116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As summer gives way to autumn, two signature fruits are in season, apples and grapes, and I love using them for desserts.
Table grapes are abundant all year long. Homegrown (and more flavorful) grape varieties are challenging to find here. You pretty much have to know someone.
A few autumns ago, I visited a close friend in Wisconsin at her family home on the Wisconsin River. We first met as co-workers in Michigan and remained close after I moved to Iowa and she returned home to Wisconsin.
When I arrived, she informed me the neighbors had gone away giving her full permission to harvest their Concord grapes out back. It was a beautiful arbor at a just-right height, and fully laden with dark, purple fruit. We gathered pounds and pounds until we could only drag our heavy containers.
The fragrance of those grapes brought back memories from our time in the grape-growing region of southwest Michigan. Along certain highways and back roads at harvest time, you need only breathe deep to inhale a heady, deeply grape perfume. It was pure Concord at its grapiest best.
My friend and I shared the same objective for our grape bounty and it had to do with Deborah Madison’s Concord Grape Tart, a recipe we began making in Michigan. If you love homemade grape jelly on a piece of toast, imagine this tart as about 10 times better and more intense.
As I mentioned, it’s hard to find Concord grapes unless you grow your own or you have connections. I’m lucky to have an Iowa friend who shares a few pounds of Concords with me.
Apples are much easier to find than Concord grapes.
I always look forward to making apple desserts, whether it’s cakes or pies. One of my favorites is a simple tart with a French style slightly sweet crust. Layered between the crust and the apples is a layer of frangipane, also known as almond cream. It’s a mixture of ground nuts, butter, egg and sugar. As it bakes, the frangipane rises to nestle around the fruit.
With that tart as a loose inspiration, I aimed for a more rustic, nutty crust, so I substituted dark rye instead of regular all-purpose flour. Almonds gave way to hazelnuts, both in the crust and the frangipane filling.
For all its nutty, toothsome personality, the whole effect is a lightly sweet dessert that also works well at breakfast with a cup of coffee. In lieu of apples, plums would taste really good with this crust.
Whether intensely grape or rustic apple, both tarts are of the moment, a final gift from summer as autumn descends.
1/3 cup sugar
Generous 1/2 cup hazelnuts
3/4 stick unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cup dark rye flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 or 6 large apples, peeled, cored and quartered, then thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the dough:
Place sugar and hazelnuts in a food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are ground to similar consistency as the sugar. Add salt, vanilla and butter and pulse until combined. Add egg and pulse for a few seconds. Add rye flour and pulse until it comes together. Remove the dough and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic and rest in the refrigerator for a couple hours.
When ready to use, roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and place into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Alternatively, you can press bits of dough directly into tart pan. Whatever method you use, take care not to stretch the dough. I like to form a thicker side wall on the crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To make the hazelnut cream:
Place hazelnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are ground to similar consistency as the sugar. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Remove to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the apple filling:
Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Place apples in the pan and sprinkle with sugar. Gently saute the apples, stirring carefully for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn heat to low and cover with a lid. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes or until apples are tender but still hold their shape. Add vanilla extract. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Put tart shell on a baking sheet.
Spoon the hazelnut cream evenly on the bottom of the tart shell. Add baked apples by either carefully placing the slices in an overlapping pattern, or spoon them in randomly and even out the surface.
Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes or until the hazelnut frangipane is puffed and the apples are lightly browned. Cool on a rack, then remove from pan and serve when barely warm or at room temperature.
Source: Lisa Williams
Only Concord grapes will work for this recipe. Supermarket table grapes simply don’t have enough flavor and they are so juicy the filling will not set.
2 1/2 pounds purple or white Concord grapes, washed
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or minute tapioca
Grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 9-in pre-baked tart shell
Squeeze the grapes with your fingers, putting the insides into a saucepan and the skins into a bowl. Bring the skinned grapes to a boil and cook until they turn soft, about 5 minutes.
Pass them through a food mill to separate the seeds, working the pulp right into the bowl with the skins. Stir in the sugar, flour, lemon zest and juice. Simmer for 10 minutes, then taste and add more sugar if needed. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrape the filling into the pre-baked tart shell. Set on a sheet pan and bake until the filling is set, about 35 minutes. Let cool.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment or a food processor, blend the flour, salt and sugar, then work in the butter until coarse crumbs are formed. Add the vanilla with just enough water for the dough to come together, then shape into a disk. Slip it into a plastic bag and chill for 15 minutes.
Roll the dough into a 10-inch circle and drape it over a 9-inch tart pan with removable rim. Work the edges with your fingers so that the dough stands about ½ inch above the rim and is about ¼ inch thick. Price the boom with a form in 6 or 7 places, then freeze for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Save any scraps.
Place the frozen tart shell on a sheet pan and bake until it’s lightly colored, about 25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes and prick any swollen pockets of dough with the tip of a knife. When the tart comes out of the oven, mend any holes by carefully pressing in small pieces of the reserved scraps.
Source: Local Flavors by Deborah Madison