Friday, February 11, 2011

Apple Chestnut Heart Tarts!

I want to start this post trying to help you get over your fear of working with pie pastry. I mean really, if a simple mixture of flour, fat and water is keeping you from the wonderful art of pie making, then NOW is the time to learn. It IS easy, and better than that, even if you do mess it up a bit, it will still be edible. It is incredibly forgiving! My original recipe for pie crust is in words and pictures on my website The Teaching Kitchen. I walk you through it step by step and it WORKS! The new pie crust I developed (and I use the word develop loosely) eliminates the butter and uses all coconut oil. This crust can be considered vegan for its lack of dairy. I like both crusts, but the coconut oil one is a bit different to put together. Follow the directions for the original single crust, but use 4 ounces coconut oil instead of the 8 Tablespoon mixture of shortening and butter (8 tablespoons = 4 ounces). Coconut oil is solid at room temp and is not near as creamy as shortening.
Weigh out 4 ounces of coconut oil, which is also the same as 1/2 cup.
Place 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour in the bowl of a food processor. This can also be made in a large bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (if you use regular salt, cut back a bit) and pulse or stir to mix. Add the coconut oil.
This step is where it differs from the original pie pastry. You process this (or cut the coconut oil in with a pastry blender or two knives if you are not using a food processor) until the coconut oil is completely mixed in. With the original recipe you pulse the food processor until the butter/shortening is about the size of small peas, meaning if you grab a handful of the flour/fat mixture you would feel large particles of butter and shortening in the flour. Not so with the coconut oil pastry. Pulse until you cannot feel any large particles. Add the 5 Tablespoons ice water a Tablespoon at a time just until the dough begins to hold together. Dump the entire mass out onto a lightly floured counter and knead just a bit until it all holds together in a big ball. Flatten into a disc.
At this point, you can wrap the pastry disc in plastic wrap and set it aside. If your kitchen is really warm, you can place it in the fridge, but coconut oil firms up quite hard, so the dough takes a long while to become workable when cold.
For the filling, grab a few apples and cut in quarters. Core and peel and cut in small chunks. Place 2 teaspoons or so coconut oil in a medium skillet and heat on low to melt. Add apple chunks and stir. Add 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, honey or dark brown sugar and stir to mix. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. Mix well and increase heat to medium. Stir every few minutes to keep apples from sticking to the pan. If they seem dry, you can add a Tablespoon of apple juice if you have it or even brandy. Water will work also.
Cook the apples for about 15 minutes. You want then quite soft. When they are soft, set them aside to cool. Now back to the pastry! Unwrap pastry disc, dust with flour and roll out to about 1/8" thick. With a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many hearts as you can get. Place half the hearts on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Scott and I both love chestnuts and years ago we used to buy French "Chestnut Spread" at World Market. I'd use it to spread between homemade sandwich cookies (think Oreos, but made with homemade crisp brown sugar cookies sandwiched with chestnut spread...VERY good). World Market stopped carrying it and then this Christmas, Lily presented Scott with a jar of the stuff! She said she got it at Williams-Sonoma, but I know it is also available online here or here. It is remarkable stuff! These tarts can be made without it...simply using the cooked apples, but the chestnut spread makes them truly special! It IS Valentines' Day after all...
Spread a teaspoonful or so on each pastry heart.
Press a small amount of cooked apples on top of the chestnut spread and top with another pastry heart. Press lightly around edges to seal. Then take a fork and press the tines around the edge to crimp and seal.
Prick a knife tip a couple times into the top of the sealed hearts. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes until golden. Let cool a bit before eating as the filling is hot when they come out of the oven!
Of course, you can fill these tarts with whatever you'd like: a smear of Nutella and some sauteed bananas, sauteed pears and candied ginger (or even ginger jam!), dried cherries or dates and sweetened mascarpone cheese...the possibilites are endless! Sometimes I cut large rounds and fill and then fold over and seal so you have half moons. Easier than these two piece tarts, but this holiday calls for hearts!
Happy, Happy Valentines' Day to all.

1 comment:

Ciel said...

Beautiful! And yummy I'm sure. Wish I was there to taste one! Thanks for sharing this. xoxo