As we’ve mentioned in the past, besides produce, we also get fresh goat cheese in our CSA shares. For some reason or another, we hadn’t been using it up right away. That’s not really a problem, since we put the cheese logs in the freezer as soon as we get home. But, the other week, we realized that we’d have three cheese logs in the freezer. We needed to use some.
This coincided with our recent apple-picking adventure, where we picked up two flats of “organic” apples (over 15 pounds) for just $0.90/lb. I put the word organic in quotes, because, as you may know, that word has been co-opted by big agriculture and the government. One is no longer allowed to say he or she grows organic produce unless the certification is on file. It doesn’t matter that the grower subscribes to all the rules regarding organic; the term still can’t used without a cert. So, when we pick our apples, we know they aren’t certified, but that’s okay. We deal directly with the grower, so we can ask what he or she does, and then decide if that’s reasonable to us.
Whoops, went off on a tangent there, since we had only intended to say that we have a crisper drawer of apples — we see apple pie in our future — that we need to use, along with the cheese. That’s how the idea of apple and walnut tartlets came about; the sage crust was an afterthought. Whenever we make these, they’re based on the original Goat Cheese Tartlets. If you look back, you will indeed see that they are quite similar.
Makes 6 tartlets.
When we thought about making these, we were planning to use a Granny Smith apple; it’s tart, but a great apple for baking. So, we thought that we’d try to play a bit off the tartness by using some homemade sour cream in the filling. After all, fresh goat cheese already has a slight tartness, so the sour cream might go well. Now, we wouldn’t use the store-bought sour cream — too sour — it would overpower the other flavors, so our second choice would be crème fraîche, and the third, plain heavy cream. As far as the other ingredients, use happy hen eggs (from pastured hens), and unsalted butter. We also get our cheese from a semi-local small dairy with happy goats. If possible, see if you can find a local herder. Might as well support your neighbor.
Procedure in detail:
Mix dry ingredients. Measure out the dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and give them a stir or two. You can use a spoon, a whisk, or as we did, our hands.
Cut in butter. We find it easiest to cut in the butter when it’s in thin slices. Then we just stick our fingers in and rub the flour into the butter. Do this quickly so the butter doesn’t heat up much from your fingers. Keep rubbing until most of the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Add egg. Make a well right in the center, crack the egg, and stir it in. The egg might provide enough liquid for the dough to come together, but, if not…
… Add cream. The amount depends on how moist the dough is now, so add a bit of cream, stir it in, and, if the dough came together, fine. Otherwise, add a bit more cream, and repeat. You don’t want to add too much, or the dough will be sticky (trust us, we know), but not so little that you still have flour that hasn’t been incorporated.
Chill. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease (or spritz with baking spray) a six-hole muffin tin.
Make filling. Mix together the cheese, sour cream, egg, salt, pepper, and the pinch of nutmeg. While mixing, mash the cheese so that you end up with a nice smooth batter. It should only take a minute. As a tip, we just use the same bowl that we used for the crust — no need to even wash it in between.
Add apples and nuts. Now, stir in the apple pieces and the walnuts, resulting in a lumpy batter. Set aside.
Roll out dough. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. If your dough is sticky, you can dust with flour or place between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Cut dough. We used the top of a glass to cut out circles about 3 inches in diameter. You can do that too, or, if you have a cookie cutter about the right size, use that. Basically, just use whatever will work. Once cut, place the dough into your prepared muffin tins and press it into place. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come all the way to the top of the cup. Ours never does, and we think the tartlets are better for it.
Fill cups. Divide that lumpy apple-cheese-cream-nut batter among the six cups. It will more than fill them, but should be thick enough that it won’t really spread (it doesn’t spread in the oven, either, so don’t worry when it looks as if the cups are holding twice what they should).
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until filling is set and browning.
Serve immediately. The tartlets should just pop right out of the pan with the gentle application of a fork.
This is a nice riff on the other standbys for goat cheese tartlets that we’ve done in the past. We liked having the tart and sweet apples and walnuts in the filling; we actually find that many savory dishes are improved by adding fruit, but almost no one thinks of it, and, when they do, it really makes for a nice dish. There is just something about that little bit of sweetness to accent everything else in the dish. You bite in and you think, “Wait, is this apple in here? Yes, and it’s good!”, making you want to try other dishes with fruit. (We know from experience that apples and pears go really well on grilled cheese, for example.) Four stars.