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At uni for the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to live with two friends from my course – we all study Food Science & Nutrition. I assumed, going into this course, that all the other people I’d be studying with would be as interested in cooking as I am, but it’s become abundantly clear this is not the case, haha. Fortunately, my mates are definitely on the same level of interest as me, so we’ve made some pretty epic meals together. We are also OBSESSED with cooking TV shows.
Their favourite is Chopped because it’s the most ridiculously dramatic cooking show. Although I do find that show hilarious, I prefer the uhh.. traditional-style cooking shows, like re-runs of Nigella. My absolute fave though is Ina Garten – I’ve been watching ‘Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics’ on Food Network recently where she cooks up an array of simple, accessible recipes. It’s one of the most beautifully filmed shows and her recipes are so good – especially in this series because it’s all about easy recipes which are my priority at uni, really. A cool fact I didn’t realise until talking to someone the other day is that Ina Garten actually used to work at the White House before building her own majorly successful food company (including a food emporium, cookbooks, TV shows and magazine columns) – such an inspiration.
Inspiring women like Ina are part of why it feels so great to work in the ‘Food World’ as a female – I am incredibly lucky that I’ve found a job in an industry filled with supportive, entrepreneurial women who all help each other out whilst running successful businesses. As we all know, being a woman isn’t always the *easiest* thing but I think we’re moving in a positive direction. Apparently 77% believe there’s no limit to what they can achieve1 – a sentiment I agree with myself!
I’ve been thinking about this French Apple Tart ever since I saw Ina make it – I’m usually not a tart kind of person because lining a pastry tin is not my idea of fun, but this recipe is SO simple, there’s no faffing around. You roll out a flaky pastry into a rectangle, top with sliced apples and sugar and bake. Now, Ina brushes the apples with a apricot jam glaze (a trick my mum always uses too) but I opted for a tahini caramel instead – drizzled over the tart whilst still warm. It’s a little bit nutty and isn’t too sweet but if you’re daunted by caramel making you can always stick with the jam if you want!
For the pastry:
- 2 cups (240g) plain white (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup (165g) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- up to 1/2 cup (125ml) ice water
For the caramel:
- 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp (30g) unstalted butter
- generous pinch salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean powder
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 4 tbsp milk
For the top:
- 3 to 4 Bramley apples, peeled and cored
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
Make the pastry:
- Place the flour, salt, sugar and butter into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to cut the butter in – you want a mealy mixture with a few pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. Drizzle in the water (start with 4 tablespoons) and pulse in, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if needed. The mixture should be moist enough so that if you squeeze some together, it’ll stick.
- Tip the pastry mixture out onto a piece of cling film. Pat together with your hands into a rectangle then wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile make the caramel:
- Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan (silver/white ones a best so you can see the colour change). Place over a medium heat on the stove and stir just until the sugar dissolves then stop stirring. Let the mixture cook, tilting and swirling the pan, until it has reached an even, golden colour.
- Turn the heat all the way down, add in the butter, salt and vanilla. Let that butter melt a bit before picking the spoon back up and mixing it in. Once smooth, add the tahini and milk and stir through until smooth. Take off the heat and set aside.
Rolling and baking:
- Once the pastry has rested, preheat the oven to 200oC (400oF).
- Cut the apples in half and then slice into half-moons about ¼-inch (5mm) thick.
- Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a large baking tray. Unwrap the pastry, place onto the baking paper and dust with flour. Roll the pastry out into a rectangle slightly smaller than the piece of baking paper. Trim the edges so they are straight then transfer the pastry (on the baking paper) onto the baking tray.
- Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes until the tart is dark golden around the edges and the apples have coloured slightly. Drizzle with the caramel (you may need to re-warm it over a low heat on the stove to get it drizzle-able again) then allow to cool before slicing and serving.
- if you want to speed this recipe up, you can use a block of puff pastry or shortcrust pastry in place of making your own.
Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics airs Tuesday-Thursday 6-7am on Food Network UK
1 – research statistics provided by Food Network UK