With autumn upon us, one of my absolute favorite desserts (and one of the first pastries to get me baking) is a good old fashioned apple pie. I had a spare rosemary graham cracker crust from my recent Mascarpone Fig Tart, so I decided to see where these two ideas would take me, and a very delicious creation was the result: a Caramelized Apple and Cinnamon Cream Tart
I’ll admit, I’d had my fingers crossed with each step of this one, hoping that it would all come together, and boy did it ever deliver. The flavor was just like a comfort food orgasm. Its kind of like apple pie meets ice cream meets cheesecake. The cream filling began with a fantastically flavored cinnamon creme anglaise which was then worked into a whipped cream cheese/whipped cream filling. The top layer: quartered apples, cooked in caramel until tender. All together, you have the sweet, spiced, rosemary flavor of the graham cracker crust, the smooth, seductive, full-flavored cinnamon cream filling, the darkness of caramel, and the sweet, juicy apples on top–this is a very sexy fall dessert.
The only down-side to this dessert as I made it: just like when I made the blueberry rhubarb cream tart a few months back, this would best be made in single-serve portions (e.g. tartlets, ramekins, etc) rather than a large tart. The cream filling is a bit looser than I would like when it comes to making clean, well-formed slices, so this pretty dessert will look messy at serving time. Ah well, lesson learned, because flavor-wise, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I am also including this in two deliciously like-minded dessert events: Sweet Pies hosted by Ivy at Kopiaste and Sugar High Fridays (the theme this round is “spices”) hosted by PastryGirl.
- 1 Graham cracker crust, but with slight modifications:
- leaves from 2-3 rosemary sprigs
- reduce the cinnamon to ~1/4 tsp
- Cinnamon Cream Filling
- Cinnamon Creme Anglaise
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 7 cinnamon sticks
- 5 egg yolks
- 1.33 cups heavy cream
- 3 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ground cinnamon
- Cinnamon Creme Anglaise
- 5 apples (I love Gala apples, but any baking-friendly apple will do)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
The first thing you’ll need to do is make the graham cracker crust, but with some slight modifications. Finely dice the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and add them in when you would have added the cinnamon in the original recipe. Also, use a smaller dash of cinnamon so as not to overpower the rosemary.
Prebake your crust blind at 325°F for 18 minutes and set it aside to cool while you work on the rest of the tart.
Some time during the down time involved with making the crust, you should get started on the creme anglaise. In a saucepan, add the milk, sugar, salt, and crushed cinnamon sticks (not ground cinnamon–you get a surprisingly different flavor this way. I just took the sticks, put them in a plastic bag, smashed them a few times with a hammer, and dumped them in). Scald (don’t boil) the milk, stir things up so the sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom, and then turn off the heat. Let this sit and infuse with cinnamonny goodness for an hour or so.
Once the milk has finished infusing, pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl (to remove all of the cinnamon pieces) and then back into the saucepan. Take that bowl you just used and put it in an ice bath and set the strainer up on top. If this sounds like you’re making ice cream, well, yes, its pretty much the same process.
Warm the milk back up on medium heat. While that warms, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until lightened in color. Then, temper the yolks with a good scoop of the hot milk, and then transfer the yolk mixture into the saucepan of hot milk. Keep cooking this on medium heat, stirring and scraping constantly for about 5 or so minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, taking care not to scramble the eggs.
Once done, pour this through the strainer (to catch any scrambled bits) into the bowl in the ice bath. After a few minutes of letting your mixture cool down, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few hours so it can thoroughly chill.
And now, yet another thing to do now so you can set it aside for later: make some whipped cream. This is pretty easy: in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar on high speed until firm peaks form. Transfer this to a bowl and set it aside in the fridge.
Now, about 30-60 minutes before you intend to finally make the cream filling, set the cream cheese on your countertop so that it can come to room temperature. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until nicely fluffed and creamy, at which point, you should beat in the sugar.
Then, go get the cinnamon custard from the fridge. Slowly pour it into the cream cheese mix and beat this until well mixed. Take a taste. It shouldn’t be screamingly cinnamonny, but it still ought to have that distinct cinnamon taste, just a bit more seductive than the abrasive touch we’re all used to from ground cinnamon. If you’d prefer the cinnamon flavor to be more forward, sprinkle in a dash of ground cinnamon at this point.
At this point, things might be looking a little bit sloshy. To thicken it up, we’ll use the whipped cream you made earlier. Mix in about a quarter of the whipped cream to lighten things up a bit, and then, carefully and gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Don’t overwork things or you’ll beat all the air and fluff out of the whipped cream.
With the filling ready, you can pour it into the pre-baked pie crust. Smooth it out to your liking and set this aside in the fridge for a few hours to firm up a bit more–it really needs to.
The end is near…kind of. Gather your apples, and working quickly, peel them, cut into quarters (not small wedges), and slice out the core.
In a pan, melt the butter on medium high heat. Once it stops foaming, mix in the sugar. Stir periodically, and soon enough, it should become caramel. Once it has, carefully place the apple quarters into the caramel (don’t get spattered and burned!), core side up. Continue to cook the apples on medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically so things don’t stick and burn.
Once time is up, cover the pan, drop the heat to low, and let this sit for another 15 minutes, after which, you should remove this from the heat. Let the apple/caramel mixture return to room temperature before you arrange them on the tart. I simply arranged them in circles on top of the tart, core side down, and drizzled the extra caramel on top. Either set this back in the fridge or serve immediately. Either way, enjoy!