Apples in a savory tart/pizza? Absolutely! One typical combo in a savory fruit tart is blue cheese and pear, but this is the Upper Midwest in October, and our friend Keith Kozub runs the world’s finest organic apple orchard: White Pine Orchard, near River Falls, Wisconsin. We went apple-picking with friends and ended up with what seemed like bushels of apples. This will be the first of many new apple recipes, and it was a chance to play with a better way to get a really thin crust for this kind of tart or pizza…Keith’s business card says “… growing free range apples for over 40 years.” They taste as good as they look; these are the Liberty variety, a firm and tart apple that works great in baked goods, and in this tart:
Here are Keith and some friends in front of the apple-shack at White Pine Orchard (W7901 830th Ave., River Falls, WI 54022, 715-425-2248; call first to be sure they have apples):
Inside the shack, Keith will offer you a sample of his fresh apple cider. My advice is to take it– you will eventually buy several half-gallons. The blend changes as the harvest proceeds and when we were there last week, the cider was the best I have ever tasted. It had complex flavors underneath the apple blend Keith was using, with notes of cherry and hints of other fruit in the apple’s spiciness:
So, to make the tart, bring home your apples, and preheat your oven to as high as it can go– at my house, that means 550 degrees F (288 Celsius). Let it heat up with a pizza stone in place near the bottom of the oven, for 30 minutes while you prepare the ingredients.
Now roll out a piece of dough (any lean dough you like; see our other pizza posts) to 1/8-inch thick, right on a pizza peel. We usually have you start with a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece of dough, and most people have been happy with that. You end up with something halfway between an eighth and a quarter-inch thick. But here’s a trick to more easily get to 1/8-inch thick, and the thin crispy crust some of you are looking for: Start with less dough, it’s just a little easier to get to 1/8-inch thickness. I had much less trouble getting a half-pound (orange-sized) piece of dough to 1/8-inch thickness than I usually do. The pizza’s smaller, but since you’re spreading the dough more, it’s not that much smaller. I ended up with a round that was about 12 inches across:
Dust well with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set aside. Meanwhile, crumble about a quarter cup of your favorite blue cheese. I’d love to be able to tell you that our publisher flies us to Europe to sample authentic blue cheeses at the source, but I got my Danish-style blue cheese at Costco. It was quite good and its savory flavor worked perfectly with the sweet-tart apples.
Peel and slice an apple last so it doesn’t get brown sitting around waiting (you’ll only need one apple if you cut it as thin as I’m suggesting below). Halve them, cut out the core, and peel, then lay them flat side down to make parallel slices (I’ve been using these Epicurean brand cutting boards lately, they seem to be as gentle on the knives as wood but they’re dishwasher-safe). You want to get your slices really thin, as thin as your knife allows, or they won’t bake through in the super-fast oven time at this temperature. Don’t cut non-parallel wedges, or they won’t bake uniformly:
I didn’t use lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown because I thought that the tartness wouldn’t do well with the savory cheese. Work quickly and you won’t need it.
Take the plastic off your dough round and be sure that the dough is still moving well on the pizza peel by jiggling it back and forth. If it’s not moving well, use a dough scraper to get some flour underneath it and test again for good movement.
Distribute the cheese over the rolled-out dough now. Use the cheese sparingly as in the picture (you may have crumbled more than you need); this kind of cheese becomes very runny at high temperature and if you use too much it will be a mess (plus it’s a strong flavor that I didn’t want overwhelming the apples):
Now add the apple slices:
Finish with the sweetness of ham: I used two small slices of uncured smoked ham, which beautifully complemented the sweetness of the apple. Cut the ham into pieces and distribute over the tart, and drizzle evenly with olive oil (about a tablespoon or so, easiest way to drizzle over pizzas is with a squeeze bottle):
Check once more for good movement on the pizza peel, and if there’s not, repeat the procedure with the dough scraper. Then quickly slide the tart onto the preheated pizza stone.
When rolled this thin, the tart was ready in exactly eight minutes at this temperature, so keep an eye on your lunch:
Speaking of which, my wife and I had a leisurely lunch today– this was a perfect match with some decent Sauvignon Blanc that was lying around the house (we left Keith’s apple juice for our kids this afternoon). Bon appetit, and happy apple season!
Our new book is going to be released on October 27, hope we see you in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Portland OR, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, or Boston, where we have events scheduled.
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