Effortless Baking: French Apple Tart

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When I was in Paris I had this apple dessert, similar to a cheese danish. It was beyond delicious, and I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I couldn’t remember exactly what made it so special, except that it had crème fraîche in it.

So I set out over New Years weekend to make something similar that would bring me back to my time in France.

 

Rustic French Apple Tart

1 package puff pastry

4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup crème fraîche

Frangipane: 6 ounces Almond Paste, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 stick salted butter

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Crust:

  • Take one sheet of puff pastry and gentry roll in out to fit a 9×9 french tart pan
  • Cut any remaining pastry off the tops to make an even, flat base for the dessert.

Frangipane:

  • In a food processor, add almond paste and butter. Whip for a few minutes until combined, light and fluffy.
  • Add sugar, and whip for 1 minute.
  • Add egg, and let whip for another minute until combined and smooth.

Apples:

  • Peel, core, and slice apples about 1/2 an inch thick. If you want to do them ahead, toss them in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to keep from oxidizing. If you will make tart right away, you don’t need to do this step. image2

Assembly:

  • Take your tart pan with pastry already laid into it.
  • Spoon frangipane over the dough evenly.
  • On top of the frangipane layer, spoon the crème fraîche. Smooth it evenly over the top not to combine layers.
  • Next, lay the apples into the crème fraîche, evening in rows of three. They should overlap each other just a little.
  • Brush the top with your egg wash lightly, not to put too much or it will pool over the dessert.
  • Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the dessert evenly.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, rotating 2 times.image1(3)

The tart will be done when it is golden brown, the crust has puffed and is cooked all the way through, the apples are soft, and the sugar has caramelized on top.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan.

Place on a cooling rack another 10 minutes and serve either warm or room temperature.

This tart takes a small amount of time to assemble, but is super impressive to guests, and absolutely delicious. The flavors of rich almond and tart apple go so well together and when the crème fraîche bakes, it becomes a creamy, almost cheese-like layer in this dessert, making something completely unique and memorable.

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I hope you try this dessert out, and more of my recipes available here on Homegrownmeals.com

Bon Appetit!

 

Sean Patrick Gallagher

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Simply Entertaining: Sailing NYC

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About a month ago I was asked to go sailing with my best friend, an extremely talented Pastry Chef friend, Kim. Kim asked me to join her on the sailboat of a French chocolatier she does business with. It was a bit last minute, but I knew I wanted to throw something together to entertain. Last minute entertaining doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off something impressive. I keep most items on hand, such as dried fruits and nuts. I pick up fresh fruits, fresh bread, and hand select cheeses from local cheese shops. My favorite spots in NYC are Murray’s Cheeses, the cheese counter at Fairway, and the selection at Beecher’s Cheeses.

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A cheese board is the simplest way to entertain. It’s nearly effortless, and just requires some simple planning. If you are unfamiliar with cheeses, always ask your local cheese monger for some tips or recommendations. They are always happy to share their knowledge and have the best insight into what is at its peak.

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Cheese Board

4-6 Cheeses, preferably

I prefer to have a combination of soft, hard, and semi-hard cheeses. Always a goat cheese, cheddar, a ,washed rind type cheese, such as a Camembert, and a blue.

Perhaps my favorite cheese ever is Winnimere from the Cellars at Jasper Hill in northern Vermont. Winnimere has a pudding-like filling encased in a layer of spruce bark, and can be purchased at Murray’s Cheeses.

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1-2 types fresh fruit

Fresh fruit makes a cheese board. Crisp, tart apples and juicy, sweet grapes make a perfect compliment to cut through rich cheeses.

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1-2 types dried fruit

Dried fruit adds a wonderful texture and sweetness to a cheese board.  I like to go to the bulk section of the grocery and pick out 2-4 ounces of dried figs, dried pears, and dried apricots.

1-2 types of nuts

I always keep nuts on hand. I store pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts in the freezer. They last longer and I pull only what I need. Be sure to toast any nuts before putting them on a cheese board. That toasted, nutty flavor will pair well with any cheese.

2-4 types of breads/crackers

A fresh, crunchy french baguette is a must. I also like seeded breads and whole grain. Having several types of crackers gives options for different cheeses as well. I like long, thin flat-bread crackers and John Wm. Macy’s Cheese Sticks.

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1-2 types of jams, jellies, honey

A jam or jelly of sorts is a great addition to a cheese board. Floral honey and honeycomb also compliment the board well. I love local jams and today, I used a Blackberry jam from a little Jelly Stand in Provincetown, Mass.

Cocktail time!

If the party warrants it, it is always a lovely to serve a special beverage. A specialty cocktail is not only impressive, but a very fun way to start the festivities. I love to start a party with a sparkling beverage or aperitif, to whet the palette and open your appetite.  One of the simplest, and most delicious combination is champagne or sparkling wine topped with elderflower liquor. St. Germain is an elderflower liquor, it pairs beautifully with sparkling wine or mixed into cocktails. Any sort of sparkling wine will work for this cocktail; Cava, Prosecco, or Champagne. You don’t have to buy anything pricey but stay away from the really cheap stuff, it’s filled with sugars and additives and will give you a headache. Just a few raspberries to pop in for a hint of color and something to nosh on at the bottom of the glass.

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The Humming Bird

6 oz of Champagne

2 oz of St. Germain

2 Raspberries

  • Place 2 raspberries in a glass, pour champagne, top with St. Germain

Cocktail Glassware:

Typically a sparkling beverage is served in a flute or tulip glass. I don’t believe this always has to be the case, it certainly depends on the crowd. Having champagne flutes on a sailboat isn’t ideal. I have these little blue tumblers I got in Provincetown at an Army-Navy store, 2 for $1. I love the look of them, and they are so inexpensive that I not afraid to bring them along with me for entertaining.

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Entertaining Extras:

Cocktail napkins

I always have basic white cocktail napkins on hand, but I also recently started to keeping fun patterned and typography napkins as well. Bring something fun that matches the mood of the event.

Plates

I love lightweight disposable bamboo plates in fun shapes. I found these rectangles plates at JB Prince, which is my Chef secret. They have EVERYTHING you ever need to entertain properly or cook like a 5 Star Chef.

Cheese forks, knives

Keep a variety of cheese knives on hand. Harder cheeses require a sharper knife or pick, and softer cheeses need a spreader. Crate and Barrel and Sur la Table have awesome options for cheese knives.

Cheese boards/Dishes

Slate, wood, and porcelain make excellent cheese boards. Thick cut wood from J.K Adams or a beautiful platter from Revol make perfect cheese board options.

Paring Knife, Bread Knife, Wine Key, Offset Spatula

Remember to bring items to make it happen. A paring knife, bread knife, wine key, and small offset spatula will be needed to make it all happen. Make sure you have a small cutting board to work with as well. Ziplock bags and paper towels to clean up and wrap left over cheese in.

Sail Away

With a small amount of planning, and a bit of time, you can pull off an impressive spread. This combo can be used for small gatherings or for a housewarming party. Remember to always add your own flair when entertaining, make it memorable and plan ahead so you can enjoy the party yourself.

Happy Entertaining!

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Cheers
Chef Sean Patrick Gallagher

Effortless Sunday Brunch

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I can say that I have always loved brunch. As a teen, I worked in a family restaurant where every sunday we all worked the crazed 8am to 3pm brunch shift where I bused tables, my mother and sister took orders, and my cousin flipped corn-cakes in the back. It was a tiny place with 10-15 tables. The walls were covered in copper pots and the table cloths were blue and yellow pinstriped and matched the awning outside. The floors were made of creaky old wood that ran along to the tiny kitchen in the back which could hold one chef and a prep cook/dishwasher. It was charming, and I spent most of my childhood there. On Sundays, I’d come in early and mix together some muffins flavored with whatever we had available. Blueberry-peach, strawberry-poppy, and banana chocolate chip were crowd favorites so I made them often. When the muffins cooled, I would put them on a cake stand on the counter and when we people came in, the restaurant smelled of freshly baked goods. After culinary school I worked in an historic hotel where brunch was at the forefront of their business. My muffin making days were over and on came 300 poached eggs and gallons of hollandaise. Brunch was no longer endearing but exhausting, and my love affair was lost. Eventually I moved on to a quaint organic bakery with a side dining room with 20 tables. I started the first brunches there, bringing back all of what I loved about it.  I created hand-crafted menus, where I would make a different type of french toast every week. I would make a cherries jubilee, a nod to the classic dish with beautiful pitted cherries in a luscious sauce of Grand Marnier (cooked out!) and orange zest. On occasion I would make a “pain perdu,” just a fancy Francois version, which I would make with baguettes, caramelizing the bottom to produce a toothsome crust. When I moved to New York City, I worked for Dean and DeLuca, where I made breakfast for hundreds of companies and private homes daily in a large scale production kitchen. Fancy batons of brioche were soaked in a custard style batter, baked until golden brown and placed inside a silver tray, cooled and shipped out to be devoured by one of New York City’s elites.

My history of brunch aside, I have always loved the service of brunch and the joy that it brings to people. When I moved to Astoria a few years I ago, I brought my large early 1900’s clawfoot table, lugged it up the stairs, and cluttered my apartment for one reason; entertaining. Every sunday that I wasn’t working, and some where I got off early enough to make it home and cook, I would have a brunch party. I would pull over every chair in the apartment, put the two leaves into the table, and invite 20 people over. Large platters filled the table and elegant serving ware went out. Champagne flutes spilled over with fresh squeezed orange juice and champagne. It was a celebration of food and friends and a time to appreciate one another. I’ve always carried on the steps and art of service into my own personal parties. I feel that the table should be full and have many options, and that each item should have its own service ware.

What I have learned now over the years is that you need to take the time to celebrate with food but it doesn’t have to take all day. Take help where you need it without sacrificing quality.

Today I wanted to create a small brunch for my partner and I to celebrate our Sunday together. I woke up about an hour before him and got to work. I also love brunch because you can always utilize things you have in the fridge and not break the bank. I created a frittata with yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, caramelized onions, baby arugula, and parmesan. Frittatas are the best of both worlds, so simple to produce yet appear and taste sophisticated. If I had the time I would make homemade pastries, but with my schedule I will from time to time just buy them ahead of time. Today I took some help and bought a par-baked item that is finished in the oven and glazed. Presented on a beautiful platter, hot out of the oven – no one will care if you took 5 hours to make them or 30 minutes to bake them off. Some crispy bacon, whole wheat english muffins, a quick cut of some fresh mango and strawberries, and the meal was together. Plated with matching white and silver dinner ware, with pops of color in spring time miss matched serving pieces. I served lattes and Pellegrino. All done within an hour.

Here’s how I did it. 

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Arugula, Caramelized onion and Pepper, Parmesan Frittata

Prep time: 8 minutes

Cook time 15-20 minutes

Preferred: Oven safe skillet – I love the Le Creuset Signature Fry Pan 

6 jumbo eggs

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons parmesan

pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Crack your eggs into a bowl. Beat your sour cream into the eggs until completely combined. Whisk in your milk, parmesan, and seasoning. Whisk until combined and light and fluffy. 

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Fillings

1 Red bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced

1 Orange bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced

1 Yellow bell pepper, seeds and pulp removed, finely diced

1 Large white onion, thinly sliced

1 glove garlic, minced

1 large beefsteak tomato, finely diced

1 cup baby arugula

2 tablespoons parmesan

  • Saute your sliced onion in 1 tablespoon of butter on medium heat until golden brown, and softened. 
  • Add your peppers and garlic, cook until peppers are soft.
  • Add your tomatoes and arugula. Turn heat off, still to combine.
  • Pour over your egg mixture. Top evenly with parmesan.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until egg is set and golden brown.

Serve either hot or warm depending on preference.

While your Frittata is baking, lay strips of bacon on a sheet pan in a flat even layer and bake until golden brown and crispy. About 10-12 minutes.

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While the bacon and frittata are baking, clean and prep some fresh fruit. I had some mangoes and fresh strawberries on hand so I washed and hulled the strawberries.

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Sliced them in half and peeled and diced the mango. I love the flavor combination and its perfect to serve with eggs and baked goods to break up some of the heaviness.

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If you choose to serve a par-baked good, follow the instructions listed and time it correctly to serve them warm.

Have your toaster and coffee machine/espresso machine next to each other and have them be the last things you make. Make one latte while the english muffins are toasting and alternate until done.

Have the table set ahead of time, all serving platters laid out to go, and you are ready to have a beautiful brunch for two.

I hope you take time to celebrate the ones around you, and there is no better way than an effortless Sunday brunch.

Thank you!

Cheers,

Sean Patrick Gallagher

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