The Kingfield Farmer’s Market apple bake-off was this past Sunday, and I almost didn’t do it. Last year, my natural entry was apple pie, and I am really happy how that turned out. This year though, I wasn’t sure about entering because I wasn’t sure what to make. All I knew as of two weeks ago was that I definitely didn’t want to do apple pie again. Something about growth and change and taking risks in life. But that meant I need another inspiring apple recipe.
After research, I found three potentially exciting apple recipes for apple sage cake, huguenot torte, and apple onion tarts and tested each of them. The apple sage cake was heavy on baking soda which made it seem salty and more like a soda bread than a sweet cake but was good with whipped cream. The recipe would need some work and glaze or frosting or something to make it really special. Sage is a hard herb to pair with sweet flavors, but it had potential. The huguenot torte was delicious. I made it with apple pieces and toasted pecans and served it with whipped cream. I wanted to make it for the bake-off but I wasn’t sure about its mass appeal and the torte really needed the whipped cream to make it a standout. I will definitely make it again and probably add twice as much apples and pecans, possibly try it gluten-free (so much potential!), but the logistics of serving it at the market without whipped cream deterred me.
So that left the apple onion tarts. The Mojo Monster and Pretty Boy were taste testing them with me and all of us really liked the tarts. But the original recipe was mostly onion with a more biscuit-like crust. I wanted a crunchier crust and more apple flavor. Three iterations later, I substantially increased the apple flavor, added more cheese, and changed the crust recipe to be closer to my pie crust and therefore crispier. And I was excited about it and entered the bake-off.
I am always so impressed by the diverse range of entries the bake-offs draw. In the apple bake-off this year there was: apple crisp with goat cheese, apple strudel with bourbon caramel sauce, maple bacon apple crisp, sea salt caramel apple cookies, apple lemon ginger pie, a traditional apple crisp, apple muffins, and my savory apple onion tarts. How exciting! My tarts won the people’s vote category and the traditional apple crisp was the critic’s choice, though I heard mine was a close second with the comment that it didn’t have enough apple flavor. I really liked the apple lemon ginger pie and thought the apple strudel was pretty good as well.
And so here it is, my savory apple onion tart recipe (makes 3 7″-tarts):
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 stick butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
scant 1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup ice water
To make the crust, combine the dry ingredients and rosemary. Cut in the butter and cheese (use knives, a pastry blender, or 3 pulses in a food processor). Add the yoke and combine (another 3 pulses in a food processor). Add the water and form mostly damp crumbs (pour the water into the processor while its running in a slow stream so it gets distributed but not so slow that you over work the dough – shoot for 10 seconds). Press the crumbs together to form a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Cut the dough into three pieces and roll each out into an 8 in round.
4 medium tart and crispy apple, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thick
2 medium yellow onions, halved then sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
apple slices for decorating
1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over med-high to high heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add apples and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apples and onions should release some moisture but after 10 minutes enough moisture will have cooked off that they start getting brown edges. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 25-30 minutes stirring once or twice until completely tender. Let cool. Puree about 2/3 of the apple-onion mixture and reserve the rest.
2. Assemble the tarts by placing 2 tablespoons of puree in the center of a round of crust. Spread the puree around leaving a 1 inch border of crust. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese over the puree. Top with 1 tablespoon of reserved apple-onion mixture, and sprinkle with a teaspoon of cheese decoratively. Crimp the crust over on itself and decorate with an apple slice.
3. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
A note on the cheese: in one of my iterations, I tried adding some Parmesan cheese in the filling with the Manchego. It wasn’t bad, but the Parmesan flavor totally out-shown all of the other flavors, even the onion, and was just too predominant. Manchego is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that is firm in texture and stout in flavor but not overpowering for this recipe.