I am hooked on the British period drama series that airs on PBS called Downton Abbey. I literally can't wait for Sunday nights at 9pm when the 7-part series of Season 2 airs in my local area. My obsession with this show, which is said to be an updated version of the beloved PBS mini-series, Upstairs Downstairs, began last year when Season 1's 3-part series first aired. Since then I can't get enough of it and look forward to my Sunday evenings in front of the TV.
For those unfamiliar with the series, it is a tale of an aristocratic family and their servants, set in the early 1900's right before and into the Great War. The setting, in a real-life English manor fictionally called Downton Abbey, is enchanting, very much like what you would see in a Merchant-Ivory movie. The costumes depicting the era are stunningly beautiful. And, the stories, both rich and intriguing, focus on the life, and scandals, of the Crawley family (aristocrats) and those of their servants. The script is simply scrumptious, with the best lines given to Maggie Smith, all making for great television viewing.
So, my Sunday nights are special, and to honor the evening viewing I like to have dessert. For this weeks episode 4 viewing, I chose to make this simple but delicious apple tart. First, because I just saw Jacques Pepin make it on TV. Second, because I had two huge Granny Smith apples that soon needed to find a purpose.
Dessert don't get much easier than this. It starts with a simple pastry dough that requires no rolling. Just pat it into a tart pan or pie plate. Cover it with peeled and sliced apples, sprinkle with some sugar, scatter a few small clumps of butter, and bake. Brush the baked tart with some apricot jam to give it a bit of a shine and serve. It's not too sweet or rich, just delicious. Perhaps not so worthy of this elegant drama series, but just enough for a cold Sunday evening.
A third season will now air in September. Though delighted at the prospect of more shows, I suspect that means I will probably have to wait to find out if Lady Mary marries Capt. Crawley or if Anna and Mr. Bates can finally be together.
Jacques Pepin's Apple Tart
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
6 T. softened butter (or combo of butter & Crisco)
2 lbs. apples
3 T. sugar
2 T. butter
2-3 T. apricot jam, warmed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium sized bowl or Cuisinart, mix together the flour, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter/Crisco and mix till crumbly. Add the milk and mix till dough comes together.
Pour into a tart pan and with hands push dough into pan, over bottom and up sides of pan.
Peel, quarter and core apples. Cut into 1-inch thick slices. Arrange apples wedges in a concentric circle on the dough and sprinkle with a generous amount of sugar. Dot the surface with the butter cut into small pieces. Set on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour until the apples are completely soft. Watch the dough edges. Cover with aluminum foil if they begin to over-brown. Brush the surface with the apricot jam, warmed up to loosen.