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It’s crazy to me that the holidays are upon us! I have started receiving all the holiday catalogs from stores, and I am determined to finish Christmas shopping early this year. I stopped by the Holiday shops at the Winter Village at Bryant Park and have come away with some fabulous gift ideas.

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Holiday shops on the way to the rink

Holiday shops on the way to the rink

Bag made of aluminum can tabs!

Bag made of aluminum can tabs!

Star Wars figures made of motorcycle parts

This is also made of motorcycle parts, but this big bad boy will cost you $12,000!

But before we go to Christmas, it’s Thanksgiving! I am invited to the same Thanksgiving party this year where I am known to contribute some awesome desserts. I usually buy them from my foolproof, local go-to bakery, Two Little Red Hens, that’s known for their rich cupcakes like Brooklyn Blackout

Cake version of the Brooklyn Blackout cupcake.

Cake version of the Brooklyn Blackout cupcake, with some scones in the background.

and Red Velvet, and other standouts like Chocolate Cream Pie and their beautifully decorated birthday cakes.

This is a pre-made cake that they personalize for you.

This is a pre-made cake that they personalize for you.

This year however, I am thinking of making something to bring instead of buying. I was nibbling on sweet apples almost every single day from my apple picking trip earlier this month when inspiration hit. I still had these delicious apples, and I wanted to try my new mandoline from Sur La Table that my sister had given me as a birthday present.

WP_001786I found an easy-yet-fancy-looking French Apple Tart recipe from my trusty Ina Garten cookbook called Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Single Ingredients (this was a Christmas present too). She has never, and I mean EVER, let me down.

I adapted it according to what I had on hand and personal taste. I did not peel the apples since my Red Delicious and IDA apples are usually not recommended for baking, so I figured leaving the peels on would sort of keep them together just in case they fell apart while baking. I also had not had great luck in making any sort of dough in the past so I used store-bought frozen puff pastry, which was also suggested as an alternative in the cookbook. I did not have any apricot preserves on hand, and I preferred the taste of caramel with apples so I chose to make a caramel glaze instead. The result was a flaky and buttery creation with less starch than apple pie, yet highlighted the sweetness of the apples and looked fancier and more complicated than it actually was to make. I am now thinking of other fruit alternatives to try, like combining peach and mango maybe, since it was so easy, and definitely cheaper than any dessert I can buy. Give it a try!

French Apple Tart

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted

4 large apples, cored and sliced in half moons (I used a combination of Red Delicious and IDA)

1/4 cup of sugar (increase to ½ cup if using Granny Smith or more tart types of apples)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small-diced

Caramel Glaze:

2 tablespoons butter

1/8 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Roll out the puff pastry to about 10½ x 10½ inches and place on prepared baking sheet.

3. Cut apples in half through the stem, remove the stem and cores with a sharp knife. Use the mandoline to slice into ¼-inch thick slices, or slice manually.

Perfectly sliced apples. Thanks mandoline!

Perfectly sliced apples. Thanks mandoline!

4. Starting from one corner, position apples diagonally down the middle of the tart, adding rows and making sure they are tightly packed since the apples shrink while baking. Leave about a ¼ inch space of puff pastry on all sides if you like tasting more pastry with your apples. I left out the ends of the apples so the scalloped pattern looks more even and prettier.WP_001796

5. Sprinkle with sugar and stud with butter.WP_001804

6. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate once during cooking. If the juices burn on the pan, do not worry, the tart will still be fine.

7. When the tart is done, start making the caramel glaze. Put the butter, cream, and sugar into a small saucepan. You can also add some cinnamon or vanilla extract if desired. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until melted and smooth. Brush the apples and the pastry completely with the glaze.WP_001813

8. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Let it cool. If the pastry is not browned to your liking, you can cook under the broiler until desired brownness, rotating once.

9. Serve warm or at room temperature. I love it by itself, or you can serve with some vanilla ice cream.

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