Welcoming Fall With An Apple Tart

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Get the recipe for Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart. (NPR)
Get the recipe for Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart. (NPR)

This time of year, supermarket shelves are overflowing with apples -- and not much else.

But if you're mourning the loss of summer fruit, Top Chef finalist Carla Hall has the perfect dessert to take your mind off your troubles: Apple Cranberry Frangipane Tart. It may sound complicated, but Hall promises it's simple, even the exotic-sounding frangipane. "All it is is almonds and sugar and butter, oh my!"

An apple tart demands the best possible apples, so Hall picks through the bounty on display, thumping each one to test its ripeness. She settles on a mix of sweet and tart apples, and back in her kitchen, she sets her favorite sous-chef, host Guy Raz, to chopping.

This tart will have three parts: a crisp, cookie-like crust that adds eggs and cream to the usual pie crust recipe, a base of the sweetened almond paste called frangipane, and a top layer of apples, chopped and sauteed with cranberries, sugar and spices. While Raz is on apple duty, Hall starts the frangipane and the crust, most of which can be made in a food processor.

The key to the crust, Hall says, is to listen for the thumping, rattling sound that means it's coming together in the food processor.

"You know why I love radio?" she says. "Because this is the thing I want to tell people, use all of your senses to cook with, and listen for it. Don't just use your eyes!"

She rolls out the crust to a perfect thinness, and presses it carefully into a tart pan. These crusts have to be blind-baked (baked without the filling), so they are weighted down with old beans or pie weights and popped into the oven for a few minutes.

Then you add the frangipane and the apples and return the crusts to the oven.  They're done when everything looks golden brown and the frangipane has puffed up luxuriously around the apples. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream right in the middle, and you've got a perfect fall dessert.

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