As any true foodie knows, experiencing food is like experiencing the world; it takes not just one sense, but a unique blend of all the senses. Autumn is not just in the changing color of the trees— it is in the sound of crunching leaves, in the feel of a chill morning breeze, in the smell of warm spices. And eating is much the same. The art of eating involves more than just spectacular taste; it involves tantalizing scent and awe-inspiring visual presentation.
I have often heard individuals say that the look of food does not matter. And to this I object. The visual appearance of a food actually intensifies the eating experience. Visual cues are often the first source of information our brain receives, and it is this information that actually primes our taste buds. When you eat a purple-colored candy that tastes like cherry, you will experience an odd sensation because the information your eyes receive (purple) does not match the taste you anticipate (you expect purple candies to taste like grape and red candies to taste like cherry). So yes, appearance does matter. We eat not just with our taste buds, but with our eyes as well.
In the gluten-free world, the visual appearance of food is often disappointing. Bread is gnarled, cookies are lumpy, pies are cracked. But it does not have to be this way. I assure you that gluten-free desserts can be impressive. You do not need wheat or a culinary degree to create beautiful baked goods. Even gluten-free treats want to dress to impress. And here’s one way to do it: Apple-Almond Rose Tartlets.
With a beautiful rose decoration made of fresh apple slices, these tartlets are sure to create awe even before they can be tasted. But their taste, of course, will make them even more spectacular. A tender, almond-hinted shortcrust pastry surrounds a creamy almond custard filling and sweet, poached apple top. Pink Lady apples are perfect for the poaching process as their pink hue gives a wonderful rosy color to the fruit slices. An apple syrup brushing on the top imparts a beautiful finish and a delicious sweetness to the slightly tart apples, providing a perfect blend of fresh fruit and sweet taste. These little gems did not survive past Thanksgiving day for us, and I assure you that they will be just as popular in your house as well!
Apple-Almond Rose Tartlets
Yield: 12 tartlets
1 ½ cups GF Flour Mix*
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ cup butter, cold
2 egg yolks, beaten
½ teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a standard-sized muffin tin.
Combine flour, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add in chilled butter, pulsing until a crumbly, coarse meal forms. Add egg yolks and almond extract in three additions, pulsing until dough comes together in a ball. Remove dough and knead together (the dough should be as malleable as play dough. If it is not wet enough, add some water; if too wet, knead in some more flour).
Gather dough and roll out on a piece of plastic wrap to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out dough into rounds to match size of the muffin tins. Line tins with dough. Prick bottoms of crust with a fork, and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
3-4 Pink Lady apples
2 cups apple juice
1 cup sugar
Cut apples into quarters and then into thin, vertical slices.
Combine sugar and apple juice in a medium-sized pan and bring to a simmer. Place apple slices in apple juice and simmer 5 minutes, or until tender (I did mine in 3 separate batches to ensure even cooking). Remove apple slices from liquid with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain/cool.
Continue to simmer apple juice over medium-high heat until mixture thickens to a syrup, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup cream
Zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon GF Flour Mix*
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until thick/pale. Beat in cream, zest, and extracts. Whisk a few tablespoons of custard into flour and then combine flour mixture with rest of filling (prevents flour from clumping and ensures even distribution).
Fill each tartlet shell with 1-2 tablespoons of filling. For the rose decoration, lay out ten slices of poached apple in a straight line with each slice overlapping half of the previous one. Starting at left side, roll up the line of apple slices into a rose shape and gently place in filling. Repeat for each tartlet. Bake 20 minutes, or until crust begins to brown (filling will still be slightly liquid). Remove and let cool.
Brush rose tops with apple syrup and chill tartlets for about 2 hours to allow custard to set.
*GF Flour Mix
2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch