Rhubarb Cream Scones

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A wonderful seasonal recipe that results in tender yet flaky scones. The addition of heavy cream and egg to the mixture increases the amount of fat in the dough making them richer and softer on the inside than their British counterpart. Always remember to handle the dough as little as possible to avoid a tough or cakey scone!

Scones:
160g rhubarb
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

300g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
65g (5 Tbsp) granulated sugar
15g (3 tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
½ lemon zest
85g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
240ml (1 cup) cold heavy cream
1 large egg, cold
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Topping:
1 small egg
½ tsp granulated sugar
pinch of fine grain sea salt
Demerara sugar for sprinkling

1. Mix the rhubarb and sugar in a small bowl and let it sit for at least an hour (you can do this overnight too).

2. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (alternatively, you can use a food processor to cut the butter). Strain the rhubarb from any liquid and toss in the flour butter mixture.

3. In another bowl, beat the cold heavy cream, egg, vanilla. Add this to the flour and butter mixture and fold gently just until all of the flour has been moistened. Do not overwork the dough. Dump the dough out on to a large piece of parchment paper and gently pat the dough out until it’s about 1″ thick rectangle.

4. Transfer to a large baking sheet and let it rest for 15 minutes in the fridge. Cut the dough into 9 squares using a knife and space them out on the baking sheet. You can freeze the dough at this point before baking if you are planning to make these a few days in advance.

5. For the topping, beat together the egg, granulated sugar and salt. Lightly brush the tops of the dough with the mixture being careful not to drip on the sides (this will prevent the scones from rising). Wait for one minute to set then sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake for 15 minutes rotating halfway until the scones are golden brown.

6. Rest the scone for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes, Serve warm the same day.

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Pistachio Baklava

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The intense smell of melted butter began to swirl in my tiny apartment. I peeked into the oven to assure that the little diamond shaped baklava pieces were nicely bronzed and crisp. I knew it was time to take them out. Placing the pan on the stove, I quickly reached for the cold rose flower and orange blossom sugar syrup and poured it slowly between the cracks of the baklavas. As soon as the syrup hit the crisp phyllo dough, a satisfyingly loud sizzle took me aback. I marveled at the bubbly golden surface that looked insanely delicious and wondered how I’m going to get through the next couple of hours waiting for them to cool down. I sprinkled some leftover crushed pistachio nuts on the glazed pastries and immediately started taking pictures on my phone to send to my family in Beirut.

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A few minutes later, my mom inundated me with questions “Is the phyllo dough crunchy? Are they too sweet? Do they taste like REAL baklavas?” I could tell from her voice that she was filled with skepticism about the idea of baking Lebanese baklava at home. But let me assure you that these delectable pastries tick all the criteria of a really good baklava: browned buttery crackly top, thick middle layer of lightly sweetened ground nuts, and chewy bottom with just the right amount of sugar syrup oozing out with each bite. I’m not comparing its taste to the best Lebanese sweet shops who have decades of experience in baking these delicacies, but these come pretty close. It’s a worthwhile weekend baking project that will surely impress people and put a beaming smile on your face.

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Recipe adapted from Wandering Spice

Ingredients:
Sugar Syrup
400g (2 cups) granulated sugar
240ml (1 cup) filtered water
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp rose flower water
½ tsp orange blossom water

Nut Filling
450g (3 cups) high quality whole shelled unsalted raw pistachios
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp rose flower water
4 tbsp sugar syrup
240 ml (1 cup) clarified butter (recipe below)

Clarified Butter
226g (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, cubed

Decoration
2 tbsp. ground pistachios

Directions:

1. Remove phyllo dough from the fridge and thaw according to package instructions.

2. Prepare the syrup: place sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the syrup to boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes until it reaches a light, syrupy consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the rose flower and orange blossom water. Set aside to cool down completely and store in fridge (this step can be made a couple of days in advance).

3. Place the pistachios and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Slowly pour 4 tbsp. of sugar syrup and the additional ¼ tsp of rose flower water into the mixture. Continue pulsing until the pistachios are finely ground. Reserve 2 tbsp. for decoration.

4. To clarify the butter: Line a sieve with paper towel and place over a bowl. Melt the cubed butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam. Using a spoon, skim the foam from the top and discard. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the melted butter into the lined sieve. Leave at room temperature.

5. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) and line the bottom of a 9″x13″ (23cm x 33cm) baking dish with baking paper – I used a glass pyrex.

6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut the stack of dough (20 sheets) in half to fit the size of your baking dish (40 sheets total). Place a clean, damp cloth on top to keep them from drying out.

7. Generously butter the bottom and sides of the lined pan with clarified butter. Lay one sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush clarified butter onto it. Add a second sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Continue stacking and brushing sheets until you have 20 sheets on the bottom of the pan.

8. Pour the ground pistachio mixture on top of the phyllo stack, and spread out evenly throughout the pan.

9. Repeat the buttering and layering process with 20 more sheets on top of the nut mixture. Once done, refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow the butter to firm up and hold its shape.

10. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the raw baklava into 1.5″ vertical strips, making sure to slice all the way to the bottom of the baking dish. Then, slice diagonally in a crossways pattern, to create diamond shapes (or, just cut crosswise to make rectangles).

11. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the tops of the baklava have puffed and are golden brown.

12. Pour the cold syrup between the cracks of the baklava diamonds – it will sizzle. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Set aside to cool and serve at room temperature. Store covered in a container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Barazek (Sesame Pistachio Cookies)

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

I don’t know where to start describing Barazek to people who are not familiar with this traditional Syrian pastry. The title of the post makes it seem like a simple recipe, but it’s definitely not your average everyday treat. The buttery crunchy texture of the thinly spread baked dough is contrasted with chewy toasted honey sesame seeds on one side and pistachios on the other side. They inevitably remind me of long lazy afternoons in Beirut, drinking arabic coffee with the extended family, and devouring these wickedly addictive cookies.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Damascus is known for creating the best barazek that are typically bought in tin boxes with other delicious sweets that the city is famous for. They’re made from butter (or ghee), flour, sugar, milk, and ground mahleb – a spice made from ground cherry stones. The dough is then coated with honey syrup, sesame seeds, and pistachios.

My family used to get these bite sized cookies from a sweet shop called Semiramis and I distinctly remember them having a very deep golden color with a serious sesame flavor. Lately I’ve been itching to try my luck in making them from scratch (especially that Syria feels like a world away), so I tried my best to recreate the same texture and taste here. It was a very tough process because of all the recipe variations available: some called for eggs, others called for adding semolina, rose water, cream of tartare, even vinegar! It’s quite the dilemma.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

After a lot of tinkering in my kitchen, I felt hopeless at times when the end result was not at all what I was aiming for, and at other times I felt like I conquered the world when the barazek turned out  just as good as the ones we used to get from Damascus. None of my friends or family believed me when I said that each bite made a good reason to spend a ridiculous amount of time making them (this recipe yields 90 cookies!). But let me assure you that they’re worth every effort and you can always freeze them for later cravings. I never tried freezing the dough, but I’m sure that it freezes just as well as any other cookie recipe.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Makes approx. 90 cookies, 4cm- 1.5in diameter – They taste batter the next day!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup organic honey
1/4 cup water

200g (1½ cups) white sesame seeds
175g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1g (½ tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp ground mahlab (optional)
312g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
2.5g (1 tsp) active dry yeast
80ml (1/3 cup) skimmed milk
40g (1/3 cup) chopped or slivered raw pistachio

Directions:
Honey Syrup:
1. Combine honey and water in a small saucepan.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until honey dissolves (Around 3 minute).
3. Remove from heat and let it cool down.

Cookies:
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar (or use your hands).
3. Add ground mahlab and baking powder and mix.
4. Add yeast and flour and mix until homogeneous. Gradually add the milk to form a smooth hard dough (you might use less milk to avoid a tender dough).
5. Cover dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper
7. Pour enough honey syrup on a medium sized plate just to cover the surface and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top (don’t use all the sesame, just enough to cover the syrup). Place the chopped pistachios on another shallow plate.
8. Shape about a teaspoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly with the palm of your hands.
9. Dip one side into pistachios, flip and press the other side with the sesame mixture using your fingers to press the dough into a flat disc.
10. Place the cookies sesame side up on the baking sheet about an inch (2 cm) apart.
11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the edges are a deep golden color.
12. Store in an air tight container up for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

Butternut Squash Scones with Dates and Walnuts

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Let’s talk about scones shall we?

I’m no expert at scones, but I learned a few tips and tricks that will help you make great scones every time. And since I go completely crazy over butternut butternut squash every fall, I decided to post a recipe that combines a few of my favorite things. So here it is a light and flaky scone recipe with a subtle hint of butternut squash, walnuts, and sweets dates.

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The first thing to keep in mind when making these is to handle the dough gently and as little as possible. Start off by sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice. Yup, twice. Why do you ask? Sifting helps in breaking up existing clumps which will produce lovely light pastries. It also blends the dry ingredients which gives more consistency and therefore better results.

Then proceed in grating the frozen butter and mixing it with your fingers until it resemble crumbs. When adding in the chilled wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, you don’t want to mix it more than it all just coming together or the scones will turn out chewy. As soon as the dough comes together, tip it onto a floured surface and form it into a thick round circle, and slice it into eight wedges. If you prefer small scones (like the ones pictured) then continue reading the directions below. Now, the dough may be sticky and that’s totally okay. If it is too sticky, I found that putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes makes it easier to handle.

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It is very important to keep the whole mixture cold all the time because you don’t want the butter to melt. These cold bits of butter will create pockets of air when they’re in the oven, therefore making the scones airy, light, and flaky. If you have some extra time, chill the sliced wedges for 20 minutes before placing them in the oven: this will help in making the scones flakier and rising higher.

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Serve the scones as soon as they’re out of the oven with some jam, butter, or cheese!

Ingredients: Makes about 24 mini scones

1 large egg, cold
1/2 cup butternut squash or pumpkin puree*, chilled
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
310g (2+1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
55g (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar
113g (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, frozen
175g (1 cup) chopped dates, tossed in flour (to avoid pieces to stick together)
100g (1 cup) chopped walnuts

*To make butternut squash puree, simply cut a squash in half, discard the seeds, and bake in a 400°F (200°C) preheated oven until tender (about 45-60 minutes). Scoop the softened squash in a blender and puree until smooth.

Directions:

1. In a small bowl combine egg, pumpkin, yogurt, and vanilla extract and mix well and keep refrigerated.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices twice. Mix in the sugar.
4. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter into flour mixture and mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
5. Stir the chilled wet ingredients into flour mixture. Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until just combined then turn out onto a floured surface.

For regular sized scones:
Using the palm of your hand, shape the dough into a 7″ (18 cm) circle, 1″ (2.5 cm) thick, and cut into eight equal wedges. Then transfer each wedge to a lined baking sheet spacing them apart and brush with cream or egg wash (a mix of 1 tablespoon of water or milk with a whole egg). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.

For mini scones:
Pat the dough with the back of your hand and shape into a large rectangle, about 10″ (25cm) long, 7″ (18cm) wide, and 1″(2.5cm) thick. Straighten the sides with a dough scraper. Cut the rectangle into 3 long rectangles, and then each into small triangles using diagonal cuts. Place them on a baking sheet 1/4 inch (1cm) apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.

Homemade Croissants

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I’ve always been very curious about baking and the art of pastry. That’s mainly why I started this blog– to pursue my passion, take risks, experiment with different recipes, and write about the most successful ones. It’s not just about sharing recipes, but also building a portfolio and documenting my progress over time.

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Homemade croissants have been on my to do list for a very long time and I finally had some free time– and by free time I mean a whole weekend!– to prepare them. I was kind of nervous and worried that they won’t be successful on my first trial because I don’t have a professional pastry background or anyone to guide me through the whole process. But after reading several blog posts and watching a few videos about making croissant, I felt like I was ready to give it a shot. I fell across Top with Cinnamon’s homemade croissant recipe, and I after seeing her gorgeous pictures and step by step gifs, I had to try it out.

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The process of making the layered yeast-leavened dough is time consuming. It basically involves layering the dough with ALOT of butter through a “rolling and folding” technique. If done right, the croissants will have crispy flaky exterior and a tender layered interior when baked. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing and eating the result of your hard work! 😀

Note: I posted my detailed hourly schedule for preparing croissants at the bottom of the page!

Preparing the dough

Ingredients: Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
1 cup (250 ml) cold milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
3 ¾ cup (500 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 oz/ 250 g) butter, frozen, then left at room temp. for 20-30 minutes

Directions:
1. Have all your ingredients measured and ready.
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2. Pour the milk and boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar, leave for 5 minutes until frothy.

3. Add in the flour and salt to the milk, incorporate it with your hands into a shaggy ball.

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5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.

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6. When your dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, take your frozen butter (which has been left at room temperature for 20 min), and grate onto a piece of cling film

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7. Disperse the butter, and flatten into a 8″ x 5″ (20 x 13 cm) rectangle. Fold up in the cling film and pat together well (make sure it’s nicely compacted).  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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8. Once the butter has been chilling for 25 minutes, tip the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle.

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9. Unwrap the chilled butter block and place into the center of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds over the butter. Seal all the edges by pinching the dough together.

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10. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, use the rolling pin to make regular indentations in the dough. Roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle. (I used toothpicks as a reference for the measurements).

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11. Fold into thirds like a business letter. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (steps 10+11 make “one turn” of the dough).

10. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap and complete 1 turn (repeat steps 10+ 11, roll out dough then fold again). Re-wrap in the cling film, refrigerate for 1 hour.

11. Fold two more times, so you have done a total of 4 turns.

12. Cut the dough into quarters. Wrap the quarters tightly in cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months (if you freeze it, let the dough defrost in the fridge overnight before shaping).

Shaping the dough

1. Remove one quarter of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16″ x 6″ rectangle.

2. Cut into thirds, forming 3 smaller rectangles. Cut each of these rectangles in half diagonally forming 6 triangles.

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3. Take one triangle of dough (putting the others in the fridge to prevent the butter from melting).

4. Pull on the corners of the shortest edge, to even up the base of the triangle. Then gently stretch the dough a little

5. Cut a small slit in the base of the triangle, stretch it, then roll the dough up.

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You can add different fillings to the croissants, like chopped chocolate, zaa’tar, or almond paste.

7. Place it, tip side down, onto a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the triangles, placing them 2″ (5 cm) apart.

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8. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a cool place for around 2-3 hours ( if you’re making these the night before, you can actually shape them and leave them to rise in the fridge overnight instead).

You can also freeze the shaped croissants on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and leave in the freezer for up to 3 months, then defrost in the fridge overnight and proceed as below.

Baking the croissants:

1. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).
2. Brush the croissants with a beaten egg using a pastry brush and put into the oven.
3. Immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C), and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until well browned and puffy.
5. Let cool on a wire rack.

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All of these steps might seem daunting at first, that’s why I wrote down my personal schedule for making homemade croissant. This will help in not missing any step! Bon Appétit!

Time Schedule:

• Day 1
8:00 AM
Place butter in the freezer.

8:00 AM
8:10 AM
Measure ingredients.

8:10 AM
Combine cold milk, boiling water, yeast, and sugar together.

8:15 AM → 8:20 AM
Mix in the flour and salt, then mix to form a ball. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and refrigerate for an hour.

8:30 AM
Take out the butter from the freezer.

8:50 AM → 8:55 AM
Grate the butter, shape into a rectangle, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

9:30 AM → 9:35 AM
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, add the block of butter, complete turn 1, and refrigerate.

10:30 AM
Turn 2.

11:30 AM
Turn 3.

12:30 PM
Turn 4 – Cut the dough into quarters and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough for at least 8-12 hours. You can continue baking at 9 PM, or wait until the next day to complete the rest of the steps.

• Day 2
8:00 AM 8:20 AM
Roll out a quarter of a dough, cut into triangles, and shape into croissants.

8:20 AM 10:20 AM
Leave the croissants to rise.

10:00 AM
Preheat the oven to 450°F (22o°C).

10:20 AM 10:25 AM
Brush croissants with beaten egg

10:25 AM
Bake in the oven, following the instructions above.

10:50 AM
Croissants are done!

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Apple Tart

Apple Tart Brownie Box 2

When it comes to small family gatherings, I’m always asked to bring dessert with me. So what I usually do is head over to Foodgawker or Pinterest and look up some inspirational images or go through my list of “recipes I want to try”. The Apple Tart is definitely on my “to-try” list. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for months!

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I noticed that there are so many variations of the apple tart filling: some add heavy cream, lemon zest or juice, rum, ground almonds, caramelized apples etc ! I ended up adapting my own recipe from what I’ve read online, and I am so happy with the result. I only added apricot preserve between the dough and the apples. The crust turned out very thin and flaky, and the apples buttery soft with a tinge of sweetness. It looks so impressive, I couldn’t believe that I did it all by myself! I’ve already baked 3 tarts in two weeks! When my family saw the tart they screamed out “You made that?!” (They think that it took hours preparation, and I didn’t deny it). Seriously, this beautiful tart will make you look like a pro in no time. (who said you’re not a pro anyway?)

First, start making the dough which is essentially pate brisée (French for shortcrust pastry – It doesn’t rise when baked and it has a buttery flaky texture).

Chopped Butter
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It is made from equal parts of cold butter and flour blended into pea sized bits, then held together with a small amount of ice cold water to form a crumbly dough. Transfer the mixture onto a working surface, then shape into a disc and place it in the fridge for an hour at least or overnight.
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Next, peel, core (I used a melon baller), halve apples, and thinly slice them while keeping them together to retain the halved apple shapes. Then take out your dough, roll it out on a heavily floured surface to avoid sticking to the work surface. I rolled it out on a baking paper because it made the process of transferring the dough to the tart pan much easier. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can fold in the sides of the dough galette style, and bake on a baking sheet.

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Next, brush the dough with apricot preserve and place the sliced apples on the dough in concentric circles. Finish off by sprinkling sugar, cinnamon, and few cubes of butter. Bake until deep golden brown in color and serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream!
Apple Tart Brownie Box 10 Apple Tart Brownie Box 3

Here it goes: A simple flaky thin crusted apple tart filled with buttery soft apples.

Ingredients:
Dough:
1+1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar (optional, to make the dough sweeter)
115 grams (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 teaspoon salt (to make the dough less sticky)
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tart:
11 small apples, peeled, cored, and halved
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50 grams butter (about 4 tablespoons butter)
3 tablespoons apricot preserve

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:
1. Add flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 10 times until pea­-size crumbles form- meaning, turn the food processor on and off in short cycles. It’s very important to use cubes of COLD butter, to avoid melting it into the dough. Do NOT break down the butter too much, you won’t get a flaky dough if the tiny bits of butter are not visible.

3. Slowly add 4 tablespoons ice­-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3—4 pulses. Do not pulse the dough to form a mass — keep it loose and crumbly, it will come together eventually

4. Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk using your hands; Plastic wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

5. Peel, core, halve, and thinly slice apples — keeping the slices together.

6. Unwrap dough and transfer to a generously floured work surface. Press down the dough with a rolling pin and move it from the center out. Roll into a 25 cm (10 inch) thin circle and then transfer to a 22 cm (9 inch) tart pan, and trim edges. Work quickly to keep the dough cold and to avoid stickiness. If the dough softens, chill it in the freezer for a few minutes. — I used a glass tart pan, you can also use a non-stick tart pan with a removable bottom. The dough rolls out up to 30 cm or 12 inch.

7. Brush apricot preserve onto the bottom of the pastry.

8. Heat oven to 190ºC or 375ºF.

9. Transfer halved sliced apples to the tart pan and press gently as you are placing them next to each other. Start out at the outer edge of the pan working your way to the center.

10. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

11. Sprinkle the tart with the sugar-cinnamon mixture, and add small cubes of butter (Use as much or as little as you like).

12. Bake until golden brown, around 50-60 minutes. (It took me 50 minutes)

And you’re done!