Thursday, October 8, 2009

Danish Brownies and Marzipan Apple Tart

Last month we were invited to participate in our neighborhood clean-up and the evening's BBQ to celebrate everyone's hard work. Well, we conveniently missed the clean-up (trimming trees, removing debris, and laying the POURING rain) but found our way to the dinner. Naturally! And because there are only eight houses in the sub-division, it was very obvious who helped and who didn't. Even though we tried blaming it on being the only people in the neighborhood with kids, our neighbors still gave us a bad time. It was all in fun though and I can't blame them. It was pretty lame that we were wimps about not wanting to get wet. Nevertheless the dinner was our opportunity to get to know our Danish neighbors better, and we're happy we went.

The BBQ was held at Kurt and Eve's house. Everyone brought a dish and it was mandatory to bring along one's own plate, utensils, and drinking glass. They provided the steaks and drinks. We sat inside their long garage at an even longer table (all 17 of us) and enjoyed wonderful food, drinks, and good conversation. Some of it was in Danish but we mostly spoke to our table mates in English. Anatole was the only child and he was basking in all the attention. Kurt and Eve encouraged him to play in the huge cardboard "house" they constructed for their granddaughter. Kurt even got inside it with Anatole and showed him some other fun stuff in their garage. It continues to amaze me just how friendly and welcoming Danes are with children.

I thought it would be fun to take along a batch of brownies and, even better, to stick some mini-Danish flags on top. If you don't know it, Danes are crazy about their flag and routinely bring out large and small versions to celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and more. These brownies are rich, decadent and best when cut in small, one or two bite-sized pieces. That way people don't feel guilty about going back for more. I kept passing the tray around the table until it was empty.

From How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

1 2/3c soft, unsalted butter
13oz. best bittersweet chocolate
6 large eggs
1T vanilla extract
1 2/3c sugar
1 1/2c all-purpose flour
1t salt
1 1/3c chopped walnuts
13 x 9" pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line your pan--sides and all--with foil or parchment.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy-based pan. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and sugar. Measure the flour in another bowl and add the salt.

3. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar, and then the nuts and flour. Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape into the lined pan.

4. Bake for about 25 minutes. When it's ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey. And even with such a big batch you do need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

My notes: I followed Nigella's instructions for baking time but wish I would have baked another 3-5 minutes. They were indeed "gungy" but perhaps a little too much. I think a few more minutes in the oven would have made them perfect. But I suppose everyone has a different type of oven that cooks slightly differently, too.

The apple tart is something I saw on a web version of the Today Show. It was a segment about recipes for Labor Day. I saw this woman chef (can't say as I remember who she was) prepare the easiest tart that included a twist. It was comprised of three main components: dough, marzipan, and apples. Since marzipan is huge in Denmark (not sure why except that it tastes good!) I thought "I have to make this." I didn't follow the exact recipe from the show, just borrowed the concept. The end result was lovely and tasted really great. My father-in-law was visiting at the time and having tried it both at room temperature and warm, he said it nearly wasn't worth eating unless it was served warm. I thought that was a semi-strong reaction, but I suppose the heated version brought out all the flavors.

Marzipan Apple Tart
Adapted from the Today Show

1 recipe of your favorite homemade pie dough (or store-bought if that's easier)
4-5 medium-large baking apples (Granny Smith is a good choice. You want a tart apple).
1.5t cinnamon
1/2t ground nutmeg
1/4c sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like your apples...but remember that the marzipan will add sweetness.)
1 egg yolk
1/4c sliced, slivered almonds
Baking sheet

1. With a rolling pin, roll out pie dough into a 12" to 14" circle. Set aside.

2. Use rolling pin to roll out marzipan making it flat and slightly smaller than the size of your pie dough circle. Remove it from your work surface and lay on top of the pie dough.

3. Core, peel and slice apples. Mix with spices and sugar and set aside.

4. Apply apples in a concentric circle (or messy, like mine) on top of the marzipan-lined pie dough, leaving a 1.5" border of pie dough all around.

5. Fold in the edges of dough to cover the outer edge of the apples so that the entire tart has a folded up crust around it.

6. Brush the edges of the tart with a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle on nuts.

7. Bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

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