Is there anything that says "Fall" better than apples and caramel?
Apples and caramel tucked into a gluten-free crust, that's what! This salted caramel apple tart satisfies all those cravings for warm apple pie in a cinnamon-scented kitchen on a crisp fall day, and it has the added benefit of being grain-free.
As I was peeling and slicing away, I couldn't help thinking about last year at this time in my Grade One classroom, watching the kidlets peeling apples as the class made Apple Crumble. Their excitement over something as simple as using an apple peeler was infectious, and the classroom was buzzing. Scents of apples and cinnamon and brown sugar wafted down the school hallway, building anticipation for their soon-to-be-ready snack. Fun times.
Why is something so simple as peeling an apple with a little machine so engaging for a child?
I think it's just the novelty. The human brain seeks out and responds to novelty. Anything that is new or different catches our eye. TV advertisers use this knowledge to their advantage. Have you ever watched a television commercial that has been aired for a few weeks and noticed that one detail has been changed? It's a tactic used to appeal to our brains to see this "old" ad as something new. Advertisers need to grab our attention and hold our interest.
Brain research shows that using novelty in learning increases the ability to create new connections between neurons and therefore can improve our memory. This understanding has far-reaching effects not only for young learners in a classroom, but for anyone at any stage of life. Think about the novelty of traveling: new sights, new sounds, new smells and tastes. Our brains are actively processing all these new experiences and we remember them for years. Changing the route of our daily run, choosing a different trail to hike, or shaking up our daily routines are all ways to invite novelty, and therefore new learning, into our lives.
So is having a new dessert.
Just down the road from my home is a small farm that grows and sells a kazillion varieties of organic apples. Lucky me! And now, also close by is a new fabulous little natural foods shop that stocks organic, GMO-free whole foods to stock my pantry. I took advantage of these two sources, and after much experimentation, created this Salted Caramel Apple Tart.
Salted Caramel Apple Tart with Almond Crust
- 4 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 4 large or 6 medium)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
- 1 tbsp tapioca starch or cornstarch
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or sugar of your choice
- 1/8 cup water
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add coconut oil (or butter) and water.
- Knead dough until well combined. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie plate or smaller tart tins working the mixture up the sides.
- Toss apples with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Mix together the sugar, lemon zest, tapioca and cinnamon. Toss with the apples.
- Arrange the apples in the crust, stuffing it as full as you can. ! cut up small pieces of apple and placed them in the bottom of the crust, then arranged slices on top to increase the height.
- Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes or until the apples are tender. Watch carefully to make sure the crust does not brown too much.
- Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar but stop stirring once the mixture boils. You can swirl the pan occasionally to distribute the heat.
- Continue to boil until it reaches a dark amber colour. This will be easy to see if you are using white sugar. If you're using a darker sugar, watch to see when the colour darkens slightly. Add the butter all at once and whisk it in to the liquid sugar. It will immediately foam up. Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat.
- Whisk in the whipping cream. It will foam up again. Continue whisking until it is well incorporated.
- Stir in the salt until dissolved. Cool a little. It may seem too thin, but it will thicken as it cools.
- Gently warm before serving.
- If you have some left over, it will freeze well or will keep in the frig for 2 – 3 weeks.