11.26.2014

little black book: the apple blossom tart

So a week or two ago, some apples, cream cheese, butter, and sugared spices were hit unapologetically by my creative energy bolts and the result was fantastic. 
It all began over a year ago with this image I discovered in my Pinterest feed. It had no link. Which is really stupid. Because why do people do this, anyway? I searched frantically for quite some time, but to no avail. There was no recipe to be found anywhere.

It resurfaced the day of a Christmas charity auction, and I was super duper psyched to figure out how to make that epic apple dessert that looked like a soft, juicy bed of roses in a tart shell.

With the little girls miraculously playing happily together all afternoon, the Apple Blossom Tart was born. I owe it all to them, really.
The iconic "I did it!" photo which followed received several inquiries, and so I decided to blog it, together with the recipe I concocted for it. Take that, you empty pin from the past! This one will be pinned. This one will be loved.

On to the recipe!

APPLE BLOSSOM TART

For the pastry:
-1 1/4 cups flour
-3T sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-10T cold butter
-1 1/2 T cold water
-1 egg yolk

For the filling:
-1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 egg

For the apple rose blossoms:
-4 medium, firm apples
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup light brown sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp each allspice & ground cloves

-vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce for serving
To give credit where it is due, the recipe for the pastry was discovered in my Williams-Sonoma Cooking At Home cookbook (Rich Tart Pastry, pg 449). And it really is better for this than your typical pie crust... I think it might be the flakiest bunch of loveliness I've ever created. And it wasn't at all hard to work with! The recipe for the salted caramel sauce was discovered here. The filling is my creation, and those roses... were a surprisingly quick development based on that beautiful photo that was lingering in the back of my mind for so long.

SO. Let's begin.

To prepare the pastry, begin by mixing all dry ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using two knives or a pastry blender, and continue cutting until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. If you need to use your hands toward the end you may do so, but do your best not to let the butter get too warm. (Cold butter contributes to that oh-so-desirable flaky crust you're aiming for.) Add the egg yolk and cold water, and mix with your hand just until the dough comes together in a ball; do not knead or overmix it. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it chill in the fridge about 30-60 minutes.
To prepare the filling, place all ingredients in an electric mixer and mix until smooth and beautiful looking. Unless you're like me, and it's naptime at your house. Then you can mix it by hand. But only if the cream cheese is as soft as can be, or you will be left with lumps. (Which may or may not be worse than waking sleepy babes- the jury is still out on that one.) Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. Taste it. You won't get salmonella. I promise. Mmmmmmm! It's already delicious.
Okay, so now that those first two parts are ready, you'll want to roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface, and gently lay it across the top of your favorite tart pan. Gently press the pastry down so that it touches the bottom and lines the walls of the pan. Using your rolling pin, roll across the top rim of the pan to neatly cut off the excess dough.
Pour filling onto tart pastry and spread evenly with a spatula.

Alright. Now sit back and enjoy a refreshing beverage and a moment of peace and quiet before you get started on those flowers. Cause it can take a little while, my friends.

K, are we rested now? Good. Let's get to it!

Mix sugars and spices in a small mixing bowl. Keep it handy.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off one of the apples. Then keep peeling. And peeling. And peeling. Try to peel the apples into long, continuous strips (think Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. Maybe try it in the middle of the night when you can't sleep and instead end up staying awake listening to hopeless romantic single men on the radio.) I haven't personally tried out that last part, but if you find it aids in successful extra-long apple peeling performance, then let me know. 
Run the apple strips through the cinnamon sugar mixture so they are lightly coated. Carefully roll from one end to the next to form the center- or bud, as we'll call them- of each flower. I found that they were easier to peel in long strips at the beginning of the apple; once I got down closer to the core I got shorter pieces (I have many theories behind this, but I'll spare you). So you'll want to create the buds first, and push them into the filling so that they stand vertically.

Use the photos below to plan the placement of your blossoms. And don't worry too much about perfect spacing. It'll be beautiful and delicious no matter what!

After you have the bud of each flower created and placed, continue to build them up by adding more cinnamon-sugar coated apple strips around the sides to create additional petals. When the flowers begin to touch, fill in the triangle-shaped gaps between them with smaller flower buds.

Yay! You've finished the hard part! If you've stuck with me through all those flowers, then well done.

Photograph your creation, cause dang it! You worked hard for this beauty!

Place your incredible edible work of art tart in an oven preheated to 375 degrees, and bake 30-35 minutes.
 Remove sides of tart pan, slice, and serve.

We like it best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with homemade salted caramel sauce.
Mmmmm... so delicious!

11.24.2014

this year's Christmas tree hunt

Among the traditions we've begun in our little family, is an expedition out to the mountains with a permit to cut down a tree for Christmas.

After getting the girls all fed and bundled up, and loading up the truck in preparation for every emergency possible... we made a few stops... and 2.5 hours later were onto our destination. Haha. It always amazes me how much longer things take with kiddos.

And we considered turning back a couple of times, cause it was pouring rain. Pouring COLD rain. No toddler thinks freezing your tushie off in the rain to get a Christmas tree is a good idea. In my experience, most adults don't either.

But Husband reminded me that it would likely turn into snow when we got into the mountains, and I was persuaded to continue, and it was fabulously beautiful with those soft fat snowflakes that are perfect for snowballs falling around everywhere. 
 Simply enchanting winter wonderland!
 As I strapped Liberty into the baby carrier, I was reminded of how tiny she was last year, snuggled up in her Moby wrap, sleeping through the whole thing at just three weeks old.

The reminiscing didn't last long.. I was interrupted by her screaming sister, who insisted that she just could not walk in the snow. There she is having the grandest of times watching Daddy cut down our tree.
 It was a little nippy out there, too.

I'm not into the whole lumbersexual trend, but watching Husband hack down a tree and then lug it across a field of sagebrush in at least a foot of snow... is pretty awesome. He is awesome. My life is awesome. 

And our tree would be a whole lot more awesome had we chosen the right kind.. i.e. the kind with soft needles.

Oops.

And.. ouch!
 Husband then loaded the tree into the truck while the girls had some snacks. When I look at the above photo, I'm amazed at how beautiful and how much more grown up Verity looks. And how freaky-homely-buck-toothed Liberty looks (is that really my child?). Lesson learned: learn the art of taking selfies.

In my mind, the hot chocolate mustache was a heck of a lot cuter.
 I wish the snow had followed us home but it didn't.
All the decorations we own have gone up as well as some new ones, and I'm still feeling like the amount of decor just hasn't matched my excitement for Christmas yet. 

The addition of our Advent calendar might do it... so excited for that! But if time and funding played no part in the equation, every inch our house would be decked out in green garlands with white lights, bows, bells, and snow-inspired everything. Everywhere. 

I'm so thankful Husband is as much a Christmas Kook as I am.

11.19.2014

how did I forget to blog this...?!

 Halloween this year was epic. It was everything that photo says it was.

Although moments after I shot this, Liberty tried to get down the 3 cement steps and wasn't quite aware of her penguinhood in the process. 

She fell. 

Leave it to Libby.
 Penguin snuggles with daddy.

Followed not 5 minutes later by an attempt to ride her sister's trike...
And she fell again. Classic Libby.

I came across this tutorial on Pinterest for Libby's costume, and just had to try it out. Pinterest success! She was the perfect penguin. If awards had been given that night, Libby's performance would have stolen the Oscar for Best Actress. Hands down.

Her perfect little new-on-my-feet waddle was absolutely priceless in penguin form.
 Verity's costume was inspired by a few finds on the internet, but nothing I found was just right. Those of you who follow along on facebook or instagram got to see the initial design for this right out of my sketchbook. It came together wonderfully. I sort of impressed myself on this one.

And while all those feathers and different parts to the costume were a little time consuming, it was so worth it to see her flap those beautiful wings!
 The girls wore their costumes this first day, when I finished all the sewing and they frolicked on the front lawn in them awhile. Then again at 2 trunk-or-treats at church, as well as the actual trick-or-treating event. Which for us lasted about 45 minutes with cousins Liam and Asher before kids got tired and we all turned in for the night.
Vera and Liam didn't coordinate their costumes this year, but Kenna and I sure had a blast designing and sewing them. Remember these two from last year?
 After they all stopped taking entries, I discovered all sorts of photo contests for kids costumes. Bummer. That top one sure had some potential, am I right?

Maybe next year.

Next year... I'm already looking forward to it!