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Fake Christmas Eve, continued: Apple Tarts with Brandy Caramel Pecan Sauce

December 24, 2006

Apple Tartlets and Cookies

The inspiration: the The Blue Owl Levee-High pie. Obviously, a 13-pound pie would be a little ridiculous, but the idea of using a caramel sauce instead of fucking around with pie crust seemed ideal for an already busy cooking day. And the idea to miniaturize them pretty much came in the store, when I saw the mini graham cracker crusts: Who doesn’t like small desserts?

Obviously the apple pie filling was crazy easy, but the topping was a little more complicated than I bargained for. All of the sugar-boiling madness was worth it, though–they were excellent.

Apple Tarts with Brandy Caramel Pecan Sauce

For the apple filling:

  • about 3-4 apples (I used two honeycrisps and a pink lady)
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. sugar 

For the sauce topping:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 3 T. brandy
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 c. toasted chopped pecans

I suspect my measurements for the filling got a little screwy. I bought mini pie crusts at the market, and there were only six in a pack. I knew if I made 12 pies, they would absolutely never get eaten (as it was, only four did), but the recipe I used for the pie was obviously intended for a full pie. I started cutting up apples, and realized after only three that anymore wouldn’t fit in the pie crusts. But then I neglected to change the measurements for the rest of the filling…no matter, though! It was really good.

apple slices

Apple pie filling is almost too easy. You just slice the apples however you want (smaller pieces might have been good for the mini tarts, but I didn’t really think of it), then add all the other ingredients and mix it up real good with a fork or something. You just want all the apple pieces to get coated with everything else. Easy peasy. Then just bake it at 425F for about 15-20 minutes. Voila.

The sauce was…a little bit trickier.

Melting sugar isn’t easy business, but in the end, even though the process wasn’t quite as smooth as it could’ve been, it tasted pretty damn good.

Melt the sugar in a medium saucepan over “moderately low” heat (whatever that means). Stir it slowly the whole time it’s melting. I used a whisk, but a fork would probably have been better–less things for the sugar to get stuck in. It’ll start to look a little like crack at first:

melting sugar

But slowly, it will start getting liquidy, and turning a darker brown color. Apparently, you’re supposed to then cook the sugar/caramel without stirring, just swirling the pan, until it turns a deep golden brown color, but I missed that “without stirring” part of the directions, which was kind of a problem. It just got stuck in the loops of my whisk, and on to my fork. I should read more carefully.

Once it’s that deep gold color, remove it from the heat, and very carefully add cream, bourbon, lemon juice, and the pecans. I would recommend bringing the cream to room temperature first. The caramel will harden up a lot. This is the part that got a little tricky. The recipe said to put it back over the heat at this point, and simmer it, stirring, until all the hard stuff dissolves. It says this should take about five minutes. It took much longer than that. I was starting to get worried, because hard candy was sticking in the edges of the pot, and there was this one big hard lump that refused to really dissolve. Finally, I just figured that was as good as it was going to get, and I poured the sauce into a measuring cup, so I could drizzle it over the apple pie tartlets, which were already baked.

appley goodness

You can put these in the refrigerator, and just re-heat them for a few minutes in a 350F oven before serving, or even serve them at room temperature. They are pretty freaking good.

I did end up with extra apple pie filling, because these pie crusts were tiny. I might try to make some kind of apple bread for Christmas morning. We’ll see how lazy I am.

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