Things are rosy on the Internet these days, at least if you’re perusing baking sites. Pinterest has a whole page devoted to apple roses, and a scroll through Facebook regularly unearths someone’s video for rolling apple slices in a strip of puff pastry.
It’s easy to see why the technique is popular: The glimpse of peel along the top of each “petal” creates the illusion of a red rose. But certain recipes are wanting. Sometimes it’s the method, saying no more than: Wrap the strips into apple roses. In some tarts, the apples remain disconcertingly raw or steamed. Other pies, while gorgeous, look challenging to slice and still retain their beauty.
The apple rose technique generally is credited to famed French pastry chef Alain Passard, who came up with his Bouquet of Roses tart several years ago. (A YouTube video explains his thinking at bit.ly/1Ru2PCZ)
All of this got us to thinking about how to highlight this technique in a personal dessert — because we love individual tarts — with a little extra pizazz. What we came up melds a sort of cheese Danish with apple roses.
Sure, it requires a little more effort than sliding sliced apples into a pie crust. But making the posies isn’t as tricky at it looks, and the impact-to-effort ratio is hugely tilted toward oohs and ahhs.
We used frozen puff pastry, but if you have a favorite homemade recipe, go for it.
One key to success is giving the apple roses a filling firm enough in which to anchor them, but delicate enough to bake in the brief time that the pastry requires. The cream cheese of a good Danish pastry sounded right, its flavor bolstered with some apple jelly.
An egg wash tinged with cinnamon ensures that the pastry emerges from the oven with a glossy finish, but with flavor to boot.
As to the apples, choose the reddest-skinned fruits you can find. We’ve used SweeTango, Pink Lady and Cortland with success. Larger apples give you longer slices to work with.
Use your sharpest knife to cut the apple halves into thin slices. Really thin slices. (If you watch the Passard video and see the lengths of paper-thin apple that a professional kitchen can produce, you will hate him just a little. Nonetheless, carry on.)
Microwaving a plateful of slices makes them pliable enough to bend like petals. Once the core posy is formed, set it on a paper towel to absorb some moisture before placing it on the filling.
Also, to ensure the flakiest puff pastry, keep the cut and filled squares (directions will explain) in the refrigerator until all the roses are formed. Once you complete the roses, brush with some melted apple jelly and pop the tarts into a hot oven. They’re best fresh, but rewarm well within 24 hours for a breakfast treat.
As nice as it is to receive roses, it’s pretty great to give them, as well — especially when they taste so good.
Rosy Posy Apple Tarts
For the filling:
- 6 ounces (3/4 of an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple jelly
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
For the glaze:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the roses:
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 large apples (see note)
- 2 tablespoons apple jelly, melted in the microwave
- Decorative sparkling sugar, if desired
Note: We liked the flavor and texture of SweeTango apples, but any good baking apple will work. Just make sure apples have the reddest skin possible. With an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons apple jelly until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Unwrap the puff pastry on a well floured surface. It will be 9-by-9-inches square. Using a ruler as a guide, roll the pastry into a 12-by-12-inch square. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, straighten the edges, if necessary. Cut into nine 4-by-4-inch squares. Place on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or sprayed with baking spray).
In a small bowl, beat together the yolk, milk and cinnamon with a fork. Paint each pastry square with glaze, taking care to cover the entire surface, but keeping glaze from spilling over onto the baking sheet.
In the center of each square, place a generous tablespoon of cream cheese mixture. Place pans in refrigerator to chill.
In a medium bowl, combine 3 cups water and lemon juice.
Cut each apple in half. Remove the cores (a melon baller does a great job; otherwise, scoop carefully with a small spoon) along with stems and blossom ends. Placing the apple half cut-side down, and using your sharpest small knife, slice from top to bottom as thinly as possible. Submerge slices in lemon water.
Place racks in the bottom and middle positions and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange about 1/3 of the apple slices on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Crumple a paper towel to make nooks and crannies in which you can prop the apple roses. Or use a mini-muffin pan.
With another paper towel, dab softened apples to absorb any excess juice. Begin forming a rose by rolling 1 apple slice into a tight spiral. Wrap another slice, always skin side up, around this bud, then repeat with 5 to 6 more slices. If the slices aren’t pliable enough, return to the microwave for 30 more seconds.
Place rose on the crumpled paper towel to “set up” and repeat with the remaining apple slices — microwaving, dabbing, wrapping and propping — until you have 9 roses. There will be extra slices, which we’ll use in a minute.
Take pastry squares out of the refrigerator and place a rose in the center of each dollop of filling, anchoring firmly. Press remaining slices into filling, curving around the rose to create more petals. You can make tiny rosebuds from smaller slices, placing them so they peek out from under the larger rose. (Consider any remaining apple slices a snack!)
With a pastry brush, carefully brush melted apple jelly over each rose so it glistens, then sprinkle with a pinch of decorative sparkling sugar, if desired.
Place pans in oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown, switching pans on racks halfway through the baking time.
Cool on wire racks, and serve warm or at room temperature the same day. If desired, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar before serving.
Makes 9 tarts.
Nutrition information per serving: 285 calories, 18 g fat, 145 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrates, 6 g saturated fat, 32 mg calcium, 4 g protein, 41 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber. Diabetic exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 1 bread/starch, 1/2 other carb, 3-1/2 fat.