An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.

the girl next door

7 Comments

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I cleaned my vacuum cleaner today. Just really gave it a good, all-over spit shine. Why? I’m not altogether sure. That’s got to qualify as a sort of next-level, lost-her-marbles kind of cleanliness that is most often associated with the neurotic type; the kind of cleaning that typically suggests there might be some sort of internal crisis going on with the one doing all the cleaning. Or nesting, I suppose. There’s always that.

So, anyway. I can’t tell you that I’m in a crisis and I most certainly am not pregnant. What I can tell you, however, is that approximately 48 hours ago, I entered another chapter of my life as I know it. Literally.IMG_0195IMG_0186

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I turned my cookbook manuscript in to my publisher two days ago, and I haven’t known what to do with myself since (i.e. literal vacuum cleaning). I didn’t think it would affect me the way it did, but it was truly the most intense feeling. This doesn’t mean it’s totally finished by any means, but it marked a very symbolic point in the process of making this book and I was temporarily and unexpectedly overwhelmed by it – the passing of the torch (okay, book), to the team of people who will help to make it the best it can be. I even took a video to commemorate the hitting of the “send” button. Yes, I did that.

Some moments, instantaneous though they may be, are monumental in their significance. After 14 months of shooting and traveling and writing and cooking and testing and re-testing . . . hitting that “send” button was one of those moments.

People say that making a book is like having a baby, and I’d say those people know what they’re talking about. For me, the little moment to which I refer – finally hitting that send button – sort of equates to the part when you send your baby off to college. Or at least what I imagine it might be like . . .

Others are going to shape and mold and fuss over it and challenge it to be better – to be a better version of itself. They will send it back to you a little older, a little more mature, polished – and finally ready to go out into the big bad world.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and as it turns out, the same can be said for raising a book. Or, making a book, rather.

It really is the funniest thing.

Apple & Vanilla Creme Fraiche Tart

This is truly one of my favorite things I’ve made in the longest time. It has nothing to do with what I just waxed on about above, but it’s so darn delicious I couldn’t wait to share. She’s a very fancy looking, dolled-up kind of confection, this tart, but don’t be fooled! Once you take her makeup off – underneath all of that powdered sugar, toasted almonds and creamy vanilla-laced custard – she’s really just just the girl next door . . . if the girl next door was an apple pie.

I am dying for you guys to give it a go and let me know what you think!! It’s my go-to holiday dessert right now and you can easily swap in pears if you want to change up the flavor profile a bit. In fact, you can really play around there . . . figs, persimmons, cranberries, citrus zest . .. endless possibilities, really.

But the crust is sweetly delicious and the custard takes all of 60 seconds to make. This is SUCH a winner. I took it to a dinner party last week and it was a complete hit. If you make it, be sure to share it on social media and tag me so I can see! I’ll return the favor and share your creations as well.

Happy holidays to all of you, and happy baking!

Apple and Vanilla Creme Fraiche Tart

Ingredients

2 large apples (any kind you like), cored and thinly sliced

1/4 cup sliced raw almonds

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

for the crust:

8 Tbsp butter, melted (1 stick)

3 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Pinch of Kosher salt

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

for the custard:

3/4 cup creme fraiche (you can sub sour cream)

3 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 3 tsp vanilla extract)

3 egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Begin my making the crust. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar and salt; stirring until well-combined. Add the flour and stir once more just until well incorporated. Reserve 2 Tbsp of this dough (to top the tart) and press the rest into a 9-inch rectangular or circular tart pan with a removable bottom (I suggest giving the pan a spray with some natural non-stick spray prior to filling).

Press the dough evenly all over the bottom and up the sides as much as you can. It’s okay if it doesn’t go all the way up the sides. Set this in the fridge for 10 minutes while you make the custard.

To make the custard, combine the creme fraiche, eggs, vanilla bean paste, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl, whisking until smooth and creamy.

After the crust has chilled for 10 minutes, layer the sliced apples inside, fanning and spreading them out as you see fit. I almost never use the full 2 apples here, usually closer to 1, but find that I use more when I’m making this in a round pan. So, just use as many as you need, and snack on the rest!

Pour the custard over the apples (I like to create big gaps for the custard to fill, as pictured) and sprinkle the reserved bit of pastry around the edge of the tart, along with the almonds. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the custard has visibly set and the tart is a light golden brown (ovens vary, so just keep an eye on it).

Let cool completely before removing from the tart pan to serve.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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Author: Harvest & Honey

Lauren McDuffie is a freelance food and travel writer, photographer, stylist, cookbook author, and award-winning food blogger. She lives in Indianapolis, IN with her husband, Lucas, and two children.

7 thoughts on “the girl next door

  1. I give this an A+. A perfect 10. A 100%. Such a lovely presentation. Would love your feedback on my new short called The Writers Block. Hope to see you there

  2. I’m SO excited for you! Bravo! Best wishes! I will look for it once you give us the heads up! I love the way you write. I hope the village shining up the final copy don’t mess with your style too much. Also- I’m going to try this tart and I’ll definitely tag you!

  3. Really Lauren, you outdo yourself with every post. Can’t speak to the recipe yet (will try it soon), but your analogy on hitting the send button, cleaning the vacuum cleaner and child birth was priceless. Really.

  4. That looks so good. Do you notice any difference between vanilla paste and vanilla extract? I’ve never seen the paste. And were those apples that have the red tinge? I’m going to have to try this. By the way – you’ll never fully let go of your ‘child’. It will come back from editors, it will be published, and every time you open it you’ll see some little tweak you wished you’d made, or some little typo everyone missed. So it will still be yours even after it’s grown up and gone off into the world on its own.

    • Thank you! These are pink-fleshed Mountain Rose apples, that I order from Oregon every year, typically for photo shoots. They are a bit of a splurge, but I love them. I do think vanilla bean paste makes for a more intense vanilla flavor, but I also know that it’s not all that readily available. So, good vanilla extract makes a fine substitute. William Sonoma tends tocarry it, but I usually just order it online so I have around. Xx

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