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Slab apple tart a no-sugar treat

Recipe: Make bourbon apple butter for extra flavorful filling

Thinly sliced apples top this slab tart, which makes a lovely dessert for a dinner or potluck.

Thinly sliced apples top this slab tart, which makes a lovely dessert for a dinner or potluck. Kathy Morrison

This recipe is for anyone who is trying to cut back on sugar -- but still has a sweet tooth.

Apples are Pink Lady, left, and SugarBee.

The apple slab tart is slightly adapted from a recipe in "Good & Sweet" by Brian Levy, a Christmas present from my sister. All the recipes are sweetened with fruit- or (some) vegetable-based sugar instead of cane, coconut or maple sugar, or even honey. Some of his ingredients I'd never run across -- freeze-dried corn as a sweetener? -- but many of them can be made from a well-stocked pantry.

One of the easiest is this lovely dessert, which he calls Bourbon Apple Slab Tart. The 1 tablespoon of bourbon is optional, but it does boost the flavor. More on than below.

So this is a choose-your-own-adventure recipe for the filling. Options are: 1) Use storebought fruit-sweetened apple butter without additions. 2) Make the small-batch no-cook apple butter he includes in the recipe, but use commerecial unsweetened applesauce as the base. 3) Cook your own applesauce, turn that into apple butter, and use that for the filling.

I have a whole frig drawer full of apples. Guess which one I did ...

However, I don't recommend making your own puff pastry when there are good brands available in store freezer sections (cough, Dufour's), but folks experienced at pastry might want to do so.

One small confession here: I used just a tablespoon or so of fruit jelly (made with sugar!), thinned with lemon juice, for the glaze, since I didn't have the recommended fruit-sweetened apricot jam. Besides, the blackberry jelly was homemade, one of several gift jars from jam- and jelly-making friends. Blackberry goes beautifully with apple, and the jelly added color to the very beige dessert. Pomegranate would have been good, as well. 

Bourbon apple slab tart

Serves 10 to 12


One 11-by-16-inch puff pastry slab (or two smaller ones, if that's what is available), thawed but kept cold

1/2 cup apple butter, either bourbon apple butter (see recipe below) or a commercial fruit-sweetened one

1 or 2 sweet red apples, such as Pink Lady, SugarBee or Fuji

Juice of one lemon, divided

1 generous tablespoon fruit-sweetened apricot jam or fruit jelly, for glazing


Very puffy pastry can be gently deflated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Remove the thawed pastry from the refrigerator, unfold and remove all papers. Place the pastry on the parchment paper and prick it deeply all over with a fork. Parbake the pastry for 20 minutes, until it is puffed and lightly golden.

While the pastry is in the oven, prepare the filling. Fill a medium bowl with cold water and add half the lemon juice. Core and peel the apples, and slice thinly (1/8 of an inch or less) crosswise to get thin rounds. Dunk a few of the apple slices at a time in the acidified water, and dry them on a clean kitchen towel. This will keep the apple slices from browning too much while you put together the tart.

If using a commercial apple butter, taste it and add some cinnamon or other spice if it seems bland. Whichever kind you're using, measure out 1/2 cup and have that ready to go with a small spatula.

When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven to a cooling rack. Leave the oven on. Don't worry if the pastry puffed up a lot despite all the fork pricks (see photo). Let it cool about 5 minutes, then gently deflate it a little by pressing down with the back of the fork. You want some height but also a mostly flat surface for the filling.

Spread the apple butter over the surface of the pastry, leaving about 1/2-inch border. 

Arrange the apple slices over the pastry as desired. (I used virtually all of the two apples I'd sliced.)

Bake the tart 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples have some darker brown spots and the pastry is fully golden. (Check the doneness of the apples with the tip of a sharp knife.)

Very thin slices of apple will cook better.

While the tart is in the oven, warm the jam or jelly for the glaze. Use some lemon juice and/or water to thin it if necessary to get it to spreadable consistency. Keep gently warm until the tart is baked.

Once the tart is done, remove the pan to the cooling rack and spread the glaze on the apples while everything is still warm.  Serve immediately or at room temperature. Recrisp any leftovers in a 375-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Bourbon apple butter

Makes about 1 cup (can be doubled)


3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

3 tablespoons golden raisins, packed

1 tablespoon bourbon

1/4 teaspoon or more cinnamon


Whir all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. (Watch for lumps of raisins if they're very dry). Use as directed in the tart recipe; there will be some extra, which is excellent on toast.

Note: To make your own applesauce, core 2 or more sweet-tart apples (peeling is optional). Cut into chunks, and place in a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until the apples break down and are nearly sauce. Add more water if necessary during cooking. Mash the apples. If peels were left on, puree the apples and peels in a blender or with an immersion blender. Use in apple butter as above; any extra can be frozen.


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This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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