Another idiom that holds a lot of truth in the food world is that good things come in small packages. I think a lot of cooks would agree with me that miniaturizing food is somehow tremendously fulfilling.
It's not that big things aren't occasionally terrific: I'd never downsize a greasy, sloppy slice of NY-style pizza (though maybe I should). But some things are just better smaller, especially when it comes to dessert. Recently I've taken to baking many miniature tarts and tiny pies, including my takeoff of a very simple apple tart from Molly at Orangette.
For a two-person household there are lots of reasons that petite wins out over gargantuan: you finish the cake before it goes stale and you keep your exercise-resistant body from overconsumption. But best of all you get your own minuscule-yet-entire dessert. It really appeals to human selfishness and Western notions of property, don't you think? Why else do you think cupcakes have taken off in recent years?
But there's something special, fun and attractive (or grotesque and cutesy, depending on who you ask) about desserts in miniature. And they don't all have to be baby bumblebee frosted cupcakes--this tart (whether individualized or full size) is elegant and understated, and perfect with a cup of coffee. I like that this tart is about apples, pure and simple--not the evocative, cinnamon-spiked taste of American apple pie.
I've gotten into the habit of keeping a batch of basic butter tart dough, divided into small portions, hanging out in the fridge/freezer for whenever I want to roll some out and have my way with it. If I've made a dough recipe that calls for a bit of baking soda, I sometimes just straight up deep fry slivers of dough and toss them with spiced sugar. (Is that bad? They are so light and crisp and perfect, though!)
I also simplified Molly's recipe by using apple jam in place of the glaze (which is simple in its own right, just apple peels and cores boiled down in syrup until it begins to gel a little). If you don't have anything appropriate to substitute in your pantry, just follow her directions.
Simple Apple Tart(lets?)
adapted from Molly Wizenberg's adaptation of A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis
recipe yields 6-8 servings, but you can bake just a few at a time, like I do
You will need:
One batch basic pie crust, divided into 6 or 8 hunks (I like all-butter recipes but some swear by Crisco!)
About an apple for each serving you want to make
Sugar for sprinkling
Apple jam (or the original glaze)
Preheat the oven to 375F or 190C.
For each tartlet, roll out the hunk of dough into a rough rectangle on parchment paper. Peel and slice the apple thinly (don't pitch the scraps if you need to make glaze), then arrange the slices in overlapping rows over the pastry. Sprinkle with sugar (according to your taste).
Bake until the edges reach a deep golden brown and the pastry underneath the apples has crisped up. Don't worry if the apples start looking dry--the glaze solves this.
Mix a good teaspoon or two of jam for each tartlet with just enough hot water to make a thick, syrupy, spreadable liquid. Brush or spread over the apples as soon as the tarts come out of the oven. Slice into quarters or strips for easy serving.