Authors in the Kitchen: Liz Michalski

I am thrilled to introduce the lovely Liz Michalski, fellow member of the Women's Fiction chapter of RWA and author of Evenfall, my favorite book of 2011.

Evenfall is set in rural Connecticut, and tells the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers.  But there's a third love story as well, and that's the relationship each of the characters has with the land surrounding them.  In the story, the main character, Andie, goes searching through the ancient apple orchard that borders the farm property.  The trees are twisted and gnarled, with old-fashioned names like Maiden's Blush and Ashmeads Kernal.

Andie is searching for peaches in the book, since it is summer and the apples haven't ripened yet.  But my family goes through literally pounds of apples each week, and I make a mean apple tart, so that's the recipe I'm sharing today. The crust comes from Food and Wine, and is the easiest I've ever made.  The original recipe  says you don't need to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, but I find if I make it first and then chill it, it is easier to work with.

Evenfall Apple Tart Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup ice water

Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse for about 5 seconds.  Slowly add the water as the machine is running.  Add just enough to make the dough form into a ball.  Remove, place on a floured work surface, and roll into a disk.  Put disk on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and place in refrigerator.

Filling:

I use Mutsu apples from our local orchard, but any firm, tart apple would do well. 5 large Mutsu apples

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar plus one tablespoon

pinch of cinnamon

about 1/4 pound hard, sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I usually ask my grocer for a recommendation)

Tablespoon of melted butter

Peel, core and slice the apples.  Place cores, skin, water, and 1/2 cup sugar in a small pot.  Bring to a boil.  Continue boiling until liquid is reduced by about half.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Leaving a little more than a one inch margin from the edges, sprinkle cheese across dough. Top with the tablespoon of sugar and cinnamon. Place apple slices on next, then carefully fold up edges of dough over the outside apples, pinching to make dough stick. (The nice thing about this tart is that it is supposed to be rustic, so the shape is supposed to be imperfect.)  Brush apples with butter.

Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the apple slices are soft and the crust is a deep brown.  (You may have to tent the tart with tinfoil for the last few minutes to keep it from burning.)

Strain syrup.  Brush over tart and serve.

***

My next book is also set in Connecticut, but in the coastal area. And although there isn't an apple orchard in this story, there is one very special apple tree.

Liz Michalski's first novel, Evenfall, was published in 2011 by Berkley Books (Penguin).  In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs.  These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt. You can learn more about her and read the first chapter of Evenfall at www.lizmichaski.com.