Thursdays in San Miguel de Allende – at least according to the Mi Vida Italian restaurant here – are pizza days. So on Thursday of this week I was inspired to make a pizza of my own. Not a traditional, savory Italian pizza, but a sweet dessert pizza, an apple pizza tart, from the recipe for it that will appear in my soon-to-be-published book, Sweet Tarts.
It had to be an apple tart because this is the high season for apples. On Tuesday of this coming week, September 22, autumn will arrive, and for me, AUTUMN spells APPLES.
Fat, orange pumpkins are nice, as are Jack-o-Lanterns, and, here in Mexico, skeletal Catrinas. But for me, the best memories of autumn look and taste like apples: bushel baskets of just-picked McIntoshes from the local farm, freshly pressed cider, my mother’s towering and incomparable apple pies made from Granny Smiths.
It’s true that apples – which originated in Central Asia and have been widely cultivated for thousands of years — appear in grocery stores everywhere these days, year-round, thanks to the global marketplace. But in the northern hemisphere, the peak season for apples is September and October. This stretch of time, to me, is Apple Time.
My apple pizza tart has a backstory, of course, as have all the recipes you’ll find in Sweet Tarts. Here’s that story:
In addition to teaching English and Creative Writing at the University of New Mexico branch in Taos for ten years, I also taught cooking in their Culinary Arts program. In this respect, I’d come full circle: my first experience teaching culinary arts was at the New York Cooking School in the late-1980s. And in both New York and Taos I taught, among other culinary courses, Healthy Cooking.
In my Healthy Cooking classes, I taught techniques for making delicious food that happens also to be “good for you.” Deprivation was not on our menu, because, of course, it doesn’t work. Being creative – finding newer ways to make dishes that are tasty, healthy, and appealing to the whole family – was our highest priority.
One example of this approach was my pizza-style tart, which I unabashedly stole from Mark Bittman of the New York Times. Tarts by nature are half the thickness of pies and therefore half the calories if made from the same ingredients. But this tart is even thinner. The dough is rolled out flat like a huge cookie, the thin-thin slices of apple (or other fruit) are placed in one layer on top, like a flower, a little sugar and butter are drizzled over the surface, and when it’s baked – preferably in a pizza pan — it looks just like a pizza.
My students loved it, and those who were parents of young children reported that it was a hit at home. I think you’d love it too.
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Last month my dear friend, actor-director Michael Marotta, in New York did a five-minute YouTube video in his ongoing series “What Would Michael Do?” featuring his adaptation of my fruit-pizza recipe, using fresh, ripe peaches and purchased puff pastry. Please be sure to watch it to see how easy and fun such sweet pizzas are to make: https://youtu.be/4CI32pN22n0 .
Oh, and stay tuned for the birth announcement for my little Sweet Tarts book — coming soon! — where you’ll find the complete recipe for my apple pizza tart, as well as many others, along with their stories.