With all the baking that happens around here, I find it hard to believe that until last month I’d never baked a dessert with the quintessential American fruit: the apple!
Apple isn’t my favorite for pies and cobblers, but I did a double take when I saw this flower-like tart. I assumed it would be too difficult to actually recreate such a beautiful dessert, but then I read on the original Family Circle recipe that “our kid testers said arranging the apples in circles was ‘the best part.’” The “kids” convinced me that it was worth a try, and noticing that it was layered with shortbread and cheesecake-like filling didn’t hurt.
Was it difficult? No, surprisingly not. Peeling and slicing the apples was time-consuming, and putting the final apple slices into the center of the tart was tricky, but it appears far more complicated than it is.
Adapted from Honest to Nod
1 1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping, plus 2 tablespoons for drizzling
Pinch of sea salt
5 to 6 Gala apples (or other firm apples)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
1. Peel the apples.
2. Cut the apples into thin slices: looking down on the top of an apple, cut it into quarters (cut in half and then cut in half again). Take the four wedges you’ve created and cut the core off each of them. With one flat side down, cut vertical slices as thinly as you can.
3. To make the crust, stir the flour and confectioners’ sugar together in a mixing bowl.
4. Grate the butter into the flour and squeeze mixture by hand until the butter pieces are pea-size.
5. Transfer the crumbly mixture into a lightly-greased 11-inch tart pan and spread it evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze while you prepare the filling.
7. To make the filling, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and egg until they are light and smooth.
8. Beat in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
9. Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the chilled tart shell.
10. Warm caramel until soft enough to drizzle. Spoon 1/2 cup of caramel over the cream cheese mixture.
11. Sprinkle caramel layer with a pinch of sea salt.
12. Heat the oven to 375°.
13. In a mixing bowl, toss the apple slices with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.
14. To arrange the apples, start by placing them around the outer edge, overlapping each piece by about half. Continue in a spiral pattern until the middle, where you can roll a particularly thin (and flexible) slice to form the center.
15. Dot with a tablespoon of butter cut into little pieces.
16. Bake the tart for about 1 hour or until the juices bubble and the apples turn tender. If the crust and outside apples begin to brown, cover the tart with the foil during the last 20 minutes of baking.
17. Remove and cool.
18. Warm remaining 2 tablespoons of caramel and drizzle gently and evenly over the top of the tart.
19. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
The original recipe recommended serving this tart warm, which I tried and found to be just so-so. I didn’t care for the cream cheese filling warm. I did love the tart chilled, however, and in addition to being my first baked apple dessert, it might be my favorite of any I’ve tasted! It also just might make an appearance at Thanksgiving — apple twice in two months!