You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Very Sad Day in Chefville

Hey guys,
All is not well these days in Chez Scolnic.
In the interest of having a good time cooking and having fun in the kitchen with my friend Elyse Roat. We attempted a usually simple and delightful recipe and ended up making it more difficult than necessary for ourselves. Elyse and I set out to make a caramel apple tart. Seems easy enough--right? WRONG.
Now that's not to say this recipe isn't a good one to use and one that can be very successful, it's just there were two mistakes that could have been easily avoided had we been a little bit more careful. In the interest of letting all of you--my favorite readers--succeed, I'll give you the recipe the correctED way, so that you don't make the same mistakes I did.
First-- The crust of the apple tart, or any good tart for that matter, should always be (in my opinion) a pate sucree. A deliciously crisp, sugar cookie-like crust, pate sucree is not only the best tasting but also the easiest tart crust to make and assemble. Ingredients are as follows:

2 C flour
.5 C sugar
5 Oz chilled unsalted butter, cut into pats about 1/2 oz thick.
1 full egg
2 egg YOLKS (beaten together)
1 TBSP Milk
A Pinch of Salt

While this recipe can be done by hand, or in a bowl, ideally, I always do it in a food processor. Combine all of your dries (flour, sugar, salt) in the processor. Add in the cut pats of butter and pulse the processor until combined. In a separate bowl, beat the egg along with the yolks and combine with the milk. Then, pour that mixture in with the dries and pules until moist. Finally, you can take your mixture out, and by hand (as shown below) press your crust into a tart pan by small increments.

Once you have your whole mixture pressed in, put the pate sucree in by itself to bake for 10-16 minutes (until JUST LIGHTLY golden brown) before even putting anything into it.

Next comes the filling. While the pate is in the oven, peel and slice 4-6 red delicious apples (amount varying on size). You want to cut them as thinly and uniformly as possible in order to ensure the most efficient and effective baking time possible. Try to cut each apple slice at about 1/8 an inch thick. When you're done slicing, put all of the apples in a bowl and coat them generously in cinnamon and nutmeg. Next--A PART THAT WAS FORGOTTEN IN MY TRIAL. Add in about a quarter cup of brown sugar to your apple mixture. If you don't have any sugar, your apples will end up overly dry when cooked. However, the sugar will melt into a nice sauce to keep everything moist and delicious instead of shriveled and gross. Notice how my apples are just a bit dry in the picture below (After cooking for 8-12 minutes).

The last part of the recipe was the hardest part--and the only part I can truly say Elyse and I really messed up--well it was really just me messing it up. Caramels are hard..and are pretty dangerous. Brushing the border between scalding sugar and burning it, it's never easy to decide when to transition with your caramel or stir it, or stop for that matter. However, I'll do my best to help you make the best caramel possible.

1 Cup of White Sugar
.5 Cup Water
6 TBSP of Salted Butter
.5 Cup heavy cream

The most important thing about making a caramel is having all of your ingredients ready to be put into the pot. Making caramel is a fast process and you won't have time to stop to measure anything out or top off any cups, all ingredients need to be ready to go or something will burn while you aren't looking.
First, combine the water and sugar in a tall sauce pan (2-3 qts in maximum holding value). Stir mixture continuously as the sugar water begins to boil and the water begins to evaporate. As the sugar mixture turns brown, stir in butter until it melts. Once the butter melts, take your pan off the heat immediately and say "O-N-E Mississippi." Right after that last i, whisk in the heavy cream. Odds are, your caramel may foam up, but keep whisking and it will eventually relax and start to look like a real caramel. *Disclaimer-- IT WONT LOOK LIKE OUR MESS-UPS BELOW. WE DID MANY THINGS WRONG. YOU MIGHT NEED TO TRY YOUR CARAMEL A FEW TIMES BEFORE YOU GET IT RIGHT! ITS ALL NATURAL.

Drizzle caramel over apple tart and let cool and harden.

You just made a caramel apple tart. WHADDUP!
Credits to--
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill for teaching me how to make the best Pate Sucree when I came to their cooking camp at age 10--I've never forgotten how!
New York Times Hipster Food Section--The bad caramel mishap came out of one of their recipes--this is a revised version, with more clear instructions as to ensure less room for error.


  1. Sucks about the Carmel, but it is REALLY hard to make... So, I think it looks great!

  2. nice write-up, the hipster caramel apple pie recipe came from the NY Times (not the Inky) and had precious little instructions with it because they didn't want people to steal their recipe...I still don't know what you did wrong, that it was sugary not caramel.... you need to try again so we can eat it! :)