Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Almost Al Forno Apple Tart

Al Forno Restaurant in Providence has an amazing apple tart. It's served in a thick creme anglaise and costs about $20, and you have to order it with your dinner because they make it from scratch. Alex Guarnaschelli raved about it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We found a recipe for it, and it is surprisingly easy to make. Following some careful analysis, we have pinpointed the reasons for the tart's amazingness.

Reasons why the Al Forno Apple Tart is amazing
1. It is served fresh. When we made this tart, we ate some of it fresh out of the oven - it was flaky, warm, meltingly scrumptious and had a bright tang from the ginger sugar. Just half an hour later, it was cold and not as good. Fascinating.
2. It is served on a pool of creme anglaise. This sauce is the stuff of heaven. It is thick, rich, custardy, simply divine. We tried to recreate this sauce, but our recipe used a lower ratio of yolks to cream so it was runnier. Next time we will put more yolks. You should do the same.
3. The fresh ginger infused sugar that lies between the apples and the crust. Apple stuff always uses cinnamon or ground ginger, but the addition of fresh ginger and omission of muddling spices lets the bright apple flavor shine.
4. Thinly sliced apples. Al Forno uses a mandolin to shave off slices of apple. We didn't have one, so we just cut them paper thin. That is what lets them charge you $20 for one tart.
5. Super awesome flaky sweet crust. This crust is like a flaky pie crust, except that it has sugar in it. The sugar adds some crunch and perfectly complements the buttery flavor of the crust. They should make a perfume of Apple Crust Aroma. We would use it all day.

Al Forno Apple Tart
Adapted from Johanne Killeen | George Germon | Al Forno Restaurant, Providence, RI
Because these tarts are less bothersome to make than a pie — they take all of 30 minutes to make once you have the dough prepared — you can file them under easy-to-make. I bake them for weeknight dinners, brunches, picnics, even late-night snacks.—David Leite

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut in quarters and sliced paper-thin
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, quartered
Vanilla ice cream, optional

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until blended. Add the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with pieces no bigger than small peas, about 13 to 15 one-second pulses. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Process for about 10 seconds, stopping before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the contents of the bowl onto a work surface, form into four equal-size discs, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an one hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disc into a 7-inch circle and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread one-quarter of the ginger mixture on each tart, then arrange one-quarter of the slices (about half an apple) in an overlapping circular pattern on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top of the apples and fold over the borders. Most of the apples will remain uncovered. Press down the dough on the baking sheet, snugly securing the sides and seams to prevent drips. Dot the center of each tart with butter. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden and the apples have begun to brown slightly. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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