Early fall is prime apple-picking season here in southern California, so yesterday Jeremy & I headed back over to Oak Glen to enjoy the scenic apple orchards and tasty foods that come along with them. I didn’t eat breakfast because I was planning on having a hearty lunch at my favorite colonial-themed restaurant, and Jeremy had a light one to tide him over. This was a poor choice. When we got there after an hour and a half of driving, the restaurant was closed. Taking it in stride, we continued down the road planning to eat at one of the many other orchards. What we didn’t realize was that it is pumpkin-picking season, and all the apple orchards grow pumpkins as well, and that since it was the first weekend of October, everyone and their mother headed into what I thought was my quaint little country hideaway and turned it into a crowded, traffic-jammed, pumpkin-filled nightmare. Cars were back up into the narrow street, the lines for food were insanely long and slow-moving, and parking was near-impossible. There we were, stuck in traffic while starving with the smell of fresh food and apples everywhere, and near ready to kill each other (tip: if you want to see the evil twin version of me, just make me skip breakfast and taunt me with food smells 4 hours later. Pure unadulterated rage. You’d think I’d have learned from the last time I skipped breakfast, but no.) So, after driving back and forth along the 3 mile strip several times, we stopped at the least-crowded Sno-Line Apple Orchard. There we got a tri tip sandwich, unfiltered apple cider, and wandered the apple orchards to unwind from our hunger-induced ordeal before heading back to the city. I was very relieved to have my camera with me; taking photographs has always been a very soothing experience, and the beautiful scenery certainly helped, as did Jeremy’s calming thought process (also,chugging 8 ounces of apple cider).
After returning home, I decided to put some of my apples to use in this delicious tart. It’s made up of peeled dry apples boiled in a toffee sauce, covered in sheets of filo dough brushed with a mixture of vanilla and butter and then baked in the oven. It was my favorite thing I’d baked in months, and I promptly ate half of it in 3 hours by myself. Jeremy was out of town and I contemplated eating it all and not sharing, but I couldn’t let the food-Gollum within myself win so I set aside a couple pieces to share. I might be a tad partial to it due to my Greek affinity with syrups, fruit, and buttered filo dough, but when Jeremy got back from his business trip a few days later he was as obsessed with its remnants as I was, so you don’t need to be part Greek to find it delicious.
Toffee Apple Tart Tartin with Vanilla Filo Crust
- 1 Roll of Filo Dough thawed
- 2 and 1/2 Apples use more if you're using a skillet or dutch oven larger than 7" diameter and 3" deep
- 1/2 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Solid Butter plus 3 Tablespoons Melted Butter
- 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- Pinch of Cloves
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and core the apples then cut them into quarters. Set aside. Unroll the filo dough and place the cast iron skillet or dutch oven you will be using upside down on the center of the dough. Use a sharp knife to trace the edge of the skillet and cute through the layers of filo dough. Discard the cut off bits of filo dough, remove the skillet from the filo cough circle, and place a clean towel that has been misted (do not get the towel wet or damp, just one or two mists of water with a spray bottle) with water over the circle of filo dough. Set aside.
- Melt the 1/4 cup solid butter in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture starts to turn a light gold color, whisking every minute or so. Remove it from heat and place the apples in the pan, rounded-side down, in a concentric circle starting at the outer edge and working your way to the middle of the pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon and cloves over the apples. Place the pan back over the heat and allow the apples to cook until the toffee sauce turns a deep caramel color.
- While the apples are cooking, prepare the filo. Whisk together the melted butter and vanilla extract. Place one sheet of the filo dough circle on a piece of parchment or wax paper and lightly brush it with the vanilla butter mixture. Continue layering and brushing the filo dough into a neat stack of filo circles. Filo is fragile so try to be quick but gentle, it helps if you try to layer the dough with opposing grains (if you look at a sheet of filo you will see fine lines which is the direction of the grain) so they won't be able to tear as easily. Once you've brushed and stacked all the filo dough, the apples should be ready.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, place the filo dough stack on top of the apples and tuck it in around the edges with a blunt knife. Then poke 5 slits in the center to allow air to escape. Place the skillet in the oven and place a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack underneath it to catch any toffee-y drippings that come off the sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the filo is a deep golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, place a heat-proof serving plate on top of the skillet face side-down, and flip. Now the plate is resting on your counter surface. When you lift the skillet the apples of the tart tartin should be looking up at you, well seated on the filo crust which is resting on the heat proof plate. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
*Note* I made this Apple Tart Tartin in a cast iron skillet measuring about 7.5 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, if you are using a much larger skillet or dutch oven you might want to double the recipe, or just use more apples.