Apple & Walnut Tartlets with Sage Crust

Apple & Walnut Tartlets with Sage Crust
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apple walnut tartlets
A few tartlets make for a nice lunch.

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.

Apple & Walnut Tartlets with Sage Crust

Apple & Walnut Tartlets with Sage Crust

Ingredients

    For the crust
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 2 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 Tbs heavy cream
  • For the filling
  • 3 oz fresh goat cheese
  • 4 Tbs crème fraîche, homemade sour cream, or heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 medium apple, diced to 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Abbreviated Instructions

For the crust

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add butter and work in with your fingers until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix in egg. Mix in just enough cream so the dough comes together.

Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour.

For the filling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 6-hole muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, mix together cheese, dairy, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until smooth. Stir in apples and walnuts.

Roll out dough to the thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a glass or cookie cutter, cut six rounds, re-rolling scraps as needed. Place circles in muffin tin.

Distribute filling among the six cups.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until set and top is a golden brown.

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Ingredient discussion:

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:

dry ingredients
There’s the sage that will help give the crust some flavor.

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.

adding  butter
We like to slice off thin “pats” of butter, as they cut into the flour more quickly.

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.

adding egg
One egg adds just about the right amount of liquid to make up a dough.

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…

adding cream
But you still might need a touch of cream to get all the flour incorporated.

… 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.

wrapped dough
It’s always easier to handle dough after it’s chillaxed in the fridge. The gluten relaxes and the butter chills for a stiffer dough.

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.

making filling
We just use the same bowl that we used for the dough; the small amount of dough left won’t hurt anything.

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.

adding apples and walnuts
We just added a couple of small handfuls of walnuts; we think that’s about 1/4 of a cup.

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.

lining muffin tin
No need to be perfect about lining the cups. No one will see them once they’re filled and baked.

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.

filling muffin tin
We split all the dough among the six cups. It looks like a lot, but it works.

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).

baked tartlets
Once tartlets have browned a bit and filling is set, you can take them out for serving.

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.

Worth the trouble?

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