Sometimes having relatives with dietary restrictions results in the best recipes!
My brother-in-law is allergic to sugar. Ever since early childhood, he gets the most severe headaches if he has any refined sugar. Jim’s mom discovered this early on, and being the creative, caring soul that she is, she developed recipes that would meet his needs, but still satisfy everyone else’s sweet cravings. She didn’t want to make him feel left out. So it would mean that everyone eat what Tery could eat, or no sweets in the house at all! After trial and error, she discovered that while Tery can’t manage any refined sugar (white, brown, etc) he can handle molasses and maple syrup. Or the natural sugars found in fruit. So all of her cookies and muffins utilized plenty of dates, dried figs and apricots, or maple syrup.
Since Tery and his wife have moved closer to us, I now have more opportunities to feed the entire family. And of course I always plan a pie or dessert of some sort. But this means that I have to put my thinking cap on for Tery’s sake. Of course, the usual reply is, “Oh don’t worry, Tery is used to not having dessert. He doesn’t need anything.” Well, that’s just mean! All of us enjoying some sort of sweet ending to a meal, while Tery politely watches?!
Slowly, my repertoire of sugar-replaced desserts is growing. I’m sure plenty of you out there who have to deal with this on a daily/regular basis have even more insights. If so, please share!
Anyway, this recipe is the result of another family dinner that included Tery. It was the full-on Turkey dinner that I have loved since I first had the entire feast. We didn’t grow up having turkey and all the fixins’ in our German household. My mom’s stuffing is totally different from a North American version. And cranberry sauce was a new one for her. But slowly we integrated all of these into autumn cooking for a gathering.
And of course, this meal deserves desserts made out of autumn produce: pears, pumpkins, squash, apples, quince etc. So every year I pull out a Pumpkin Pie, or Apple Pie in a Cheddar Crust, or for sure the Cranberry Sage Pie (which means I don’t have to make cranberry sauce as well!) But what would I do for Tery? That’s when I decided on this.
Apples are already naturally sweet. Once they are baked, they become even sweeter. Frangipane requires very little sugar to begin with (the ground almonds have a natural sweet nuttiness to them) So how much extra sweetness would this recipe really need? A bit of maple syrup should do, to sweeten the frangipane a bit more. And how about a bit of bourbon added to the frangipane? That would definitely distract Tery from any missing sugar! And, instead of making a crust from scratch, a purchased puff pastry sheet would do nicely. Plus, it’s buttery goodness would make up for any lack of unnecessary sugar!
The method is easy. Peel, core and slice the apples into 8ths. I used a Pacific Rose apple, similar to an Ambrosia. But you could easily use Gala or Honeycrisp. You want an apple that will hold its shape, even after a quick sauté and then bake.
I just did a rustic crust into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Sure, I could trim it and make it look all nice and neat. But why? That’s half the fun- taking the overhanging leftover dough and scrunching it up gently around the edges.
The rest is even easier. After the apples have been sautéed in butter and vanilla, till gently softened and turned golden, they are sprinkled with fresh thyme and set aside. Then whip up in a small bowl an egg, ground almonds, maple syrup and bourbon. Whisk it until it has turned creamy and the consistency of pancake batter.
Then just layer the frangipane cream across the bottom of the crust using an offset spatula. Take all the apples and lay them out in tight circles. Go around till all are used up. I love how some almost stick up slightly- you know these ones will take on a lovely caramelized feature! It gets popped into the oven till the apples are golden brown, cooked through (but not totally mushy, and the pastry is also flakey and golden. The frangipane will puff up around the apples in the most delicate way.
It was a total hit with Tery. He looked at me and asked, “Really, there is no sugar in this?” So it worked!! I had a leftover slice for breakfast- almost like an apple danish!
Here’s a serving suggestion, if sugar is not an issue: a drizzle of Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce over this tart would be just amazing! I will try this next time!!
Apple Maple Frangipane Tart
Gently sautéed apples and fresh thyme are added on top of a layer of maple syrup frangipane, all inside an easy puff pastry crust. Oh did I mention bourbon!? Perfect autumnal dessert!
- 6 medium apples like Ambrosia, Pacific Rose, Gala or Honeycrisp
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean split and seeds removed or 1 tsp vanilla vanilla extract (the paste has the lovely flecks!)
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 sheet of puff pastry or 8-9 oz portion of puff pastry (250 grams) thawed in the fridge overnight.
- 1 extra large egg
- 5-6 tbsp ground almonds
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp bourbon
Preheat oven to 400F.
Core, peel and slice the apples into 8 pieces each.
In a large frying pan, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the vanilla paste, seeds or extract and stir to combine.
Add the apples in one layer if possible. Sauté, turning gently occasionally, until the apples are lightly browned all over, and starting to turn tender. This should take between 5 and 8 minutes.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to fit into a 9-10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. In other words, roll to about a 12 inches round. Transfer to the pan. Allow the pastry to fall into the pan, instead of pulling it up along the sides. If not, it will shrink away from the sides during baking. Gently press down and along the sides.
At this point you can trim to fit the pan. Or you can just fold any excess dough into a rustic pleated design. I don't even bother cutting it into a perfect circle- if it a rough square I just have extra dough in some spots- and someone always wants the slice with the extra flakey crust! Set into the fridge to chill until needed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, 5 tbsp of the ground almonds, maple syrup and bourbon. Whisk until it has become creamy and thickened- should resemble pancake batter. If you feel that it is too runny, add the last tbsp of ground almonds.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and place it onto a baking sheet.
Fill the bottom of the tart shell with the frangipane, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula.
Starting on the outer edge, create tight circles with the apples, pushing them as close together as possible. Keep going inward until all the apples have been used. You may need to overlap some gently.
Place the baking sheet onto the centre rack and bake until the apples are golden brown with lovely caramelization, the crust is a golden brown, and the frangipane has puffed up around the apples. This should take around 45-50 minutes.
Cool slightly. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream, bourbon whipped cream, or with a drizzle of bourbon caramel sauce.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for two days. A slice in the morning with coffee is a good thing!