Easy As Pie

Apple Crumb Tart
Mr. B has learned to live with me. Not that I'm a hard person to live with, but I definitely color our lives with my creativity. Living with a creative person is fun--and unpredictable. I know this first hand because Mr. B has his creative side, too. While he lets his creative juices loose on his drum set or guitar, I like to throw down in the kitchen.

Contrary to what many people think about me, I don't do much planning when it comes to cooking. Sometimes I get an idea in my head and it takes me days to execute it, but usually, my creativity strikes when I'm rummaging around in the refrigerator for a snack. That's usually when I spy some forgotten item and then BAM! I decide to make something--right then and there. Mr. B has learned to accept this trait in me; he's used to walking in the kitchen to find me immersed in some random cooking project, pots and pans strewn about, flour on the floor, and the oven cranked up.

But, like any great artist, I keep a few tools on hand so I don't have to waste my creative juices on mundane tasks. Take the other day, for example, when I opened the refrigerator and saw the apples. These weren't your typical grocery store apples, gassed to last for months; these were farm fresh apples, imperfections and all, and they appeared to be fading ever so slightly. I knew I'd need to use them quickly and then just like that, I was making this apple crumb tart. Thankfully, I keep a stash of cream cheese dough tucked into the back of my refrigerator to get me from inspiration to execution in under an hour. The best thing about this dough is that it's versatile enough to go from sweet to savory, depending on your mood. I like that in a dough.

Just as I was taking the tart out of the oven, in walked Mr. B. He didn't even bat an eye at my early morning artistry, but he did pause for a moment to remind me that I should probably pick up some ice cream at the store.

Cream Cheese Dough
Like the perfect black dress, this is the dough that will get you through the holiday season. Use it for pies, tarts--even cookies, or use it for your appetizers (crawfish pie, anyone?) or the quiches for your holiday brunches.

1 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups of flour

1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
2. Gradually add the flour.
3. Shape into a ball and refrigerate.
4. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before using.

Mel's Apple Crumb Tart
6-8 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
cream cheese dough
crumb topping

Crumb topping
 1 stick of butter, chilled
3/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
3/4 cup of oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
pinch of salt

 1. Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Use to top tart.

1. Roll out the cream cheese dough to 1/4 inch thick and fit it into a removable bottom, 12 inch tart pan.
2. Toss together the apples, sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
3. Pour coated apples into prepared tart shell, evening them out.
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven until apples begin to soften; remove from oven.
5. Top with crumb mixture.
6. Return to oven and continue baking until crumb mixture is golden brown and apples are tender.
7. Cool on a wire rack.
8. Serve with ice cream.


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