Apple Torte with Breadcrumb-Hazelnut Crust

Monday, November 22, 2010

This recipe comes courtesy of Lida Bastianich, a food goddess and Italian Cuisine Maven. Although ethnically she's Croatian, her family moved to Italy when she was young and there she fell in love with the food and the culture. She's now an expert on Italian cuisine, bringing together the historic rustic with refined skill. And I love her recipes.

This one for apple torte featured in Bon Appetit magazine's October issue is a wonderful dessert for the season, and a perfect dessert for a holiday meal like Thanksgiving or even Christmas. It's a little labor-intensive, but the work is sure to pay off. And if you're serving a more rustic meal and want to go out of the traditional American box, this is a perfect dessert for you!

Apple Torte with Breadcrumb-Hazelnut Crust
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup hard apple cider or dry white wine
8 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless Italian or French bread (finely ground in food processor)
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked
10 Tbsp sugar, divided
3 tsp finely grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter cut into 1-inchpieces
powdered sugar for garnish
whipped cream for garnish

Special Equipment: 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom

To make the apple filling, arrange the apples in an even layer in a heavy skillet. Sprinkle the apples with the 1/3 cup of sugar, and pour the apple cider over it. Cover and cook over medium heat until apples are tender, turning the apples over occasionally about 8-10 minutes. Uncover, then continue to cook the apples until the juices evaporate about 10 more minutes. You want to turn the apples over a couple of times so they don't burn. Remove from heat and let apples cool completely in the skillet.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the breadcrumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until dried and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Cool.

Gind the hazelnuts in a nut grinder or food processor until finely ground. Add 3 cups of the toasted breadcrumbs mixture and 6 tablespoons of the sugar and process a few seconds to combine. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar, lemon peel, and salt to the mixture and stir with a fork to combine. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter. Stir over medium heat until milk is warmed through and butter melts. Pour the milk-butter mixture right over the breadcrumb mixture. Stir with a fork until moistened -- the dough will be very sticky. Let the dough rest in the bowl until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 1 cup of the dough to a floured work surface. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Press out to a 9-inch round and wrap it in plastic wraps. Chill at least 1 hour for the top of the crust.

Transfer the remaining dough to the work surface, flatten it, and press or roll it out into a 9-inch diameter to fit the bottom of your tart pan. Transfer to the tart pan and using your fingers, push the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You want the dough to come up about 1/2 inch above the sides -- you're going to fold over this extra dough on top of the top dough when you're done so make sure to give yourself enough overhang to do this! Once your dough is nice and fitted in, cover it with plastic wrap and chill it for an hour so the tart can keep its shape when baking.

Now it's time to fill and cook the tart.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Fill the pie crust with the apple mixture. Place the top crust you previously rolled out right on top of the apples, then fold that 1/2 inch overhang over the top crust and press it together to seal it. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect -- this is called "rustic" and imperfections can be covered with powdered sugar later. You do want to make sure the crusts meat so that the apples filling can stay inside and not ooze out during baking though.

Bake in oven for about an hour, or until the crust is deep golden and crust begins to pull away from the tart pan. Don't worry if the top crust starts to crack; this is normal. Let the tart cool completely in the pan at least 2 hours before removing. Carefully remove the sides of the tart (the bottom will remain or you can very carefully remove the bottom as you slide it off an onto your serving dish) and transfer to a serving platter or cake stand. Dush liberally with the powdered sugar right before serving, and top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

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