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Fresh Apple Tarts in Puff Pastry with Cinnamon Ice Cream
(From Mark Tachman, 411 West)

The trouble with most cinnamon ice cream is that the cinnamon is purely conceptual:  It’s all in the name, not in the taste.  Not so with the version developed by Mark Tachman, pastry chef at 411 West, an Italian café in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Tachman, a wiry, high-energy St. Louis native who writes wry culinary commentaries that have aired on NPR, begins with a lush ice cream base that resembles crème anglaise.  Surprisingly, he achieves the best flavor by adding two spoonfuls of ground “cinnamon”—actually cassia—to the base after it has chilled, just before freezing in the ice cream maker. 

To serve 6 

Ingredients for the apple tarts:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed as directed
egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
3 apples, Fuji or Granny Smith
2 ounces butter, melted
1/4-cup sugar
1/4-cup apricot jam, if desired 

Method for the tarts:

1. Set oven to 375 degrees.
2. Defrost the puff pastry sheet as directed on the package.  Place the sheet on the counter.
3. Combine egg yolk and water in a small bowl and beat to combine.  Lightly brush pastry with egg mixture and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
4. Cut out six circles (about 1-inch larger than an apple half) with a large round cookie cutter.  Place circles on parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Peel and core three apples.  Slice each in half.  Slice each apple half thinly, starting from the top, keeping the shape of the apple intact.
5. Place each apple half on top of a puff pastry round and fan the apple slices, starting from the top.
6. Bake until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender.
7. If glaze is desired, melt 1/4 cup apricot jam over low heat.  Brush the tops of the individual tarts with the jam.
8. Serve warm with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.

Ingredients for the ice cream:

(Makes 16 servings) 

4-1/2 cups heavy cream
2-1/4 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split in half
11 egg yolks
1-3/8 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, or to taste (see note)

Method for the ice cream: 

1. Combine cream, milk and vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan.  Heat to a slow boil.
2. Set up two large mixing bowls to create an ice bath.  Fill the bottom bowl about halfway with ice.  Place a strainer over the top bowl.
3. Just as the cream begins to come to a boil, combine yolks and sugar in a third bowl and whisk to combine.  Gradually add about 1/4 of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking until combined.
4. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, with a wooden or heavy plastic spoon until slightly thickened.  The mixture should coat the back of the spoon.  Do not boil.
5. Immediately strain the mixture into the large bowl set over the ice bath.  Cool, stirring occasionally until cold.  Strain into a plastic container and refrigerate until needed.
6. Add ground cinnamon, whisk well to combine and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. 

Note:  Mark Tachman uses ordinary ground cinnamon—most likely Indonesian cassia—in this recipe.  We experimented with Chinese cassia, which produced an ice cream with a lighter cinnamon taste.  For a stronger flavor, try powerful Saigon cinnamon (Vietnamese cassia).  Whichever variety you use, adding more than two tablespoons of ground cassia may give the ice cream a slightly gritty texture.

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