When I was a child I eagerly waited for the fair to come to town. You know the kind–a travelling carnival that sets up every summer in the parking lots of suburban strip malls across North America. I liked going on the roller coaster and the Ferris wheel, and a ride called the Yo-Yo, which reminded me of the airplane rides adults gave you when you were little. Most of all, though, I loved the treats that are so ubiquitous to carnivals everywhere. Fluffy mounds of cotton candy, swirly lollipops the size of your head, and especially, caramel apples. I waited all year in anticipation of my first bite of the sweet, buttery flavor of the sticky and chewy caramel followed by a burst of tart and juicy apple goodness.
Until last Christmas, I hadn’t had a caramel apple in probably thirty years. One of my students brought me one as a little going away present. A sort of spin on the proverbial apple for the teacher. As much as I loved the uniqueness of this gift, it sat in my fridge for days. I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it. Eating it somehow seemed childish, like going to the corner store and bypassing the Lindt chocolate bars for the Fun Dip. But every time I opened the fridge door the caramel apple beckoned me. Before I knew it, I was chewing my way through the caramel bit by bit, into the sour Granny Smith apple underneath. I have to admit, the caramel apple was as good as I remembered.
As much as I love the combination, I’m not about to start buying myself caramel apples as a weekend treat. Instead, I came up with this simple tart that I can put together when the craving for caramel apples becomes too much.
You will need good baking apples for this one. Golden Delicious are a good choice. I used Gala’s the first time I made it and they were too juicy, creating a soggy mess. I use a mandoline to get really thin slices because puff pastry is more delicate than other tart crusts; I find thinly sliced apples a better combination texture-wise, but its not mandatory. The caramel will not cover the apples completely, but mixed with the juices of the apples while it bakes, it will create a nice sauce that’s not too sweet.
Caramel Apple Tart
1 10-inch sheet puff pastry
4 baking apples, peeled and cored, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1) Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until its large enough to fit a 9-inch tart pan with some overhang. Fit into tart pan and cut off the overhang with a knife.
2) Place apples slices side by side around the pan, all facing the same direction, as pictured above.
3) Melt 1/2 cup sugar with the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Add lemon juice, then salt.
4) Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until caramel is thick and deep brown in color.
5) Drizzle caramel over the apples. Finish by sprinkling the apples with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
6) Bake about 25 minutes, or until puff pastry and apples are golden brown. Cool and serve with ice cream or a dollop of whip cream.
It’s great served plain, too.