A dessert fit for your Eagle County dinner party
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s Note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Unusual, pretty, and lush … this Apple Cream Cheese Tart is NOT a variation of your mother’s eat-at-the-kitchen-table apple pie. On the contrary, its overall impression is one of elegance and sophistication; this is a dinner party dessert.
It is best described as a thin layer of cheesecake complemented by soft slices of apple held together by a tender crust. The apples spend some time in a marinade that bestows a subtle complexity of tastes and keeps the fruit from drying out while baking. The glaze, though optional, adds even more flavor and gives the slices a shine and depth of color that, in my opinion, significantly enhances the dessert’s visual appeal.
Several crusts work well with the apples and cream cheese. I used a sweet tart dough for the crust in the photograph, but you could also pair the filling with a walnut or pecan crust or even a crumb crust made from graham crackers or shortbread.
The tart, if covered and refrigerated, can be made up to a day before serving. It can be presented at room temperature or chilled. I think it’s at its best just slightly cool while my husband prefers it right out of the refrigerator. You’ll have to decide your favorite way to serve it.
Make in a 9 inch tart or pie pan
A pre-baked and cooled tart or pie crust
1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 scant (slightly less than) teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 Golden Delicious apples
12 ounces of cream cheese, regular or low fat (not no-fat), at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 1/2 large eggs (To measure half an egg: Whisk one large egg to combine the yolk and the white. Two tablespoons of this combination equals half an egg.)
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Make the apple topping: Combine the Grand Marnier or Cointreau, the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir to mix well. Core, peel and slice the apples vertically into crescents about one-eighth of an inch thick. Keep them thin or they won’t be cooked through when the rest of the tart is done. Toss the apple slices in the marinade in the bowl, coating them well. Set the bowl aside for at least thirty minutes so that the apples can absorb the marinade, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position.
Cut the cream cheese into pieces and combine it with the granulated sugar in either a food processor or a bowl. Process or beat with an electric mixer just until they are combined and smooth. Don’t overbeat or the cream cheese will thin out. Add the one and a half eggs and vanilla and process or mix again just until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Scrape the cream cheese mixture into the prebaked tart or pie crust, smoothing and leveling it so it comes about one-fourth to one- half inch below the top of the crust. You may not need all of the filling if you’re using a pie pan; they hold less than most nine inch tart pans. Arrange the marinated apple slices prettily over the cream cheese filling. Pour about two-thirds of the liquid marinade evenly over the apples.
Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drips that may occur. Bake just until the apple slices are soft and the cream cheese filling is set in the center. The time will vary depending on your pan, but start checking at 35 minutes. To determine if the filling is set, gently shake the pan, the middle should move, but just barely. Remove the tart from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. If using the optional glaze, warm the apricot jam, stir in the liqueur, add more if necessary to create a thin glaze, and lightly brush over the warm apples. You may have some glaze left over. Let the tart cool completely.
If made a day ahead of serving, refrigerate the cooled tart, tented with aluminum foil to provide a cover without disturbing the apple topping. If you baked the dessert in a tart pan with a removable bottom, carefully take the tart out of the pan and place it on a serving plate. Cut it with a thin, sharp knife, cleaning it after each slice.
This recipe is inspired by one in Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook.
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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