Happy Easter! Celebrate spring with an apple-and-onion tart

Easter is a big deal where I grew up in the Midwest, at least in the circles my family traveled in. Sunday church service, where we sang "The Old Rugged Cross," Easter dresses and hats, pastel ties, egg hunts, and plastic grass were all part of the revelry. Perhaps the most memorable part of all of it was the enormous Easter brunch, in which ham was trotted out in almost every dish and sweet breads abounded.

webversion_apr09_easterbreakfast_42No matter what religious tradition you come from, most everyone feels a twitter of joy at the advent of spring, especially if you live in snow country. It's the season of fertility and abundance, hope, renewal, and growth. I'm experiencing a whole new level of excitement for the changing of the seasons this year as I work on my first garden. The more I contemplate the many meanings that spring and Easter have, the more apropos it seems that we celebrate this season together, sharing delicious food that reflects the bounty of the particular place we live in.

So it was to my great delight that I learned I was scheduled to cook Easter breakfast for all the students and interns here at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Even though I've mostly written here about the garden part of my internship, my title is actually "kitchen/garden intern" and I cook many of the meals along with the staff.

I have a slight penchant for going overboard, so I spent days trying to figure out a fabulous Easter breakfast that hinted enough at tradition to be comforting but offered a little twist on the familiar. I ended up picking two recipes.

webversion_apr09_easterbreakfast_41The first was called Kolacki (aka Bohemian Sweet Rolls), out of my favorite bread baking book, "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger. It's a traditional Czech bread stuffed with a fruit or cheese compote. But the piece de resistance was the second recipe, an apple and onion tart. I've been experimenting with this little gem for a while, trying to perfect it. I ordered it several times at the restaurant I blogged about in one of my first posts here and loved it so much I was determined to figure out how to make it. Here's what I've come up with so far. Sorry, but I mostly eyeballed amounts for the filling. This makes a large tart; halve the filling and crust ingredients if you will be feeding only four or five people.

Apple Onion Free Form Tart

Ingredients for the tart filling:

  • 6-8 small apples (I used Macintosh this time, but any apple you'd use for a pie will work)
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • small bit of kosher salt and pepper
  • sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces cold cream cheese
  • a bowl of ice water
  • butter to brush the crust

(Credit where it's due: the crust recipe is based on the crust for the Bacon and Goat Cheese Free-Form Tart in "Cooking with Shelburne Farms.")

Directions

  1. Make the crust. I used a heavy-duty food processor, which the Shelburne Farms cookbook also recommends. (Use a pastry blender or two knives if you don't have a food processor.) Mix dry ingredients first; cut the cream cheese into small pieces, add it to dry mixture, and process until it looks coarse. Add the butter and pulse. Add the ice water by tablespoonfuls until you can pinch the dough and it holds together.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a quick knead.
  3. Put dough in a bowl and cover it with a plate and refrigerate it (I do this instead of using plastic wrap) for about a half hour.
  4. Meanwhile, make the tart filling. Dice the onions and get them sauteeing in a generous amount of butter; stir occasionally until they get carmelized and brown. Dice the apples and put in a large bowl. When the onions are done, mix them with apples and add the spices.
  5. Prehead oven to 375. Roll out the dough on a large piece of parchment paper or on a floured surface. It should be a little thicker than a pie crust (at least, that's how I like it). It doesn't have to have neat edges. It will look big; that's ok.
  6. The tricky part: transferring it to the baking sheet. If you have rolled it out on parchment paper, this will be easy; you just need to lift it onto the sheet. webversion_apr09_easterbreakfast_43If you are like me and didn't have big enough parchment paper to roll it on, it will be a bit more interesting. Lightly flour the baking sheet. Using a spatula, loosen the dough from the surface in little bits, so that you can end up folding it toward the center from four sides. Then loosen the middle that it's all resting on and transfer it, where you can unfold it. A standard cooking book should have illustrations of what this looks like if my explanation doesn't do it for you.
  7. Dump the filling into the center of the crust. Put enough slices of cheddar on to cover up the filling. Take the edges of the dough and fold them in over the filling; they won't cover up the tart and that's how it's supposed to be. Brush crust with melted butter.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. The crust should be golden brown (and beautiful!).

Happy cooking and happy festivities, everyone. We'd love to hear about your favorite Easter or spring celebration meals.

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