swapped some flour with 1/2 cup of crushed toasted walnuts to give the crust a little more nutty richness and texture. I chose walnuts because I had some really nice fresh ones, but any nut can be used.

I sliced the fruit, and mixed it with some really fresh ground cardamom, and I had made my toffee sauce a few days earlier, as you can keep it in the fridge, ready to be poured on almost anything at any time.

Then, finally I cut a nice little crust top without getting too complicated, and sprinkled the tart with a little sugar so that it would shimmer.  What is better than a crispy, flaky crust, toasted walnuts, fruit and toffee sauce??  Well... probably one of those nice iced coffees mentioned above wouldn't make a bad addition.

Tart Recipe (adapted from Fine Cooking)
It looks a little daunting, but I promise it is easier than it seems..
10 1/8 oz. (2-1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for dusting
1-3/4 oz. (1/2 cup) crushed walnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 Tbs. ice water

Mix the flour, crushed nuts, sugar, and salt in a bowl to blend. Add the butter pieces and mix in by hand, or pulse in a food processor until clumps the size of small peas form. Add the water, and mix again until the dough forms a loose ball. Split the dough onto two and shape them into two flat disks. Wrap the disks and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Ready to roll the tart shell!  (Use a 9in or 9.5in tart pan)

Let the dough sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften, if necessary. Lightly dust your rolling surface with flour, and roll one disk into a 12-inch round, flip the dough a few times to prevent sticking, and use more flour as needed. Gently lift your circle onto the tart pan without stretching and press into the edges. Cover and refrigerate until the tart shell is firm, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, roll the other disk into a 10-inch round. Then cut the dough into seven 1-inch-wide strips. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare your fruit by tossing all of the below together in a bowl:
2 pears sliced thinly
1 green apple sliced thinly
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
pinch of cinnamon
pinch kosher salt

Now, take your chilled tart shell out of the fridge:
1. layer in your fruit mix
2. pour on your toffee sauce (recipe below)
3.seal the top crust by placing three strips in one direction and the remaining four at a 45 degree angle to those previous three.
4. brush with a little milk, or cream and sprinkle with a dusting of sugar.
5. pop it in the oven at 200C/ 400F for 30 minutes or until starting to brown and the caramel is bubbling.  (You may want to put the tart on a cookie sheet in the oven, incase it bubbles over.)

Toffee Sauce (adapted from David Leite)
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup 
2 tb cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup + 2tb cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


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