Puff pastry tarts with a creamy Cheddar spread, topped with sweet caramelized shallots and apples. Topped with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a little spicy chili flakes. Sweet apples and tart Cheddar cheese? A marriage made on a local farm.
As this, the strangest of years, winds toward its close, we are especially grateful to the local farms that have been going above and beyond to keep everyone fed. Restaurants, usually a major destination for farm-grown food, are going through a major upheaval, and a direct relationship between farms and the people they feed is now more important than ever.
Here in the Northeast, our farms make maximum use of every single day in the relatively short growing season, and dairy farms play a huge role in local produce. Cabot Creamery is a co-operative of 800 farm families in the New England and New York area. They’re a certified B corporation, meaning that not only do they strive for the highest quality dairy produce, but responsible land stewardship, ethical production, and community giving are at the core of everything they do. We’re incredibly proud to partner with them for this recipe.
And here in the Hudson Valley, you can’t miss the major harvest of late Fall. You’ll see apple orchards dotted across the whole region — this part of New York produces around one fifth of the entire apple output of the United States. A huge variety of apples is grown, from the pie favorites Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Honeycrisp, to eat-out-of-your-hand Gala, Jonagold, and Macoun.
So, armed with the apples of the Hudson Valley and the sharp cheddars from Cabot’s farms, we decided to make something to celebrate our local farms: a Caramelized Apple, Shallot and Cheddar Tart.
This post was created in partnership with Cabot Creamery.
We’ve published a few tart recipes in the past — you’ll find a Roasted Beet and Whipped Feta combination, mini Pear and Caramelized Red Onion tarts, and a sweet dessert option: Apple Tarts with Rosemary-Lime Sugar . This time, we knew we wanted something with complementary sweet and savory flavors, which can work as a great appetizer, party dish, lunch or snack. An apple and cheddar tart fits the bill perfectly.
We love using pre-made puff pastry sheets which take the labor out of creating and baking a pastry and allow the tart to remain light in texture. Using the right cheese is key, and Cabot’s Seriously Sharp White Cheddar is our absolute favorite. It’s tangy and nutty, with a rich, creamy flavor that melts beautifully. Here, we combine it with cream cheese, egg yolks, and other seasonings, which helps to create a savory, cheesy, almost quiche-like bed for the caramelized shallots and apples. You could make smaller individual tarts, but we decided to go with one large one, which can be cut into 6 or 8 slices.
We’re officially in love with the rustic look and the mix of flavors in this cheddar tart. There’s the mellow caramelized onions, the just-sweet-enough apple slices, and then a rich and gorgeously-seasoned decadent cheese layer. We think that thyme goes perfectly with both onions and cheddar, but rosemary or sage would also work well (though go easy, as both can overpower other flavors). To finish, we sprinkle on just a little more thyme, along with just a little spicy chili pepper (our choice is Aleppo-style pepper, which is fruity with just a little kick). You can serve it with a side salad pub-lunch-style, or serve it as an appetizer or party snack! When holiday parties are a thing again, this is totally going on our menu.
How to Make the Tart
To make the cheddar tart, start by putting together the cheese layer. Actually, if your puff pastry is still in the freezer, pop it in the refrigerator now so it will be defrosted by the time you’re ready to assemble. Grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater or use a food processor with a shredder attachment, if you have one. Add the grated cheese to a large mixing bowl and stir in the mayonnaise, cream cheese, egg yolks, salt, pepper, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and thyme leaves. You want it all to be amalgamated, which is much easier to do if the cream cheese is room temperature. If the cream cheese is still a little cold and you don’t feel like struggling, you can mix everything together by pulsing the mix in a food processor or whizzing it in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. The cheese mixture can be made up to a full day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container, but make sure to return it to room temperature before attempting to spread it on the dough.
Next, caramelize the shallots by heating the butter and oil in a large skillet. When the butter is melted, add the shallots, season them lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring them occasionally until they turn nice and soft and just begin to brown a little on the edges. They’ll get darker as you bake the tart but they’ll reward you by being extra sweet and tender if you give them a head start in the pan. Set them aside while you prep the dough. (Don’t have shallots? You can substitute red onions, white onions, or even leeks.)
Time to tackle the dough. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a baking tray with parchment trimmed to size. Lightly flour a work surface and lay the puff pastry out flat. If your pastry comes in two sheets, lay them together to form a rectangle and crimp the edges together with a wet finger. Gently smooth out any creases with a rolling pin and, if you’re aiming to fill the baking tray, roll it gently out to approximately 17″ x 12″. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to trim the edges to form a neat rectangle. Move the pastry to the lined baking tray. Use a sharp paring knife to score a one inch border around the edge of the pastry, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Inside the border, use a fork to poke holes all over about an inch or so apart. This will release some of the steam as the dough bakes, allowing the border to puff up higher than the inside area. Brushing the border with a little beaten egg helps the dough to brown and turn shiny.
Tip: if the pastry feels like it’s getting warm, pop it into the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes or so before baking. Cold dough puffs more than room temperature dough.
Bake the pastry on the middle rack of the oven until the edges turn light golden brown and begin to puff. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
If you haven’t prepped your apples yet, now’s the time. We like to keep the keep the skin on the apples but feel free to peel them if you like. Cut the apples in half, and use a melon baller or a paring knife to cut out the core, then slice them into very thin wedges using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
Once the dough is par-baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Leave the oven temperature at 425ºF for the second bake. If the center of the pastry has puffed too much, gently press it down with a spoon. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the dough, avoiding the border. The easiest way to do this is to dollop spoonfuls of the mixture all over and then use a small offset spatula or butter knife to spread it around. Scatter the reserved shallots over top of the cheese and arrange the apples on top of the shallots. You can scatter the apples randomly for a rustic look, or get fancy and arrange them in a pattern. Brush the apples lightly with the last tablespoons of olive oil and season them with a little salt and a crack of pepper. Return the tray to the oven and bake until the pastry edges are deep golden brown and the apples are soft and caramelized in spots, about 20 – 25 minutes.
We think this apple and cheddar tart is the perfect way to celebrate the fall season and our local farm produce, and hope you do too!
- 8 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp White Cheddar Cheese, grated
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, plus one whole egg for brushing the pastry
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 5 large shallots, sliced into thin rings (about 2 cups)
- 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
- All-purpose flour, for dusting a work surface
- 2 or 3 sweet-tart apples (such as Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Winesap), cored and sliced into very thin wedges
- Chopped parsley, Aleppo pepper flakes, or a drizzle of warm honey, to serve (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add in the Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, egg yolks, salt, pepper, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and thyme leaves. Stir together until well combined and set aside.
- Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the shallots, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn soft and begin to brown in spots, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
- Lightly flour a work surface and lay the puff pastry out flat. If your pastry comes in two pieces, lay them together to form a rectangle and crimp the edges together. Gently smooth out any creases with a rolling pin. Move the pastry to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, lightly score a 1-inch border around pastry. Use a fork to poke holes about an inch or so apart all over the middle part of the pastry, avoiding the border. Beat the whole egg in a small bowl and brush the border edges. Bake until light golden brown and slightly puffed, 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the dough is par-baking, prep the apples. We like to leave the skins on though you can peel them if you like. Cut them in half, cut out the core with a melon baller or a paring knife, then slice them into very thin wedges using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
- Remove the dough from the oven and spread the cheddar mixture over the pastry, staying within border. Scatter the reserved shallots over the top and arrange the apples over the top. Brush the apples lightly with the last tablespoons of olive oil and season them with salt and pepper, to taste. Return the tray to the oven and bake until the pastry is deep golden brown and the apples and shallots are caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with a little more fresh thyme, a sprinkle of spicy chili flakes and a drizzle of honey, if desired.