Food likes and dislikes have been a source of discord, a real antagonism, to me in previous relationships. I had a hard time enduring picky or what I refer to as ‘pedestrian’ eaters; those that don’t step beyond their comfort zones or what they ate in primary school. Men that preferred ‘drive-thru’ fast food to all other foods, boxed Kraft macaroni & cheese, a penchant for Lean Cuisine, and ‘heat & serve’ fish sticks. These foods are perfectly fine for some, but all of this drove me to genuine annoyance. Now, of course, I know that it wasn’t their food preferences that bothered me. We were ill suited, and not just in a choice of food. I told myself I would no longer make this sort of compromise.
Enter the Icing Troll: life partner, soul mate, best friend, lover of trying almost anything at least once. I admit to initial skepticism, the fear of going against my grain, going down a road of compromise. He comes from, what I refer to as ‘his village’, a small town in northwestern Maryland close to the border of West Virginia, certainly not an area known for making a pilgrimage to for culinary delicacies. What I found within him was an honest humbleness, a willing to try something simply out of curiosity. So much more than the stereotype of his peers. One discovers when conversing with people who share your passions, that where you come from doesn’t make a person. We cooked together, traveled the world together, developed recipes together. He was modest when I asked him to be my business partner; now he has blossomed, exhibitor of the bold fervor of an avid explorer in sugar craft.
It was an October morning, yet it didn’t feel like Autumn. A bit too warm and balmy, more reminiscent of drowsy pre-summer nights just before the dawn of the summer heat looming above, pressing down, leaving one breathless. I got this thought. A fragment, really. “Let’s go pick some apples” I said, still sleep-eyed and groggy, my trusty hound, Long Nail Pepper Skin, still curled up under the blankets, the cries heard of Remeford T. Dog already asking for his breakfast, his incessant pattering up and down the stairs, having checked his food bowl for the hundredth time. “It’s 6 am.” “Okay. I’ll wait 30 minutes. Maybe 2 hours.” With hounds fed, we embarked to Hollin Farms in Delaplane, VA, a multi-generational, family-run farm approximately 45 miles from downtown Washington DC. This farm has been part escape from the confines of the city, part go-to local farm for fresh apples, peaches, Japanese plums, and berries to Confection Witch cakes and desserts for years. These are friendly, proud farmers completely transparent in their production, using clay, for example, instead of pesticides on their apple orchards to repel destructive insects instead of using chemical insecticides. Did I mention the location is more than gorgeous? It’s easy to lose oneself in the tranquility of the surroundings, getting lost on back roads set among the mountain backdrop, car windows down, hair billowing, almost too cinematic, an illusionary cliché that makes you wonder if it was a figment of imagination.
I bought a lot of apples. Too many apples. There were so many beautiful varieties to choose from. Invariably, by November, there were still apples laying around the kitchen. There were roses on the table the color of rouge, just because Icing Troll thought I would love them. He’s good like that, doing something for no reason, just in the hopes to make me smile. Creeping through the blinds, daylight cast a soft glow against the rose petals and I thought of Alain Passard’s tarte aux pommes comme un bouquet de roses (apple ‘bouquet of roses’ tart). While the aesthetic is attributed to master Passard, the recipe is so Confection Witch and Icing Troll, a lovely collaboration. This tart has almond meal because I like the texture and cardamom because he thinks it’s sexy when combined with cinnamon. It’s a farm-to-table style dessert that combines a delicate almond cream with spiced fruit, not too sweet, and the perfect ending to a weekend brunch served with mulled cider.
I leave you with our version of a love collaboration: Whorls of shaved apples lacquered with spiced vanilla nestled in almond cream punctuated with bursts of cranberry and bright candied ginger in a date/walnut crust.
The recipe. Gluten-free. Dairy-free
Apple Rosette Tart with Almond Cream in a Walnut/Date Crust
Date | Walnut | Cranberry | Candied Ginger | Crust
250 g walnuts, chopped
175 g pitted Medjool dates, chopped
32 g dried cranberries, chopped
48 g candied ginger, chopped
Almond | Cream
50 g almond meal
30 g almond flour
75 g powdered sugar
45 g eggs (white and yolk, lightly beaten to combine)
75 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Apple | Rosettes
5-6 baking apples (we used Shizuka and White Winter Pearmain varieties from Hollin Farms)
Juice of one lemon
Vanilla | Spice | Lacquer
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Crust | Preparation
In a food processor or blender, mix the walnuts, dates, cranberries, and candied ginger until a smooth consistency is achieved.
Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 4.75” x 14.25” x 1.5” rectangular or 8 - 9” (with 1.5” sides) round tart pan with a removable bottom.
Almond Cream | Preparation
Sift the almond meal and almond flour into a medium bowl, breaking up any lumps.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the butter holds a peak when the paddle is lifted and the butter has a consistency resembling mayonnaise.
To the butter, sift in the powdered sugar and mix on the lowest speed setting until incorporated. Increase the speed to low and mix for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the almond mixture in 2 additions, pulsing to combine and then mixing on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, incorporating any dry ingredients that settled.
Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 30 seconds until combined.
Spoon the almond cream into the prepared crust and smooth the top with a spatula.
Apple Rosette | Preparation
Prepare a bowl filled with warm water and the lemon juice.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut thin strips of apple in various lengths. Soak the apple strips in the lemon water until you finish peeling all the apples.
Drain the apple strips and blot with a clean kitchen towel. To form a small rose bud, starting at one end of an apple strip, loosely wrap the strip around the tip of your little finger. Continue wrapping apple strips on itself to make a rose. Gently slip your fingertip out of the rose and press the rose lightly into the almond cream. Get creative, the less perfect the form, the more ‘real’ the petals will appear.
Vanilla Spice Lacquer | Preparation
Mix all of the ingredients together with a spoon until smooth. Set aside.
Baking | Final Assembly
Place the tart pan on a baking pan with a Silpat or piece of parchment paper placed under the tart pan.
Place a piece of foil loosely over the tart pan, avoiding direct contact with the apples (this is to ensure the apples don’t take on too much color).
Bake at 325 F for 25 minutes.
Turn off the oven and remove the tart. Remove the foil and discard. Brush the Vanilla Spice Lacquer liberally on the rosettes and return the tart to the hot oven to cool to room temperature (the almond cream will finish cooking during this time frame).
Serving | Storage
Serve the tart at room temperature.
The tart can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving, for best results.
Tart recipe by The Confection Witch and Icing Troll | Photography by The Confection Witch and Icing Troll