Apple Tart with Walnut-Horseradish Frangipane

This recipe is completely non-vintage; I came up with it while musing on a Horseradish Challenge over at Food 52.  If you’re still looking for a Seder dessert for Monday, here’s one that’s Passover-inspired, Passover-friendly, and totally new…

The description for the contest mentioned horseradish on the Seder plate, and my first thought was of the “Hillel Sandwich” Ashkenazi Jews (like my dad’s family) eat during the Seder. This “sandwich” consists of matzoh topped with horseradish and charoset (a mixture of apples and nuts with sweet wine), and is named for the famous Rabbi Hillel. I have always loved the way the spicy horseradish cuts the sweetness of the charoset and balances the bitterness of the walnuts, so decided to turn the Hillel Sandwich into a dessert. The walnut-horseradish frangipane which forms the base of the tart is deliciously easy: just blend the nuts and radish up in the food processor with butter and sugar.  There’s just enough radish in here to give a tiny bit of a kick and balance other flavors – not so much that you really taste it.  Think of it as the Jewish answer to Mexican chocolate with chiles…

I used Mark Bittman’s tart pastry recipe for the tart pictured; I’ve written the recipe, however, so that a matzoh crust can easily be substituted during Passover. Just couldn’t bring myself to brave matzoh…I’m not keeping Pesach this year, but I’ve done so enough to shy away from the stuff. Let’s revel in some chametz while we can – and get a little tart-making lesson.

I always make pie and tart doughs in the food processor: this keeps your butter nice and cold, and thus prevents it from getting worked into the flour too much. Overworked dough equals tough crust. When dough is done and rolled out, I always find the best way to move it to the pan is to drape the middle of it over your rolling pin, and then lift it and sweep it into the pan in one smooth motion.

Press the dough into the bottom of the pan, and cut off the edges hanging over the side. We’re making a tart, and are going to blind bake our crust so prick the bottom of it all over with a fork.

Weigh the crust down with pie weights (or beans) in foil.

Now, pour in the frangipane and stick the apples in, curved side up. I tend to get pretty OCD about keeping mine in a pretty pattern.

The apples get brushed with a little buttery wine reduction – use Manischewitz if you’re really getting into the swing of things.

And now, get in one last tart ogle before you kiss flour goodbye for 8 days…

Apple Tart with Walnut-Horseradish Frangipane (Serves 8-10)
1 tart crust of choice (pate sucree or matzoh meal crust**)
2 medium apples (Gala work well)
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 large egg
6 tbsp. unsalted butter (or margarine if you’re having a meat meal)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. prepared white horseradish
2 tbsp. red wine
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Core the apples and slice them very thin (1/8-inch thickness or less). Place the walnuts, salt, sugar, egg, horseradish, and 4 tablespoons of the butter in a food processor and pulse until blended into a rough paste.
2. Prick your crust all over with a fork, cover it with aluminum and pie weights or dry beans, a blind bake it at 425 degrees – 15 minutes for pate sucree, 10 for matzoh. Remove the crust from the oven, gently lift the aluminum and weights off, and turn the oven down to 375 degrees.
3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the wine, honey, and cinnamon over low heat. Remove from heat immediately when the ingredients have blended into a viscous glaze.
4. Pour the walnut paste into the par-baked tart shell and push apple slices, curved side up, into the paste. Press the slices as close together as possible without letting them touch. Brush the top of the tart with the wine glaze.
5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the 375 degree oven, until the walnut frangipane bubbles up around the fruit. Cool to room temperature before serving.

**To get rid of all the chametz…here’s a classic Matzoh Pie Crust (from the Complete American Jewish Cookbook): Soak 4 matzohs in water for 5 minutes, drain, and squeeze them dry. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or margarine, add the matzohs and heat until they dry out, then mix in a medium bowl with 1/2 cup matzoh meal, 4 eggs, 4 tablespoons sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pat into the bottom of a pie or tart pan and blind bake for 10 minutes (as you would a graham cracker crust) before filling.

For the filling, sub margarine for butter if you’re having a meat meal.