Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chestnuts and Apples Roasting in my Kitchen Fire

It’s been a rather busy month since I last wrote. Rather than dive into two rather long posts, I’ll start off small.  This Thanksgiving The Husband and I stayed in Chicago and were so kindly invited to join in with friends of ours Thanksgiving Festivities. As a couple who loves food as much as The Husband and I do, they had an amazing Thanksgiving Feast prepared.  Everyone brought various different dishes and it was one of the most delicious Thanksgivings we’ve had to date.  The Husband and I were in charge of a dessert.  As we spent Thanksgiving with them last year, I decided against the Cinnamon Ice Cream and Pork Lard Crust Apple Pie, and went for something a little different.

I did a play on Alice Water’s Apple Tart that I found on Smitten Kitchen and Chestnut Ice Cream.  I thought Chestnut Ice Cream sounded really interesting and rather unique, and I’m really happy that we ended up making it.  I should give The Husband a HUGE thanks for running around the city trying to find me whole Chestnuts to roast.  The recipe called for canned, pureed unsweetened Chestnuts, but I couldn't find them, so I decided to make my own Chestnut puree.   Both recipes were rather simple (even though this is long, they really were easy),  light (you don’t want a crazy heavy dessert after Thanksgiving dinner) and a perfect end to a deliciously and meticulously prepared dinner.  Well, the 60 Oysters we ate AFTER dessert was really the perfect end….

Note:  if you have the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment, I would recommend putting it in your freezer at least two days ahead of time. That will ensure that the bowl is as cold as it can possibly get.  The Ice Cream should be made the night before, but you can make the tart the day of


For the Tart:

1 Cup unbleached Flour
1/2 TSP  sugar
1/8 TSP  salt
6 TBS  unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 TBS) chilled water

2 pounds  apples (a tart, firm variety, I picked Granny Smith), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 TBS ) unsalted butter, melted
5 TBS sugar

1/2 cup sugar

For the Ice Cream

1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
½ lb Chestnuts roasted and pureed
4 large egg yolks

For the Ice Cream:

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  With a sharp knife, cut a line on the rounded part of the chestnut. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 20 minutes. The inside of the nut should pop through the shell and be soft and white.

Once they are finished, remove the nuts, place them inside a thick towel and push your hands onto them to crack. This shouldn’t take a lot of pressure.  Let them cool for a few moments before you peel the shell off.
Take the soft white nuts and place them into a Cuisinart and blend. While the Cuisinart is going, slowly add ¼ cup of water to the mixture.  The chestnut mixture should start to stick together and get tacky. Once this happens, stop!

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds using tip of a sharp knife into a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add the remaining pod, cream, sugar, and  3 TBS of chestnut purée and bring to a simmer, whisking until chestnut purée is broken up and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cover pan. Let stand 15 minutes.

Whisk together yolks in a medium bowl, then add warm cream mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170°F on thermometer. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean metal bowl, discarding vanilla pod and forcing chestnut purée through sieve. If you don’t have a sieve, cheese cloth or some sort of thin holed strainer will work.  Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water (or in my case, throw it on the balcony with some plastic wrap on top) and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, 15 to 20 minutes.

When the mixture is cold, follow the directions on your ice cream maker. The mixture should become soft (this should take around 20-25 minutes). Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. It will come out creamy and deeelicious.

For the Tart:

In a bowl, add the apples, the butter and the sugar together and mix.  Let this sit while you’re making the dough.

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.
Slowly dribble in water (this is important because you don’t want to add too much to fast otherwise the dough gets too wet and you have to handle it too much. The goal of a pie crust is to touch it as little as possible once you add the liquid), stir, and then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, this isn’t like a normal crust, so it will be much wetter than what you’re used to. If dry patches predominate, add tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball.

Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate for around 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14 inch disk, around 1/8 inch thick.

If you have a tart pan, you can use it. I, however do not, so I went free-form!  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Overlap the apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going free form or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center.  I ended up having to double the layers up too. When you’re finished, take the dough on the edges and fold it over the apples. It’s not going to look pretty, I’ll tell you that now. The dough should cover a decent amount of the apples, but leave a large opening in the center.
Sprinkle a little sugar over the dough and the apples and then bake in the center of the oven until the apples are soft with browned edges. This should be around 45 minutes, however every 15 minutes you should rotate the tart.

While the tart is baking, make the glaze. Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 45 minutes, it will be a little thicker than water and will have a very strong apple smell. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

Once the tart is finished, remove it from the sheet (just slide the parchment paper onto a dish and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Brush the glaze over the tart a few times and serve alongside the ice cream

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