Tarte fines aux pommes

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Tarte fines aux pommes
“American as apple pie.” This well-known phrase is in a sense meaningless because apples, apple pies, strudels and tarts were well known in Europe long before Old World settlers came to America. They were the ones who imported apples to recreate their traditional recipes. Apples have grown wild throughout Europe before the Stone Age. Historians differ on when they were first cultivated but it is known that in 400 BC a Roman engineer named Apius introduced the fruit to Italy from the East. Perhaps it originated in the mountains of India between the Caspian and Black Sea. Apples became the most popular fruit in the Roman Empire with 30 different varieties found in Europe.  The apple has served as a symbol of many things throughout history—think about Snow White, William Tell, and Adam & Eve. In the history of science it was the 24 yr. old physicist Isaac Newton who defined the laws of gravity when an apple fell from a branch of a tree under which he was standing. In Greek mythology, it was Paris, Prince of Troy, at the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis who was given the task of choosing the most beautiful woman. He awarded the prize, an apple, to Aphrodite over Hera who had bribed him by offering him Helen—who then led the troops and destroyed the city of Troy.  “Pommes” (apples) are grown world wide and can be found in markets year round. In older times, pulp from a crushed apple was applied to wounds to speed up healing. European women used to mix apple pulp with fat and claimed that this “pommata” was wonderful for their complexions (pomade = pomme = apple). Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are at least 7,500 different varieties each having different characteristics of shape, color, firmness, juiciness, sweetness, crispness, etc. The “Lady Apple” whose original name was “Api” was first grown in the gardens of Louis XIII at Orleans, France. Later, Louis XIV deemed it to be the only apple worth serving. In France, it is known as “pomme d’api”.  Red, green or golden apples can be enjoyed year round. Apples left at room temperature ripen 10 times faster than those kept in the refrigerator crisper. Store them in a plastic bag with holes and they will stay fresh and firm. This week’s “French Cooking without a Fuss” features thin apple tarts using Granny Smith apples. It is said that one day in the mid 1850’s Marie Ann “Granny” Smith returned from the market in Sydney, Australia with some empty gin cases that contained a few rotting French crabapples. She just threw them in her backyard and forgot about them. Years later, one of the seedlings grew and bore what was to become one of the world’s best known apples. Granny Smith apples are green, crisp, tangy, and juicy and are perfect for pies, applesauce and a low-calorie afternoon snack.    Tarte fines aux pommesThin Apple TartsFor 4 personsCooking time: 30 minutes  2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and halved½ cup sugar½ cup water2 tbsp. lemon juice½ tsp. vanilla1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed  Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the apple into very thin slices and place in a shallow bowl. Bring the water, sugar, lemon juice, butter, and vanilla to a boil in a small pan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the apples and let them become wilted. Drain the apples in a colander and reserve the syrup. Put the syrup back in the sauce pan.  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a 12 inch square. Cut out 4 6 inch rounds and put them on a baking sheet (lightly buttered or with parchment paper). Place the apple slices on the rounds—overlapping the slices. Bake for 25 minutes.  Boil the reserved syrup until it has reduced to about a third of a cup and brush on the baked tarts while they are still warm. The tarts can be served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, whipped cream, vanilla or rum raisin ice cream.  Et voilà! April Paute moved to France over 10 years ago with her husband, Jean Michel, and 2 Siamese cats. Armed with only a dictionary and hand signals, she took on the challenge of requesting the local boucher decapitate a chicken for her. After living in Paris and Antibes, April & co. have settled in Toulouse, where she draws inspiration from her herb garden.
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