I still remember the worst apple dessert I’ve ever eaten. It was an apple “cobbler” at the restaurant next door to my apartment, and it was truly hideous.
Roger and I were both surprised at how terrible this dessert was because the restaurant itself is decent — your typical burger/salad/sandwich joint, with surprisingly excellent dinner rolls and occasionally interesting soups. So we figured dessert was a safe bet. After all, who can mess up apple cobbler?
Well, apparently this restaurant can. Aside from the fact that they put strawberry ice cream on top (we’ll let that one go for now), the taste fell somewhere between “medicinal” and “metallic.” How they accomplished this feat, I do not know. But I do know that we have never — ever — ordered dessert there again, despite the fact that we go there a few times a month.
What’s funny is that you don’t have to do much to apples to make them taste good in desserts. Sure, a little brown butter here, a little spice there, but less is usually more. The more you throw into the pot, the more the apples start tasting like a pile of spicy goo, rather than something sweet and honey-like.
Historically, my favorite apple tarts have been those along the lines of the tarte tatin — the apples bare and exposed, not overtaken by the caramel flavor but melding with it — that is, until I made this Alsatian Apple Tart. Here, the apples are bathed in a mellow vanilla custard and encased in a sweet buttery crust. There are no spices, no competing flavors, just the tender apples, soft custard and crisp crust.
Oh, and did I mention it’s also a snap to make? You don’t even need to roll out the tart crust; you can just dump the raw dough right into the pan and press it up the sides (thank you, Dorie Greenspan). When a delicious apple dessert is this easy to make, one wonders why an entirely repellent one would show up anywhere. As long as a bad one never shows up in my kitchen, I guess I can’t complain!
I should also note that the so-called “Breakfast Series” will return soon — I just couldn’t resist posting this tart recipe.