Short Stories and a Shortbread Crust

I love baking any day, but Saturday afternoons are my favorite time to spend in the kitchen. That’s because I get to listen to Selected Shorts while I work. The Saturday I made this tart was no exception, as I listened to “Enough” by Alice McDermott and “Just a Little More” by V.S. Pritchett, both stories about food and life.

I have to admit I am not a short story reader (although I am looking forward to reading Olive Kitterage for my book club this month), so Selected Shorts has pretty much been my main exposure to this genre since I graduated from college. The show is recorded here in New York City at Symphony Space, but occasionally goes on the road as well. Not all of the stories at the live performances make it to the radio program, so it feels pretty special to be there. Not to mention seeing some pretty amazing folks reading – famous names like Signoury Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Leonard Nimoy, Steven Colbert, and John Lithgow, just to name a few. We saw Ann Patchett when we went to hear the show commemorating the stories of Eudora Welty. Pretty cool.

Oh, yeah. Here’s what I was baking –

Apple Crumb Tarts

This recipe from Epicurious has a wonderful shortbread crust that I’m hoping to find additional use for in the future. It is also yet another use for the wonderful homemade breadcrumbs I’ve been making lately. My kids have declared this dessert my “best ever”.

I thought one of the comments on the epicurious website was intriguing – to add a layer of apricot jam under the apples to prevent the bottom of the crust from getting soggy. Maybe I will try that next time, though have to say the simplicity of the flavors in this tart is very appealing, and I don’t know that I’d want to muddy things with another strong flavor like apricot.

The original recipe from Epicurious is for two tarts, enough for 20 people. I was afraid to cut the pie crust recipe in half, so I made the whole thing and used the leftover dough to make some little bar cookies that I pressed and cut out.

Shortbread Crust (enough for two tarts)

This recipe makes two 9-inch tart crusts – You can cut it in half if you want. Let me know how it turns out if you do.

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse till it starts to form a ball. Take the dough out and press it onto a greased 9 inch tart pan. Bake at 350 degrees till light brown (about 20 mins). Remove and cool.

Filling (for one tart)

2 large Granny Smith and 2 large Macintosh apples
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cups + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup homemade fine dry bread crumbs (make them this way, but don’t add the olive oil)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Peel, quarter, and core apples. Cut quarters crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and toss with flour, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter.

Assemble Tart

Add apple mixture to tart pan, arranging prettily and overlapping slices in circles. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over tarts and sprinkle remaining 2 tbsp sugar over crumbs.

Bake tarts in middle of oven until apples are tender and crumbs are golden brown, about 1 hour.

3 Responses to Short Stories and a Shortbread Crust

  1. Here's one I've has success with… I didn't use their shortbread though, used my grandma's as always (which I'd be happy to send you privately).

    http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2009/07/coconut_lime_bars_with_hazelnut_shortbread_crust

    The first time I made it followed the topping recipe exactly, and got compliments. The second time I dropped the sugar in the topping to 1.75c and upped the lime zest by half again – and got raves.

    BTW – I would cook the topping maybe 5 minutes shorter, and then 5 minutes longer once the coconut is on so that it sticks better as well as toasts nicely.

    Cheers!

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