Washington is America's number one apple producing state, and the Apple Tart with Smoked Cheddar Custard celebrates the annual fall apple harvest. This recipes features another Northwest ingredient, the hazelnut.
Washington, America's Apple Basket-
In the fertile valleys and plateaus of America’s Pacific Northwest, growers tend orchards that produce the world’s best apples. More than 175,000 acres of apple orchards are nestled in the eastern foothills of the picturesque Cascade Mountains of Washington at elevations from 500 to 3,000 feet above sea level. The orchards are irrigated with plentiful and cool mountain water
Apples and Cheddar, the classic combination-
A wedge of cheddar served with a slice of apple pie isn't an American invention. The pairing of cheddar cheese with apple pie is trailed back to the 17th century and the county of Derbyshire in the East Midlands of England. When you think about it, cheddar is the perfect pairing to apples.
Apples give a clean, crisp, sweet, fruity flavor while the cheddar lends a creamy, rich, strong flavor. We've updated the classic apple pie recipe and turned it into a tart. We don't let the cheddar to stand as a wedge, but blend it into a rich custard that forms the blanket between the crust and the apples.
How to make shortbread pastry dough-
The base of our tart is a shortbread crust. Shortbread is the simplest pastry and pie crust to work with, a simple mixture of flour, butter and powdered sugar. Powdered sugar makes the shortbread tender and flaky. To add some texture and a bit of crunch, we toast hazelnuts to bring out their herbal, nutty flavor, and the scent of Autumn orchards.
We blend the toasted hazelnuts into the buttery shortbread crust. Combine the shortbread ingredients into a soft ball of dough, then flatten the dough ball and start pressing it into the tart shell pan. Use your fingers and the bottom of your hand to press the shortbread, making an even layer on the bottom and around the sides. You want about 1 ¼" thick shortbread crust. Use a paring knife to trim any excess shortbread from the edges of the tart shell and you're done. Cover and refrigerate any leftover shortbread to make cookies the next day.
The apples and the custard-
Custard, sometimes called creme patisserie, is a blend of sugar and egg yolks cooked with milk or cream. As the mixture cooks, it thickens, giving you a custard that's silky and smooth. We add another new ingredient to custard-smoked cheddar cheese. Smoked cheddar is not as strong as sharp cheddar cheese, meaning it won't overpower the flavor of the apples. The slight hint of smoke in the cheddar accents the flavors and aromas of fall cooking.
We use the Fuji apples in our recipe, but we never place a "you have to use this apple" demand on you. But we do recommend using an apple that bakes well and holds its shape. Some softer eating apples don't work as well, and a tart apple like the Granny Smith isn't sweet enough for us. You'll find a resource on apple varieties from the Washington Apple Commission.
One of the easiest ways to prep apples for pastry and pies is to use an apple peeler-corer. It makes quick work and you can set it to just core, core and peel, or core, peel and slice. For our apple tart, we sliced the apples thick then fanned them on top of the smoked cheddar custard.
Baking and Unmolding the Tart-
Once you bring the tart out of the oven, we have an easy tip for removing it from the tart pan. Put a small bowl on the counter. It should be about 4" high and smaller than the tart pan. Place the tart pan on top, and gently press down on the sides. The outer ring of the tart pan will dropdown.
Let the Apple Tart cool to room temperature, then slice and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. In our home, we like to chill the Apple Tart in the fridge so it has a firmer texture. One rule in Today's Home Kitchen.....have a slice of Apple Tart the next day for breakfast!
See our recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Tart with Candied Cranberries. A delicious pastry for your Thanksgiving table.
Apple Tart with Smoked Cheddar Custard, Toasted Hazelnut Shortbread
Today's Home Kitchen comes to you from the Washington State in the Pacific Northwest. Washington is America's number one apple producing state. Our Apple Tart with Smoked Cheddar Custard celebrates the annual fall apple harvest. And we feature another favorite Northwest ingredient, the hazelnut.
For the Smoked Cheddar Custard-
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1" piece vanilla bean, cut in half you can substitute pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup grated smoked cheddar cheese
Toasted Hazelnut Shortbread Crust-
- 1 cup whole hazelnuts
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 12 tbs. butter, melted
For the Apples-
- 2 large Fuji apples
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. apple jelly
- chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish
- whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Make the Smoked Cheddar Custard-
In a mixing bowl add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk to combine until the mixture turns a light yellow color. Add the flour and whisk to make a smooth mixture.
Pour the milk into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Use a ladle to spoon ½ cup of the warm milk into the bowl with the egg, sugar, and flour and whisk to combine. Then blend the flour mixture back into the saucepan with the milk. Cook the custard until it begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the grated smoked cheddar. Take the custard off the heat and pour it through a strainer into a container. Let the custard cool then cover and refrigerate to chill, about 4 hours.
Make the Toasted Hazelnut Shortbread Crust-
Heat the oven to 375. Place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast until just browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the hazelnuts and place them on a kitchen towel. Rub the towel over the hazelnuts, removing most of the skins. Put the hazelnuts in a mini-food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Reserve some of the toasted hazelnuts for garnishing the apple tart.
Heat the oven to 375. In a bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, melted butter and ½ cup of the toasted hazelnuts and mix together to create a soft dough. Using your fingers, pat the dough into the bottom of a 9" round non-stick tart pan with removable bottom. Use a paring knife to trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tart pan.
Slice the Apples and Bake the Tart-
Use an apple peeler/corer to peel and cut the apples into ¼" thick slices. Fill a bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Plunge the apples into the lemon juice to keep it from browning.
Ladle 1 cup of the chilled smoked cheddar custard into the tart shell. Cut each apple in half. Gently fan the apples on top of the custard.
Place the tart on a cookie rack over a baking sheet and bake 35-40 minutes until the apples and custard are golden. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool to room temperature. While the tart cools, heat the apple jelly in the microwave for 30 seconds. Brush the apple jelly over the top of the apples. Sprinkle some of the chopped hazelnuts over the top of the tart.
Cut the tart into slices and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.