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caramel apple tart with cinnamon ice cream

i know this looks like a fall or winter dessert, but after the cold, rainy weekend we just had here, we’re not making any excuses for cooking up tons of apples in brown sugar and cinnamon. besides, sunday was pi day, and the culinary calendar demanded that we make a pie of some kind. the ice cream was just a bonus. now with that out of the way, i’m going to make a bold statement: this apple tart may be the greatest thing i’ve ever baked.

it’s a dessert you’ll dream about, waiting impatiently to bake a new one before devouring it in mere hours. a bite of the tart combined with a spoonful of the ice cream…there were literally no words exchanged while we ate.

there’s not much the girl and i don’t have in the kitchen since we moved in together, but when i received a few gift certificates, i got myself a shiny new tart pan. bon appétit magazine has probably 2 tart recipes per issue, so i didn’t have to look far for inspiration. although the recipe may look a bit daunting, it’s actually pretty simple when you get down to it, which is what makes it so delicious in the first place.

take 2 lbs granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced…

…and cook down with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. you could stop right here and just eat, but i promise it gets even better.

there is a quick caramel sauce that we almost considered omitting in fear that the tart would be sweet enough without it, but we were so glad we kept it in – not only does it give a great base to which the apples can adhere, it also bubbles over during baking, adding extra (duh) gooey caramelization to the crust.

so once you have your apples piled in the tart, just top with a simple crumb mixture (not pictured here) made of butter, brown sugar and flour (and nuts if you like). you end up with a beautiful golden crispy crust.

and let’s not forget about the ice cream. it only takes a few hours to make, but it’s best if you do it ahead of time and serve it with the tart hot from the oven. if you have guests over, the smell will drive them crazy until it’s time to eat. but just wait until they actually take a bite. i’m not saying this tart will make you some new best friends for life, but it can’t hurt.

caramel apple tart
makes 1 9-inch tart and 1 1/2 quarts ice cream. from bon appétit magazine. UPDATE: i originally wrote that the crust called for 1 cup butter.  it should be 1/2 cup butter. it has been corrected below.

crust
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour

caramel sauce
2/3 c sugar
1/4 c water
1/4 c heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp sea salt

filling
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
2 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp whiskey (optional)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

crumb topping
6 Tbsp flour
6 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c pecans, toasted (optional)
3 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

cinnamon ice cream
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 c whole milk
3/4 c sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp dark rum (optional)
1tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. make the crust: beat the butter in a medium bowl until smooth. add sugar, egg yolk and salt; beat until blended. add flour and beat just until dough begins to clump together. gather dough into ball and flatten into a disk. press into bottom and up sides of 9 inch tart pan. pierce crust all over with fork. freeze crust for 30 minutes. preheat the oven to 375F. bake crust until golden brown and baked through, about 30 minutes. cool crusts in pan on wire rack. can be made 1 day ahead – store airtight in pans at room temperature.

2. make the caramel sauce: combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan. stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, occasionally brushing down pan sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization, and swirling pan, about 6 minutes. remove pan from heat. add cream, then butter and salt. the mixture will bubble. stir vigorously until smooth. can be made 1 day ahead – cover and chill. to rewarm, place on medium-low heat until just pourable.

3. make the filling: whisk brown sugar and cornstarch in a bowl to blend. melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. add apple pieces and saute until almost tender, about 10 minutes. add brown sugar mixture; stir until sugar dissolves, then add vanilla, whiskey (optional) and cinnamon. simmer until juices are bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. remove from heat and cool completely.

4. make the crumb topping: blend flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor. add pecans (optional) and blend until coarsely chopped. add butter and process just until small moist clumps form. can be made 1 day ahead – cover and chill.

5. assemble the tart: preheat the oven to 375F. place the tart crust on a baking sheet (in case filling bubbles over during baking). pour caramel sauce on crust and spread to cover. spoon the apple filling down over the caramel sauce and top with the crumb topping. bake until apple filling is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. cool 5 minutes, then carefully loosen crust from sides of pan with a small sharp knife and remove the pan sides. cool 10 minutes more before cutting and serving.

6. make the ice cream: whisk egg yolks to blend in medium metal bowl. pour 1 cup cream into another medium bowl; set fine strainer over bowl with cream. whisk milk, sugar, pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup cream in heavy medium saucepan; bring to simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg yolks. return mixture to same saucepan and stir constantly over medium-low heat until custard thickens slightly and instant-read thermometer reads 160F-170F, about 5 minutes.

7. pour custard through strainer set on bowl over cream. whisk mixture to blend; mix in whiskey (optional), vanilla and cinnamon. chill custard until cold, about 2 hours.  process custard in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. transfer ice cream to container; cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.