This Sunday is my boyfriend Alex’s 33rd birthday and I cannot wait to shower him with all the love that he deserves. We’ll be celebrating with family on Saturday with a boat ride in Newport Beach, as well as a trip to Big Bear next weekend with a group of friends, so on his actual day, he and I are going to take it easy. I plan on starting his day off with bagels and cold brew, then hitting up the beach or going on a hike, and finally ending with dinner at one of his favorite restaurants, Nick’s in Laguna Beach. He also requested that I make my cheesecake for dessert (it’s his favorite recipe on this blog) and of course I am happy to oblige.
Like every year, Alex’s birthday also represents the beginning of autumn, which usually falls on his actual birthday, the 22nd, or the next day. Because of this, I believe it allows for the floodgates to open for apple recipes even though I’m fairly certain I could, and would, eat apple pie every day. So far on this blog, I’ve shared with you recipes for an apple brown butter buckle, apple muffins, apple cider doughnuts, and finally. a simple apple tart/galette. Today’s apple recipe may also be considered a ‘tart’ but differs in the fact that the base is not a pie dough, but actually puff pastry.
Puff pastry, also known as pâte feuilletée, is essentially a laminated dough, meaning the butter is incorporated into the dough by a series of folding and rolling, thus leading to multiple layers. When baked, the layers separate and puff up, leaving you with a very light and flaky texture. Making homemade puff pastry is a serious undertaking and something that I’m more than happy (at this point in time) to skip out on. What I’m trying to say is that today I am not giving you a recipe for puff pastry to go along with the tart - I am giving you instructions to go buy store bought puff pastry! I created this recipe for those who are 1) in a time crunch 2) don’t have the skills to make homemade puff pastry and/or 3) lazy! I don’t think anyone should feel bad for buying store bought components of a dish and I really believe that it’s the thought that counts.
Store bought puff pastry. which you can get at any grocery store including Trader Joe’s, makes you look like you’re an amazing baker, yet the secret is that you didn’t do more than thawing it, topping it with some ingredients, and baking it in the oven. And if you want, you can totally lie and tell your guests or whomever you’re serving this to that YES, the puff pastry IS made from scratch! Just make sure that you’ve gotten rid of any evidence of the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry packaging - burn it if you have to.
If you’re unfamiliar with buying puff pastry, you should know that it’ll be found in the freezer section of your grocery store and comes with 2 sheets of puff pastry (therefore you can easily double the recipe!), which will need to be thawed out for about 40 minutes before working with it. For my recipe, I ask of you to only use 1 sheet of pastry which you’ll cut into 6 equal rectangles. You could totally make it into one giant tart, but I really enjoy the look of baking them off as individuals and it also makes it much easier for serving purposes. Each puff pastry tart will get a spread of a ricotta cheese mixture that has cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla bean paste in it. If ricotta isn’t your thing, mascarpone or cream cheese could work as well; and if your grocery store doesn’t carry vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract is fine. I went with vanilla bean paste because Trader Joe’s just started carrying it and I thought this recipe would be perfect for it since it showcases the vanilla bean specks so well.
And once again, if you’re feeling guilty for using store bought puff pastry, all will be forgotten when you make your own caramel to top it off with. Homemade caramel is SO simple and requires only 4 ingredients and 10 minutes of your time, so you can make it while the apple tarts bake in the oven. Apples and caramel are a perfect pairing, and since the apple tarts themselves are barely sweetened, you can load up on as much caramel as you want.
Apple Ricotta Puff Pastry Tarts
Yields 6 individual tarts
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed and cut into 6 rectangles (I prefer Pepperidge Farm
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, homemade or store-bought
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground or fresh nutmeg
1 apple, cored and sliced thin (I used Granny Smith and Pink Lady, but Honeycrisp and Braeburn work as well)
Brown sugar (light or dark)
Caramel sauce, to finish (recipe provided below)
Preheat the oven to 400°F and place the 6 puff pastry rectangles onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a fork, poke holes in about 4-5 different places on each rectangle.
In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, vanilla bean paste (or extract), cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add about 1 heaping tablespoon of this spread onto the center of each pastry. Try not to spread it out too much.
Place 2-4 slices of apple onto each pastry, right on top of the ricotta cheese mixture. Finish with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the fruit.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is a golden brown color.
Transfer to a baking sheet to cool for about 5 minutes before finishing them with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Simple Homemade Caramel Sauce
Yields 1 cup
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Place the sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, constantly stir the sugar until it completely melts and turns into a deep amber color. Before it melts, it will be very clumpy… this is good, just keep mixing!
Add the butter and mix it in with the melted sugar using a whisk. The mixture will begin to bubble vigorously.
Once the butter has melted, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Careful with this step because the cold heavy cream may cause the mixture to splatter. Allow the caramel to boil for about one minute, then take it off the heat and stir in the salt.
Carefully (it will be VERY hot) pour the caramel into your desired container (mason jar, tupperware, etc.) and store it in the fridge for up to 1 month - if it can last that long.