Sunday, November 09, 2008

Crostata di mele

Ever since my Dad bought two second-hand Gazelle bicycles (which happened to still be in perfect condition) for a cool S$100, I've been quite the cyclist. I've been discovering new cycling routes every other week. Just last week, I found a route that can get me from where I live (Bedok) to my grannie's place in Sengkang in just about half an hour. Well, that is if I cycle there in the dead of the night, say at midnight. That's when I have the roads all to myself, well, nearly.

Cycling is addictive and I find myself wanting to cycle everywhere now. I think it's a healthy obsession. When I say obsessed I really do mean it. But it also means that I become fitter, even though alot of times I cycle to my favourite dining places in the East. Think Changi Village, East Coast Park, Tampines and of course Katong. I have also found out how to cycle to the Ikea at Tampines - this means Ikea breakfast for me next weekend!

Any who, along the way, although I have discovered a renewed passion for cycling, I have yet to master the tricks of cycling with a bagload of groceries.

I learnt that the hard way, yesterday. You see, I've been craving for a homemade apple tart the entire week and have stopped by many bakeries in search of it. But much to my dismay, I realised how common apple crumble is, as opposed to apple tarts. This only meant one thing - I had to take things into my own floured hands. Yesterday afternoon was all that and more.

So where did my bicycle come in? When I came up with the bright idea of cycling to get my groceries. I was silly not to anticipate the huge load of groceries I was to get. This included 2kg flour, 5 granny smith apples, a block of butter, 1 litre milk and some extra biscuits that caught my eye. My bicycle does not have a basket - it only has a metal seat-thing at the back where three elastic bands were placed, to keep steady a fair amount of load. Apparently though, I had too much faith in those elastic bands. Or maybe I put too little thought into planning my grocery shopping. I was too ambitious, cocky even.

I left the supermarket with a huge smile, thinking how brilliant an idea it was to cycle to and fro my home. What a carbon-neutral act, I thought in my head. I wasn't contributing to the pollution of the world and I get to exercise as well. So as I cycled off home, only happy thoughts clouded my head. I was pretty satisfied especially since I knew that in a few hours, I would have a warm whole apple tart to enjoy.

Before I continue, might I just add that this apple tart proved only one thing - hard work tastes sweeter. I should know, because I cycled all the way home with more than 4kg worth of groceries behind me, on my trusty Gazelle bicycle.

Mid-way home, I realised something was not right, I turned behind and saw that my groceries were wobbling, trying their darnest not to slip out of those elastic bands. Like I said, I had great faith in those bands, so I didn't bother and cycled on. Then a while later, while cycling and thinking about my apple tart (again), I heard a loud thump behind me. When I turned back, I saw that one bag of my groceries (containing my milk, butter and apples) had fallen off. Damn those elastic bands, they were not so reliable after all. I screeched to a stop by the side of the road and went back to pick up my fallen bag of groceries. This cannot do! By the time I get home, my groceries would probably be bruised and tattered.

What was I supposed to do? I thought hard. I really did. Then I decided to put the apples and butter in my sling bag and to carry the milk on my hand, with the plastic twirled around the handlebar lest it it slips out of my hand. Viola, that was a perfect arrangement. And that worked. My groceries arrived home safely and by that time, I was stinky and sticky. It was a very hot day. I did not feel like an apple tart anymore. However, you must remember that I'm quite the greedy girl. My body was tired but my mind kept playing pictures of a warm baked apple tart and I swear I could smell the tart aroma coupled with the buttery tinge from the shortcrust pastry.

My tastebuds and imagination got the better of me and soon I was off to work. I made the shortcrust pastry dough and I was really happy with it. Mostly because I had decided to splurge a little on some French butter (which cost me S$5.20) for my pastry. I wanted to see if it would make my apple tart more French and more tasty. To be honest, I could tell the difference right from the start. The butter was so creamy and it really smelled like France (not that I had ever been to France. It's just what I would imagine France to smell like). I was so enamoured by the butter that I smeared some leftovers on a piece of bread to try and I loved it.

While I left my pastry to rest in the fridge for an hour, I went ahead to prepare the apple filling. This recipe is a little different from most apple tart recipes because it required one to cook and caramelise the apples first:

Thanks to my trusty apple corer/slicer, I hd beautiful uniformed apple slices from my five granny smiths in under 2 minutes. Then I cooked and caramelised the apples in the lovely French butter, after which I added the honey and lots of cinnamon (my favourite). The aroma that ensued was irresistable. I couldn't resist mopping up the residual sticky caramel that remained in the pan after I transfered the apples to a seperate bowl to cool.

After the apples were cooked, I took out my shortcrust pastry and started to line the tart tin. Then I added the apple filling and proceeded to top it off with a simple lattice:

I was quite bowled over by how it all looked. I have to admit that though I love tarts very much, I seldom make them. And I have also never made one with a lattice. So I was pretty excited. I even called my sister to come look. She said it looked pretty.

So now all that's left is the baking.

After 30 minutes, I was attracted by a buttery aroma and knew that my tart was done. I ran to the kitchen, and basked in my achievement for a bit while staring at the tart in the oven before snapping out of my proud moment to take it out to cool.

I really like how rustic it looks. It gives off that country vibe don't you think? Here's a closer look at the pastry:

It was nicely browned and looked so delicious. I am sure it wasn't difficult for you to figure out what happened next:

That slice went to my sister. And of course I took another slice for myself...

There's nothing like freshly baked warm apple tart, or as the recipe calls it crostata di mele. But there was something about this tart that made it taste sweeter, and perhaps it has got to do with the extra effort put in to get the ingredients home amidst the sweltering heat. Hmmm yes I'd say it's got to be that. The apple filling was sweetened perfectly. The honey and cinnamon lifted the tartness of the apple and gave it an oomph that was the stuff of countryside goodness. Again, I draw reference to Enid Blyton's many homemade tart/pies by the windowsill depictions in her well-loved tales. For me, the only thing missing from the equation were some fairies and elves. I know I would have gladly shared my tart had they showed up. Haha, wishful thinking I must say. The only creatures who would love to be in the company of my tart were the very hardworking ants at my home.
Last night I brought some to my Grannie's place to let my aunt and grannie try some. They liked it and that really means alot because my aunt is quite the baker (come on, she bakes her own bread!) and her opinion means alot to me. I was pleased of course.
I had another slice again this morning, with ice cream for breakfast. I must say Sunday mornings and crostata di mele are a delightful combination.
Crostata di mele (apple tart)
Country cooking by stefano de pieri, pg 3, delicious Mar 05 issue
Serves 8-10

5 golden delicious or granny smith apples
50g unsalted butter
4 tbs honey
1 pinch cinnamon
Icing sugar, to dust

Shortcrust pastry
1 and ½ cups (225g) plain flour
2/3 cup (100g) self-raising flour
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup (60ml) full-fat milk
2 egg yolks

For the pastry, process the flours, sugar and butter in a food processor, then mix in the milk and egg yolks. If dough is too wet, add a little more flour. On a lightly floured surface, bring dough together, then knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apples, then cut into quarters. Melt the butter in a frypan over medium heat, and when it begins to froth and brown, add the apple and cook until brown and softened; about 5-10 minutes depending on the ripeness of the apples. Add the honey and cinnamon, reduce heat to medium-low and stir continuously for about 10-15 minutes or until the apples are golden and caramelized. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 180 degree celcius. Grease a 24cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Once pastry has rested, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 5 mm thick and line pan with pastry.

Place cooled apples into pastry shell. With any remaining pastry, use a crinkled pastry cutter to cut 1cm-wide strips to make a lattice to place over top. Bake 30-35 minutes. Dust with icing sugar before serving with ice cream or cream.


Anonymous said...

Wow, they look really yummy, *smack lips*

Our Food Recipes said... have a great informative food blog. Yummy apple pie ! Just added and "faved" you. Hope you can add Our Food Recipes. Thank you

karen said...

It's indeed very pretty and it's like so "country like". I can imagine you enjoying it with a cup of tea or coffee on lazy afternoon. :D

Anonymous said...


How did you manage to cut up the pie? Usually I have a difficult time cutting it up. Do you think its my crust or the knid of knife I'm using?


SIG said...

That is one gorgeous tart. Ever since I discovered French butter (I know is expensive!) but I try to use it in most bakes especially in those that will really bring out its qualities, not so much in cakes, but more in pastry and some biscuits. :)

Anonymous said...

reading your blog, makes me so hungry. and here I am stuck in perth. darn! Good on you that you've taken up a new hobby to cycle to your fave eats! Keep up the great job with your blog and the photos!!


Mrs Erg├╝l said...

I love tarts! And yours look brilliant! I will like to do one with lattice soon!

The fluted part of the tart is lovely. so uniform in thickness! You gotta be really patient!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

My apple tart is currently in the oven, followed ur recipe here.

1 very bugging question though, how did you managed to line the baking tin with the pastry?

I tried to roll out the pastry and transferring it onto the tin, but failed, as it kept breaking apart.

After 3 to 4 tries, I finally gave up and decided to use my hands and gave my best to balance out the pastry onto the tin.

Boy am I tired now!
Am waiting for the baking process to be done and see the results.

Hope you'll answer to my above enquiry!

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Hey girl!
May I know what's the 1/2 bicycle route from Bedok to Puggol?
haha the only way I thought was possible via car was by the KPE!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful lattice pie crust :)!

Olivia said...

Great Apple Tart.


daydreamer said...

The Apple Tart was great! Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

Blessed Homemaker said...

Stumbled upon your blog while searching for an apple tart recipe. Made it last week and the kids love it. Thanks for sharing.

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