Monday, April 14, 2008
Once I discovered the fuji apples at Ha's Snow Mountain Grown Apple Farms, I stopped buying any other kind of apple from any other vendor. They are that good. Always sweet and extra crunchy, these apples come in steady supply almost year-round. I particularly appreciate the great variety of sizes they always have on offer. Sometimes all I want is a teeny-tiny fuji -- I can get that there!
Even though you may not see any samples on offer, stop by, because Jenny and Kevin mete out generous chunks of freshly peeled apples to passersby. Though their prices are a bit steep -- not for the samples, of course -- ($2.25 for non-organic, $2.75 for organic), I think it's worth it. At no other stand or market have I found such dependably tasty, crunchy, and juicy apples. They also sell jars of homemade apple butter and bags of dried apple rings at the stand, which due to their price, I've never bought. Though the Ha's only offer apples at the Irvine market, apparently at the Sunday farmer's market in West Hollywood they have a much wider selection.
Initially, after bringing home my bushel of apples, I imagined baking a soft and homey apple cake; but after a bit more consideration, I decided fujis were simply too juicy for cake and opted for a tarte. Instead of going the usual Tarte Tatin route, though, I checked Epicurious to see if I could find some fabulous variation to make. Low and behold, I did! Here it is. What distinguishes this tarte from more traditional recipes, is that you essentially bake the apple slices in homemade caramel for an hour and a half in the oven before placing the (store-bought) puff pastry on top.
After the final 30 minutes it takes to cook the pastry to golden perfection, you absolutely must let the whole thing sit out and cool for several hours: they recommend three, I went for five. For the big reveal, I expected a soupy, sticky mess, and was thus so pleased to see it come out in one gorgeous piece. Look!
I served up each whopping piece with an equally healthy dollop (is there such a thing?) of creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness of the caramel. It was perfect and not a drop was left on anyone's dish. One friend, whose mother has baked apple pie almost every year for her birthday, proclaimed that she hoped to have this tarte instead at all future birthday celebrations.
Sorry Laura's mom!