On Saturday, I posted a picture of a Thing that I called a "Rustic Fruit Strip" that I'd made for dessert when our friends were in town for the big College Move-In. The photo got Quite the Response, and many folks asked for the recipe, so I thought I'd post a How-To-Make guide for you guys.
As you should certainly know by now, I'm not a huge fan of recipes, which is why I made these strips. They're really more of a craft project than a fancy dessert, but they still look pretty. And they taste very good.
If you want to make some of your own, here's what you'll need:
- A pizza cutter or sharp knife
- A pastry brush
- A sheet/sheets of puff pastry (store bought or homemade)
- Fruit of your choice
- Melted butter
- Egg wash
- Fine salt
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Your choice of granulated sugar (white, brown, raw, etc)
If you'd like to use your own puff pastry, use your favorite recipe. If you've never made it before and want to give it a go, please refer to my Helpful Video about how to make puff pastry.
Once you have your puff, here's what you do:
- Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut a strip of puff for your base. How wide and long you need to cut it depends on what kind of fruit you're using (you want it to fit) and how long you want it to be (which is limited by the size of your baking pan and the strength of your pastry. I wouldn't go any longer than 12").
- Now decide how wide you want the side pieces to be. Anywhere from 1/2" to 1" would be fine. I cut my long sides as long as the base piece and then cut the end pieces to fit between the two long pieces.
- Before you do anything else, flip all the cut pieces over, put them on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. This will firm the fat back up and help your puff to rise more evenly.
- After the 30 minutes are up, remove your sheet from the freezer and preheat your oven to 400F.
- Beat one egg together with one teaspoon of water to use as an egg wash, or in this case, glue.
- Brush the egg wash along the outer parts of your base piece. This will be the glue that will hold your side pieces in place. Make sure your egg wash doesn't drip down the sides as it can glue the edges of the puff together and impede the rise.
- Gently press your side pieces into place.
- Brush some melted butter lightly all over the pastry base--sides included.
- Sprinkle with some sugar (I used very little as my apples were pretty sweet. Use as much as you need/want without going crazy. Maybe 1-2 Tablespoons, tops).
- Evenly sprinkle a pinch of salt over the sugar.
- Core then slice your apples in 1/8"-1/4" even slices. I used a sharp knife for this and slowed down my usually Rushy Self to keep the slices nice and even(ish).
- Arrange the fruit slices so they all overlap by 1/8"-1/4". For the size strips I made, I ended up using 1 1/2 apples per strip.
- Brush a very little bit of melted butter over the apples, evenly squeeze on about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and sprinkle with a bit more sugar and salt. I used Sugar in the Raw because the large crystals hold up and make the pastry sparkle.
- Bake the strip/s at 400F for about 20 minutes, until nicely puffed and deep golden brown. If the strips don't seem quite done, turn the heat down to 350F and bake another 5-15 minutes, checking frequently.
- Remove from the oven and let cool until warm or even room temperature before slicing and serving.
Are there any optional ingredients? Of course there are! Just remember that you're not building on a piece of wood, so don't load them down. Here are some ideas for Extras:
- Chocolate chips (minis would work well here)
- Chopped, toasted nuts
- Spices and/or citrus zest
What if I want custard under my fruit? You've got a couple of options here:
- If you want to use pastry cream, bake the shells first and let them cool. Then add a thin layer of pastry cream and top with berries or other soft, fresh fruits.
- Mix softened cream cheese with an egg yolk, sugar to sweeten to taste and a pinch of salt. Spread a thin layer (no more than 1/4") on the unbaked shell, and top with fruit of choice. Add your extras, if using, and bake.
- Spread some Nutella under your fruit. Nobody will miss the custard.
What if I want a savory strip? Go for it. Again, you're not building on a block of wood, so show some restraint, but here are some ideas:
- Goat cheese
- Caramelized onions
- Tender vegetables
- Thin meats such as prosciutto
I asked my lovely fans on facebook what other questions they want answered. I answered a fair number of them above, and here are the answers to the rest. I hope you find them helpful.
How do you keep the fruit from browning before baking? This question is about enzymatic browning, not browning in the oven. I was able to minimize/eliminate browning by keeping the peel on the apples and waiting until the very last moment to cut them. Also, the bit of lemon juice helps a lot. If you want to cut your fruit earlier, you can dip it in ice water into which you've squeezed a healthy shot of lemon or lime juice.
Did you precook the fruit? Should you? How do you make sure it is tender by the time the pastry is brown? I didn't precook the apples; they were sliced thinly enough to cook in the about 30 minutes they were in the oven. I wouldn't recommend precooking the fruit. Thirty minutes, along with thin slicing, should be more than enough time to cook any fruit you use. If by some chance the fruit isn't done when the pastry is brown (you can tell by sticking the tip of a sharp knife into the fruit), loosely tent them with foil, turn the heat down to 350F and continue baking until the fruit it tender.
How did you keep the fruit juices from making the pastry too wet? The short answer is that I didn't. Since I was going for rustic, I wasn't too concerned as long as the pastry was baked through. If I were going for a more elegant tart (and if that's what you want to do), sprinkle on a 1/4" layer of fine cake crumbs, cookie crumbs (like vanilla wafers) or even soft bread crumbs. The crumbs will soak up the juices and give you a very nice almost Fruit Jelly layer under your fruit.
How did it taste? I'm pretty sure someone was just joking when they asked this, but it's a good question. These little guys were (unsurprisingly) very buttery. The pastry around the edges was kind of Shatter-y and very crisp while the base had a bit more chew. Again, cake crumbs would've helped with this part. Leaving the apples simple with just sugar, salt and lemon juice was a much more French preparation than I'm used to. We Americans love our cinnamon apples. But the brightness of the lemon really enhanced the apples and the warmth came from the butter (some of which browned in the oven, of course) rather than a warm spice.
I hope you've enjoyed this little tutorial and maybe even learned a thing or two. Is there anything else you'd like to learn to make? Let me know in the comments, and I'll see what I can do to help you out.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.