a single-minded passion

 I went grocery shopping the other day, semi-spontaneously.

I say "semi" because, while the trip was intentional, most of what I ended up buying was not. Usually I get to the store with a very well-thought-out list, and don't stray too far from it. Sometimes, though, my lists are more haphazard, vague. Instead of actual foods, it might be constructed simply of categories, like Meat, Various Cheeses, Veggies, Fruit. It's always interesting to see what I come home with after a day out with such a 'list.' Meal planning gets extra creative that week, I can tell you.

So this most recent trip was . . . more impulsive, shall we say. I bought whatever struck my fancy at the moment. Not so good for the food budget. Or for replenishing staples. At home, unpacking the bags, I didn't find any buttermilk, which we needed. There were no raisins, which Kalen has been asking for every time I make oatmeal. No all-purpose cleaner was to be found (which was a boon to Josh, at least, since it let him off the bathroom-cleaning hook for another day). So what did I end up with?

Ah, some glorious, glorious stuff! Four individual serving-size containers of Häagen-Dazs (two chocolate peanut butter and two chocolate chocolate chip, if you must know). A seven-pound bone-in pork shoulder. (Dinners have been very good this week!) A big bag of roasted and salted cashews. And a five-pound bag of apples . . . to join the twenty pounds I still had left from apple picking! In my defense, the new apples were Honeycrisp - one of the best eating-out-of-hand apples out there - while the picked-from-the-orchard apples were Cortland, which I save for baking. Two completely different species, in other words.

But still, apples. Apples are apparently the only fruit I care about, or even recognize the existence of, this time of year. Josh brought home some plums and late-season peaches the other day (to round out my single-minded fruit selection) and I have absolutely no interest in them. They might as well be rocks, rolling around in the refrigerator drawer, taking up space, contributing nothing to my daily produce intake.

The apples, though, those I am taking full advantage of! Lots of apple butter, of course. Fresh applesauce, which should be required eating for anyone who thinks the stuff in jars at the grocery store tastes good. Slices of apples simmered with some of the above-mentioned pork. Crisp, cold apples eaten alongside crisp, warm grilled cheese sandwiches. Apples eaten outside after an afternoon of yard work, which entices a lone, apparently ravenous honey bee to join the picnic. Everywhere, every day, it's just apples apples apples.

One of the more impressive, yet still simple to pull off, forms the apples have taken is in an apple rosette tart for my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary/housewarming party last weekend. I love this type of dessert. It looks fancy, everyone oohs and aahs over it, and yet it's actually easy as pie (literally!) to make. Easier, really, since so many people seem to be afraid of pie crust, and with this tart you don't have a top crust to worry about finagling into place and decoratively crimping and such.

At its heart this tart - just like apple pie - really only needs apples, some sugar, and complementary spices as a filling. But I decided that a layer of homemade applesauce on the bottom wouldn't hurt, and while I was in an accessorizing frame of mind went ahead and made a caramel sauce to drizzle over it. Because we were celebrating an anniversary and a housewarming, after all, so slightly over-the-top seemed entirely appropriate.

Having now tasted the final product, however, I feel I must tell you that these extra components are, in fact, mandatory. The tart wouldn't have quite enough body without its cushion of applesauce, and the caramel . . . well, let's face it, once you put caramel on something, can you ever really go back to not putting caramel on said something? I didn't think so.

So you get my applesauce technique (it's really a stretch to call in a 'recipe'), and a simple, perfect caramel sauce recipe as bonuses with this post. I can sense some of you tensing up at the mention of 'caramel.' Trust me, you needn't fear it. Making caramel is actually much easier than everyone makes it out to be, so you have no excuses (and nothing to worry about!) that would keep you from experiencing this tart in all its full glory.

 And in case you are a gild-the-lily sort of person, might I push you in the direction of serving this tart with a scoop of slightly melty, rich vanilla bean ice cream? Store-bought is fine, just make sure it doesn't have lots of weird additives in it - you don't want that stringy, spongy sensation getting in the way of dessert nirvana. Although, I will caution you, once you add the ice cream, it gets a bit harder to justify eating this at breakfast time. Which you will of course want to do if you are lucky enough to have any left over the next morning. But I've got faith in you. I know you'll persevere!

Enjoy! And tell me, what are you doing to take full advantage of this year's windfall of apples?

Homemade Applesauce 
This will make much more than you need for the tart. Probably almost 2 quarts more. Eat it warm for breakfast!

5 pounds of peeled, cored, and sliced apples, or enough to fill a large soup pot or Dutch oven (I like to use tart, firm apples like Cortland, but choose any variety whose flavor you love)
1/2 to 1 cup apple cider
Pinch to 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (optional)

Place the apple slices in the pot, and add enough apple cider to come about 1-inch up the sides of the pot. Add a couple pinches of cinnamon, up to 1/2 teaspoon, if desired. If your apples are very tart, or if you simply prefer a sweeter applesauce, add the brown sugar. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, turn heat down to low, and simmer, partially covered, until apples begin to turn into mush on their own. Off the heat, use a potato masher to coarsely mash the apples, leaving some chunky pieces in there. Refrigerate for up to a week, or applesauce can be canned if you wish to store it longer. Warmed applesauce, with a dollop of plain yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, is one of my favorite Fall breakfasts!

Apple Rosette Tart
Yields one 11-inch tart

One single recipe Best-Ever Gluten-Free Pie Crust, or your favorite pie crust, cool but not too cold
1 Tbsp egg white, whisked until frothy

2 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
juice of one Meyer lemon
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup homemade applesauce (preceding recipe or your favorite version)

Preheat the oven to 400º. Have ready an 11-inch removable-bottom tart pan.

Roll out the disc of pie dough into a circle approximately 15 inches across. I've found that if the dough is too cold (as in straight from the refrigerator), it's difficult to roll and cracks a lot. Letting it warm slightly results in a more pliable dough that's easier to roll out (just be sure to dust it with gluten-free flour, or do it between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap), and it doesn't compromise the end goal (a tender, super flaky crust) one bit. It's a great thing about gluten-free pie dough; you don't have to be so neurotic about keeping it cold when you're working with it! Gently ease the dough circle into your tart pan, letting the edges hang over the edge of the plate. If the dough's gotten so warm that it's becoming too sticky, pop the tart pan in the fridge just long enough for the dough to regain some of it's integrity. Use your rolling pin to roll over the edge of the pan, which will cleanly cut off the overhanging dough.

Line the tart pan with parchment, and fill with pie weights, uncooked beans, or uncooked rice, and blind-bake the tart shell until the edges are just starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment, prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork, and bake for 5-10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool 3 minutes. Brush bottom and sides with egg white wash and set aside.

Combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, sugars, spices, and salt in a medium bowl and gently toss to combine. Place in a colander set over a bowl and strain at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Put apples back into original bowl, mix in cornstarch, and set aside.

Pour strained juices into a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until juices have turned syrupy and dark brown. Pour apple syrup over sliced apples and toss to coat.

Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or foil.

Spread homemade applesauce over bottom of cooled tart shell. Arrange apple slices in tart shell in concentric circles, starting at the outside. Squeeze in as many slices as you can fit. Pour any accumulated juices over the apples. Place tart pan on the lined baking sheet.

Bake tart for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes, or until juices are bubbling and apples are soft. Cool in pan on a rack.

Serve tart warm or at room temperature, preferably with a drizzle of caramel sauce (recipe follows) and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Perfect Caramel Sauce
Yields approximately 1 cup

1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp water
1/4 to 1/2 liquid cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Place sugar and water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring. The sugar solution will come to a boil, and this is where you need to keep a close eye on it. Watch it as it turns from clear to amber, then darker and darker until it is a rich mahogany brown - but is not yet giving off whiffs of smoke! Immediately take it off the heat, and slowly pour in the heavy cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will steam and fizz and sputter, so keep your face back to prevent burns. If you want an intense, bitter caramel, add just 1/4 cup cream, but if you prefer a creamier, softer taste, add the whole 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Whisk in the butter. Pour caramel sauce into a heat-proof glass jar (I use canning jars) and allow to cool, uncovered. Caramel will firm up as it cools. When cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. To soften, warm the jar in a microwave or in a pan of just-simmering water. Drizzle caramel over slices of apple rosette tart, ice cream, brownies, a chocolate tort . . . you can't go wrong with homemade caramel sauce!

A photo from this post has been submitted to the GF Photo Contest, which can be found here: http://simplygluten-free.blogspot.com/2010/10/gluten-free-photo-contest.html


  1. It is absolutely beautiful. If there was such a thing, I'd call it an apple rose. REally liking the caramel sauce too. Yum.

  2. mangocheeks - Thank you! So glad you're liking the caramel!

  3. OK that tart is AMAZING looking. OMG. I need to do that.

    I have to say that I went apple picking, but the farm that we went sadly had a fungus disease that hit is, and as they organic, there wasn't much they could do. The apples all had scabs on them. So we only were able to buy a few of them (I picked up some decent looking Arkansas Blacks but they are in cold storage in the fridge right now as they hadn't ripened by the time I got them.

    And you're right, making tarts are TOTALLY easy. Easier than pie. But the way you laid them out is gorgeous!

    The one thing I have to comment on though. How could you be so singleminded with fall fruit? Apples are wonderful, but I also get super excited about pears (both european AND asian pears) as well as quinces. I LOVE QUINCES. but you know that. ;)

    And caramel. Mmmm. EVERYTHING is better with caramel. Which reminds me, I need to go and make some salted caramel ice cream.

  4. Mr. Jackhonky - I know, I know, I need to branch out more! And usually I'm not quite so focused on apples - pears and quince have been regular visitors to my kitchen in the past, by the case-full, even! But there's something about apples this year . . . I don't really know how to explain it. In my defense though, I did just eat a pint of brown turkey figs. So there is SOME variety in my diet. ;)

    Are you making Shauna and Danny's ice cream? Or David's? Or your own version? We used to make a balsamic-caramel ice cream at the restaurant I used to work at, and it was phenomenal. But I think the more straight-forwardness of salted caramel ice cream would be more universal and complementary. Can't wait to hear about yours!

  5. Ahhh. Figs. I just used some figs in a tart last weekend...

    Mmm. Balsamic Caramel sounds fab! I used David Lebovitz' salted butter caramel ice cream recipe on his website. I actually contemplated making some salted caramel cream cheese ice cream but got lazy and didn't feel like fiddling and figuring out the appropriate ratios for ingredients.

    The custard if chilling right now as we speak. I've made it before. AJ loves it.

  6. Waw!! That apple tarte looks just stunning & really DIVINe too!

    And home made caramel,...mmmmmmmm!

    You also have a COOl foodlog!

    Many greetings from a recent gf foodie from Brussels, Belgium!

  7. Sophie - Thank you, and welcome, both to my site and the gf club! I hope you find lots of gf inspiration here, and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. :)


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