Simple Apple Tart

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Yum! It’s summer and warm again!

This apple tart is really easy to make and can be in any shape or form you’d like it to be in. I ended up making a long oval-ish apple tart because I had a few too many apples compared to my tart crust, but in the original recipe photos, it’s a cuter circle shape. If you’re craving anything with apple and cinnamon and sugar, this is a very fast, quick option.

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The crust is buttery and flakey

Since I’m a student, cost is always an issue with any new recipes I try, and I’m happy to say that this dessert is very cheap! I used two little apples and I already had the baking essentials (flour, sugar, salt, etc.) in my pantry.

Recipe (original from Taste of Home)

Crust
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
6-1/2 teaspoons cold water
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling
1-1/2 cups chopped peeled tart apples (I didn’t peel mine)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Topping
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, warmed (I didn’t include this)

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Apples + Cinnamon + Sugar = Winning combination!

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water and vanilla, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10-in. circle. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Combine the filling ingredients; spoon over pastry to within 2 in. of edges. Fold up edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over filling.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Drizzle with caramel topping (optional). Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings (my boyfriend and I usually finish it off between the two of us in one sitting though…)

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Banana Bread

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This banana bread recipe should have been the first recipe on this blog. I like to think of it as my “signature” recipe, if it’s at all appropriate for a complete novice cook/baker to have a “signature” recipe. I’ve made it dozens of times and brought it to many potlucks and dinners with good feedback. It’s easy, quick, and the perfect way to take care of those 3-4 bananas that are looking a little bit too brown for plain eating. You can add chocolate chips (I almost always do), a drizzle of Nutella, or nuts. Or keep it plain, and it’ll still be delicious.

I found this recipe online my 2nd year of college; it’s from the famous Flour Bakery in Boston, MA. I’ve never been to the actual bakery before, but I’d love to one day. Their motto is “Make Life Sweeter… Eat Dessert First!” which, as a serious, non-recovering sugar addict, I agree with completely. The owner, Joanne Chang, also wrote a cookbook (which is where this recipe originally came from, I believe–I found the recipe on Food Network’s website).

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I moved to New York about a month ago, and I’ve already made this banana bread 4 times. I think it was the first thing I baked in my new apartment, actually. It’s perfectly moist, super banana-y, perfect with a bit of chocolate (if you like), and it never gets old.

Banana Bread (from Flour Bakery via Food Network)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional:
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Chocolate Chips
Nutella
Or nothing!

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. I know it says 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, but I’ve always interpreted that very, very liberally. I just dump in a ton of cinnamon until it looks good. I love cinnamon.

In a separate (larger) bowl, mix together the sugar, 2 eggs, oil, and the mashed-up bananas. It can be nice to recruit a minion to help you mash the bananas, be that a roommate, a boyfriend, etc. etc. They will be enjoying the fruits of your labor so get them to help a bit. Add in the 2 tbsp of sour cream (I have substituted heavy cream, yogurt, greek yogurt, milk, or soy milk for the sour cream in the past with fine results). Add some vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl and stir until combined. At this point, you can add in any of the extras you might like. I usually go with about 1 cup of chocolate chips. I’ve never tried putting nuts in, but the original recipe does call for nuts. I’ve also drizzled in Nutella which was heartily appreciated by everyone. Leaving it plain is also just as good.

[Edit: I realize I never included the baking temp and time when I first posted this! Whoops.] Bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. It’s done when you insert a knife and it comes out clean.

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Last of all, I know this post was a long time coming. I haven’t stopped cooking or baking (maybe I bake a bit less) since starting medical school in New York, but I definitely have much less time to take photos and write about the results. I’ve also just been making a lot of plainer, quicker stuff–rice with kale, simple pasta, lots of salads, quinoa with veggies, etc. Not very exciting stuff to blog about.

What IS exciting: my boyfriend made a video of the banana-bread-making process! See below on YouTube:

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb was one of those things that always confused me at the grocery store. I never had it growing up, and when I started shopping and cooking for myself, I had a hard time reconciling this vegetable that looked like red celery with the sweet, tart rhubarb pies I’d tried once or twice in the past. I visited Ireland about 3 weeks ago and had the most delicious rhubarb apple crisp for breakfast one morning, and decided that I had to try making a rhubarb dessert myself.

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I also wanted to take this chance to improve on my pie crust technique, especially after the disappointing oil pie crust I’d made for my blueberry pie (2 recipes ago on this blog). I made sure to use butter and because I don’t have a pastry cutter, I diligently smashed it into the flour with a whisk. It took awhile and I had to continually scoop lumps of butter out of the whisk, but it was well worth it–Boyfriend rated the crust a 5 out of 5 stars. Success!

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The rhubarb and strawberry filling was also delicious. I used a Food Network recipe that they had quaintly named “Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie” and I’ll definitely use it again. I used a different pie crust recipe from the one they recommended, however.

Pie Crust (makes 2 crusts)
2.5 cups flour
3/4 cups butter (1.5 sticks)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water

Combine salt and flour, then slice butter into small pats. Cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I made do with a whisk because I don’t have a super well-equipped kitchen, and it turned out fine. Add the 1/2 cup cold water slowly, until the mixture starts to stick together. Form into a ball with your hands (it might still be a bit crumbly, that’s okay) and wrap tightly in saran wrap. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or longer if you like. You can prepare and make the filling during this time.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Filling (adapted from Food Network)
2 1/2 cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
2 1/2 cups de-stemmed, washed and cut strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons minute tapioca (I did not have this; I meant to substitute corn starch, but I forgot!!! More details about this failure below)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest and juice of lemon, dash of cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix well in a large bowl and pour out into chilled crust. Roll out the other piece of dough and place over filling. Crimp to seal edges. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Decrease temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.

The original recipe also included “1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water, and large granule sugar” for brushing and garnishing the pie crust with–I skipped this step because I was lazy.

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Now it’s confession time–I forgot to add the tapioca/corn starch! I realized this as soon as I cut into that beautiful pie up there, and all the juices immediately leaked out in a very water-y fashion. It still tasted delicious–sweet, tart, with a lemon-rhubarb-strawberry flavor. But it just didn’t have that thickened pie filling texture. It was kind of disappointing because we weren’t able to get an awesome photo of a beautiful pie slice. The fruit itself tasted fantastic, and the crust was perfect. But there was a lot of watery juice everywhere–we poured it out of the pie plate to avoid soaking the crust, and weren’t sure what to do with the leftover juice. There was a lot of it and we didn’t want it going to waste.

That’s when Boyfriend came up with a great idea–pouring the juice into an ice cube tray to make mini rhubarb-strawberry flavored popsicles!

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These were so good. They tasted like rhubarb-strawberry flavored sorbet. We had 2 for lunch today and more after dinner. Nice, cool treat for summer. I’m tempted to “mess up” next time and leave out the thickener in the pie again so we can make more of these.

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Super yummy. Try it with vanilla ice cream!

We also made another video! Check it out: