New England Apple Tart

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So I did it, I put cheese in an apple tart. If you believe this to be a revolting combination, a stain on the culinary world, an affront to nature, then come back next week for less controversial offerings. If I’ve piqued your curiosity (or better yet, your appetite), read on.

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Maybe you’re not at all fazed by the notion. I have to admit that, whilst I knew that somewhere in a dark corner of this universe people put actual slices of cheese onto their apple pie, I think I preferred to stay blissfully ignorant of the matter. No one I knew ever committed this act; We were firmly an à la mode family.

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However, the whole point of this project of mine is to step out of my comfort zone, which would mean meeting this New England tradition somewhere in the middle (I think for me that would be Pennsylvania, so I’ll have to ignore the dutch version altogether for now).

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The tradition of eating cheese with apple pie (whether in the filling, baked into the crust, or, most cruelly, eating a hunk alongside each bite) originates in the New England region and probably further back to, you guessed it, England. The English eat all kinds of pies, sweet and savory alike, so it was only a matter of time before the two married into what some consider to be a perfect union and others believe to be totally gross.

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Well, it’s not that gross. I actually really enjoyed it. The key for me was strategizing the right approach. For starters, I opted for a tart rather than a full-blown pie because I just knew that I would want ice cream with said pie and I don’t like to set myself up for failure like that. But a tart is different, therefore it can taste different (I told myself). Secondly, white cheddar blends into the crust in a nearly imperceptible fashion, meaning I could trick others into believing it was a regular old apple tart. And when, after deluding my prey, I informed them that there was cheese tucked into the crust, no one was even slightly bothered. I’m telling you, there’s really something to this whole thing. Some have even literally waxed poetic about it:

No Flippant, sugared notion/

Shall my appetite appease,/

Or bate my soul’s devotion/

To apple-pie and cheese!

-Eugene Field

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While I wouldn’t quite call it my soul’s devotion, I definitely wouldn’t mind having seconds.

New England Apple Tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, grated
  • 1/2 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 egg + cinnamon/sugar for crust

For the Filling:

  • 4 large apples (I used McIntosh and Johnathan)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Use a cheese grater to grate butter and cheddar into a medium bowl. Add in flour, sugar, and salt. Use your hands to toss mixture to combine everything and then add the cold water. Keep mixing with your hands (use just the tips of your fingers so that the warmth of your hands does not melt the butter) until the mix comes together in a ball. Wrap ball in plastic wrap and flatten into a small disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel apples and cut into uniform 1/4 inch slices. Place in a large bowl with flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Toss with your hands until the mixture evenly coats apples. Add in butter and vinegar and toss once again to combine. Leave to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Begin to roll out, starting from the center and working outwards, turning frequently, until the dough is roughly 10 inches in diameter. Working about 1-1/2 inches from the edge of the dough, start laying down the apples so that they are slightly overlapping. Continue, forming concentric circles until you reach the middle. Neatly fill in the middle with a row or two of more apples. Disperse the cubes of butter still in the bowl on top of the apples. Fold up outside 1-1/2 inch of dough onto the outer circle of apples. Brush the perimeter of the tart with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes, until crust is golden brown and fragrant. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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