The people have spoken!
Your favorite fall ingredient is… drumroll please… apple! I wouldn’t be doing my job if I gave you just another hum-drum apple pie, I mean this is the age of social media and you need Instagram likes. So I present to you a Spiced Ricotta Apple Tart.
I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the results of the poll. I was preparing myself for all the pumpkin I was going to have to choke down, but apparently, you’re all as sick of the pumpkin spice hype as I am. Don’t get me wrong, pumpkin’s alright (except pumpkin pie, gross), and I will break it out once or twice a season to appease the masses, but I just don’t feel it’s the end-all-be-all of fall flavors that people make it out to be. I say this having just churned out two dozen pumpkin and cream cheese cupcakes for a party, but I digress.
This recipe was inspired by a particularly gorgeous-looking Nectarine and Spiced-Ricotta Tart by Alice Storey of Gourmet Traveller AU. When it came time for the Bucktown Apple Pie Festival, I decided I wanted to submit something a little different and a creamy ricotta based tart fit the bill. Unfortunately, the festival was canceled at the last second, but I decided to make the tart anyway.
I got a little over-zealous with the pictures this time. I’m not sorry.
Let’s talk about shortcrust pastry. Shortcrust is different than your standard pie crust. It contains an egg and extra sugar, and it will not puff up and get flaky. Instead, it will be sweet and crumbly, making it great for tarts and custard or cheese-based pies. The formation of the dough is actually quite simple, but it can be rather delicate. Due to how sticky this particular shortcrust is, it needs to be rolled out between two sheets of parchment paper. Which is a pain in the ass because parchment paper slides on countertops.
The trick is to form the dough into as flat a disk as possible in your hands before placing it between the papers, then start with slow but short and firm strokes until it’s flat enough that it doesn’t slide as much. It’s admittedly easier said than done. I also found that the sharp edges of the tart pan would cut through the dough before I was finished laying it over the pan, but nothing a little patchwork can’t fix.
As usual, my food processor was too small to fit all of the ingredients of the filling, so I had to mix it in batches. If you have to do this as well, stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl first before pouring into the food processor to make sure your batches come out the same. This is one instance that I would say don’t skip the food processor, as it really is paramount in order to smooth out the texture of the ricotta.
Not to brag or anything, but just look at it! With the aid of a few cookie cutters, you could get really creative here. If any of you decide to make an apple tree (get it!), please send me a picture. My big plans were thwarted when it was time to cook and I couldn’t find my leaf cookie cutter. I finished the tart with a drizzle of Maple syrup for color and shine.
This dessert is definitely different. If you’re one that can’t decide between the apple and the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, this tart is for you. It has all the go-to flavors of an apple pie to give you that comfort food glow, along with the creamy texture of a pumpkin pie. I honestly was surprised by the texture. Even more surprising is that I liked the texture because (see paragraph two) I hate pumpkin pie. For some reason, however, it works. So there you have it, the Thanksgiving pie middle ground.
This recipe came to about $7.75 for exact portions. The problem is that 450 grams of ricotta is just slightly more than your standard 15 oz container. So to get the portions right you will have to buy 2 containers, which for me were $3.39 each at my local Marianos. However, the second time I made it I only had one container and it turned out fine. Cost is one of the many reasons why I prefer pies and tarts over cakes. A simple pie can taste delicious and usually has very few ingredients. So unless you are making a huge pie made of very expensive fruit (like a blackberry cobbler), it won’t clean out your pockets too much.
From start to finish, including bake time and prepping, and cooling, this took me about three hours. Very little of this was hands-on time though, as the crust needs to be chilled before being rolled, and again after putting it in the pan. This makes it a good recipe if you are cooking other foods at the same time. The actual prepping of the ricotta and apples was very quick and can be done while the crust bakes and cools. You can also prepare the crust the night before, up to the first chill time, or in the pan.
So without further adieu, here is the recipe:
Spiced Ricotta and Apple Tart
- Food Processor
For The Shortcrust
- 115 grams Unsalted Butter- Softened or 1/2 cup
- 75 grams Granulated Sugar or 1/3 cup
- 1 Egg Yolk
- ¼ tsp Vanilla Extract
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 75 grams All-Purpose Flour- Sifted or ½ cup plus 1½ tbs
For the Spiced Ricotta Filling
- 450 grams Whole Milk Ricotta or 16oz
- ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ground Ginger
- ⅛ tsp Ground Cloves
- ¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 Egg
- 40 grams Granulated Sugar or 3 tbs
For The Apples
- 2 Medium Apples I used Granny Smith
- ¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
- ¼ cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- Maple Syrup for brushing optional
- To make the shortcrust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using an electric mixer) combine butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt, and mix until just combined. Add the flour and mix until a crumbly dough forms. Form dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Once chilled, unwrap pastry and place between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Roll out to 1/8" thickness. Remove top piece of parchment, flip over onto a 12" tart pan with removable bottom. Carefully peel off remaining parchment (you can put the paper aside to reuse for blind baking if not too doughy). Press the dough into the edges of the pan, trim the excess and use the trimmings to patch any open areas or cracks. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until a light golden color, about 15 minutes. Remove paper and pie weights, then bake again about 5 minutes until bottom is firm and dry. Cool completely before filling.
- While crust cools, prepare the ricotta filling. Place all filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend for 1-2 minutes until very smooth. Pour into the cooled tart shell and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. If you are blending in batches, thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large bowl before blending.
- For the Apples: Peel 1 apple, cut in quarters, and remove the core. Slice long ways into quarter-inch slices. For the second apple, slice whole apple into quarter-inch slices lengthwise. Punch out heart-shaped pieces with the cookie cutter, avoiding the core.
- Combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir until well mixed and there are no lumps in the brown sugar. Toss the apples in the sugar mixture to coat. Gently place apples on top of ricotta mixture in decorative design.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until ricotta is firm, slightly golden, and no longer sticks to your finger when touched. Drizzle lightly with maple syrup if desired. Best served at room temperature.
If you’re interested in more apple recipes, check out my famous Bacon Apple Pie!
I love to hear what you think (especially if you try it)! Happy Baking!