Welcoming Fall With An Apple Tart Right now supermarket shelves are overflowing with apples. Host Guy Raz visits the kitchen of Top Chef Carla Hall to turn some of that autumn bounty into an Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart.

Welcoming Fall With An Apple Tart

Welcoming Fall With An Apple Tart

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Get the recipe for Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart. Guy Raz/NPR hide caption

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Guy Raz/NPR

Get the recipe for Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart.

Guy Raz/NPR

This time of year, supermarket shelves are overflowing with apples -- and not much else.

But if you're mourning the loss of summer fruit, Top Chef finalist Carla Hall has the perfect dessert to take your mind off your troubles: Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart. It may sound complicated, but Hall promises it's simple, even the exotic-sounding frangipane. "All it is is almonds and sugar and butter, oh my!"

An apple tart demands the best possible apples, so Hall picks through the bounty on display, thumping each one to test its ripeness. She settles on a mix of sweet and tart apples, and back in her kitchen, she sets her favorite sous-chef, host Guy Raz, to chopping.

This tart will have three parts: a crisp, cookie-like crust that adds eggs and cream to the usual pie crust recipe, a base of the sweetened almond paste called frangipane, and a top layer of apples, chopped and sauteed with cranberries, sugar and spices. While Raz is on apple duty, Hall starts the frangipane and the crust, most of which can be made in a food processor.

The key to the crust, Hall says, is to listen for the thumping, rattling sound that means it's coming together in the food processor.

"You know why I love radio?" she says. "Because this is the thing I want to tell people, use all of your senses to cook with, and listen for it. Don't just use your eyes!"

She rolls out the crust to a perfect thinness, and presses it carefully into a tart pan. These crusts have to be blind-baked (baked without the filling), so they are weighted down with old beans or pie weights and popped into the oven for a few minutes.

Then you add the frangipane and the apples and return the crusts to the oven.  They're done when everything looks golden brown and the frangipane has puffed up luxuriously around the apples. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream right in the middle, and you've got a perfect fall dessert.

Recipe: Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart In Three Parts

Recipe Courtesy of Carla Hall

(Makes 1 tart or 8 servings)

Pie Crust:  Pate Sucree

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 sticks butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Whisk together yolk, cream and vanilla in small bowl.

Combine flour, sugar and salt in food processor with 4 one-second pulses.  Scatter butter pieces to cut butter into flour.

With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough comes together. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.

Roll dough out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment or plastic.

Transfer dough to tart pan or pie plate by rolling dough loosely over rolling pie and rolling it back over pie plate.

Blind bake at 350 degrees.

Pie Filling:  Frangipane

1 cup (4 ounces) blanched slivered almonds

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, minced

1/4 cup dried cranberries, minced

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened to room temp.

Pulse almonds, sugar, cinnamon and salt in food processor until finely ground, about 25 two-second pulses; process until as finely ground as possible.

Add crystallized ginger and cranberries; pulse another 25 two-second pulses.

Add egg and egg white, almond and vanilla extracts; process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add butter and process until no lumps remain, about 10 seconds.

Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula and process to combine thoroughly, about 10 seconds longer. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Before using, let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes to soften, stirring 3 or 4 times.)

The Fruit: Sauteed Apples and Cranberries

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

3-4 firm and sweet apples, (such as braeburn, jonagold and/or gold rush) peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

1/2 cup brown sugar (sweeten to taste)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Lemon juice to taste

Pinch of salt

Saute apples pieces in large skillet with butter for 2-3 minutes or until slightly firm. Add in cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, lemon juice and salt.

Cook for an additional minute until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Putting It All Together

Glaze -- 1/4 cup apple jelly

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Spread frangipane in tart shell and spoon apple-cranberry mixture on top. Reserve the juices for later.

Bake tart on baking sheet until crust is deep golden brown and almond filling is puffed, browned and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 10 minutes.

In a small pot, combine jelly and juices from apple mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to smooth out lumps. When boiling and completely melted, brush glaze over apple-cranberry mixture. Cool tart to room temperature, about 2 hours. (Tart can be kept at room temperature, but should be served the day it is made.)

Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between bottom of crust and tart pan bottom to release, then slip onto cardboard round or serving platter; cut into wedges and serve.

Vanilla Bay Crème Fraiche

1 cup heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)

1 vanilla bean, split

2 tablespoons buttermilk

In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream to 105 degrees F with the vanilla bean. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk.

Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean into the warm cream mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and allow it to sit in a warm place, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until thickened but still pourable. Stir and taste periodically (every 6-8 hours). This process takes 24-36 hours.

Creme fraiche is ready when it is thick with a slightly nutty sour taste. Chill cream in the refrigerator for several hours before using. May be made and stored up to 10 days in advance.