When I saw the rose apple pie on the King Arthur Flour website, I was entranced. Had to make it. But one of the instructions confused me. It advised the use of white sugar to keep the apple slices as white as possible. I can see that brown roses might seem dingy. But white? For Christmas? I wanted red roses!
Cranberry apple is both seasonal and pretty. Dehydrated cranberries are the perfect way to colour and flavour your roses, along with some vanilla bean. The berries are pulverised with sugar and vanilla seeds, and are left to macerate while the dough is cut and resting.
Cranberry and apple is a classic combo, but even with the vanilla, these tarts were missing something. Cranberries and apples are both acidic, so sourness—while desirable—can be dominate here. Sugar alone does not posses enough depth to add counterbalance the high, tangy notes. And I didn’t want to do the heavy spice route, and diminish the brightness too much—just tone it down a touch. Lining the tarts with marzipan proved to be the perfect trick—a little umami and richness to mitigate the intensity of cranberry. And to make these lovely little tarts more Christmas-y!
NOTE: I prefer almond paste for lining pies, but this year it proved impossible to find in stores. If you bake regularly, you might want to order some online. https://www.odense.com
Often when you macerate fruit in flavour sugar for a pie, you add the juices to the fruit after you’ve placed it in the pie crust. I found when I did that, my tarts were too jammy and reminiscent of cranberry sauce. I want the apples to be the dominate flavour here. Besides, apple and cranberries are both full of pectin. You don’t need the tapioca-thickened juices to hold them together. You want distinct petals, not a red, gummy blob. Please excuse the crumbs below. This is blogging verité.
The amounts in my recipe should work well, depending on how thin you slice your apples. (See the King Arthur piece for tips on apple slicing.) I used a mandolin and also tried slicing by hand. Both require practice to achieve even thickness. But if you get some very thin pieces, and they get very soggy, not to worry. You can use them to glue together thicker pieces. They’ll actually add to the amount of apple you can pack into each tart when used this way. And if you run out of apples? Just add some fresh slices, and use the well-soaked mixed in with those that sit in the macerating liquid for a shorter time. You’ll be fine to wing it a little.
I tried baking these at a lower temperature after my first few batches were burnt at the edges. But the crust never firmed up and they fell apart. So I kept the temperature high and covered them lightly with foil halfway through to ensure full cooking and no burning. I removed the foil to let the heat set my little flowers in one final blast.
A dollop of whipped cream would not hurt these one bit. AFTER everyone has had a chance to admire their beauty. If you’ve got some holly, real or fake, use the green to keep the Christmas colours happening.
Raspberry, strawberry or cherries, dehydrated of course, would all work well here. But Christmas only comes once a year! Give these tart little tarts a whirl and brighten up your Christmas table. Much happiness to you all!
Gratitude to @bravetart, aka Stella Parks, both for introducing me to the glories of freeze-dried fruit, her method of macerating apples for a pie, and her fabulous pastry dough. And to King Arthur’s Flour for instructions on how to make a rose apple pie.
Cranberry Apple Christmas Rose Tarts
- Food processor
- muffin tins
- Tin foil
- 1 batch favourite pie dough
- 1 ½ oz dehydrated cranberries (or 45 gr) (you can use 1 oz or 30 gr for a less assertive cranberry flavour)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 lbs sweet apples
- ¼ cup tapica starch also known as tapioca flour
- 1 tube marzipan
- Make pie dough, roll out and cut into circles until you have 2 dozen circles to line 2 muffin tins. Let rest for two hours.
- Put your freeze-dried berries, sugar, salt and the vanilla seeds together in the food precoessor until the cranberries are powdered, about one minute. Do not add tapioca at this point.
- Put the powdery mixture in an ziplock bag or a bowl and place it beside the cutting board where you'll be slicing your apples. Add in the hollowed-out vanilla pods.
- No need to peel your apples. Slice apples evenly about ⅛ inch thick. Don't worry if they are not perfectly even. Trancluscent is fine, transparent is for eating. Throw away the first slice that is mostly skin.
- Cut the round slices in half and throw in with the cranberry-vanilla sugar mixture, tossing to coat.
- Once all your apples are sliced, let them sit in the ziplock bag, making their own juices, for at least one hour and up to three. Toss and squish once in a while to distribute flavours evenly.
- When you are ready to assemble your tarts, add tapicoa and give the apple slices one last good squishing to distribute it evenly.
- Remove the tart shells (pastry dough) from the fridge and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Cut slices from your tube of maripan, about ¼ inch thick. Line the bottom of the tarts by pressing the marzipan in gently. (Don't skip this step! It MAKES the tarts!)
- Line each tart with overlapping apple slices, starting at the outer edges and working your way in. Start with the tallest pieces. Use a variety of thicknesses to get a more natural look and to help the bigger pieces stay in place.
- When there is a small hole in the centre, take a few thin pieces and roll them together, pressing tightly. Jam this little roll into the centre and watch it expand. If there's enough room, do it again.
- Do not top up your roses with extra macerating liquid, or your little roses will look like little red gummy blobs.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then check to see that no burning is happening at the edges.
- Cover lightly with tin foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
- Remove foil and let cook for 2-5 minutes more.
- Remove from oven, and let cool for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to loosen around the edges. Use a fork if necessary to help the tarts out of the pan. The reason to do this quickly is that any juices that may have spilled over could cause them to stick to the pan when completely cooled.
- Serve with whipped cream or just as is! If you can find any edible metallic spray, gold or silver would be an amazing final touch. Enjoy!
- Freeze-dried cherries would make an excellent substitute here. Or try raspberries or strawberries.
- I prefer almond paste to marzipan for lining pies, but it’s been impossible to find this year. Odense makes both: https://www.odense.com
- Mini-muffin tins make beautiful bite-sized rosebuds. Cut the baking time to 20 min, half covered, half not. They can still burn in a shorter cooking time.
- Gratitude to @bravetart, aka Stella Parks, both for introducing me to the glories of freeze-dried fruit, her method of macerating apples for a pie, and her fabulous pastry dough. And to King Arthur’s Flour for instructions on how to make a rose apple pie.