Orchards have this incredible presence and sense of wonderment that draws you in and envelops you as you gaze among its rows and rows of spectacular fruit-laden branches. An unkept orchard can become a magical arena for the imagnination and the senses to come alive.
All across Norway, regions are brimming with apples from August to November, depending upon the apple variety and climate. The village we live in is just one example of how apples have overtaken many yards. A quick drive through and your eyesight will be drawn to craggy apple trees dotted with bright reds, pinks, and subtle greens. Even the ground below is strewn with fallen fruit.
With so many apples, it’s easy to understand why they are so prominent in the cuisine. Flipping through the pages of an older cookbook, I came across a recipe for potet-terte “potato tart” that caught my eye. It is a type of puff pastry (referred to as such in an old cookbook from 1917 called Potetmat) that is made with equal weights of potatoes, flour and butter. In Kaker til Fest (1950), it is noted that potetterte is the cheapest and simplest way to make a version of bløtkake (sponge cake) – merely roll the dough out into 3 large rounds to act as cake.
It is served as a dessert, typically with applesauce (eplemos) or jam in-between the layers. Other variations include fruits such as rhubarb or strawberries. According to the cookbook Tradisjonsmat, potet-terte was used excessively during the war. It was served with coffee, but unfortunately the coffee was often a coffee-substitute. The author goes on to describe that the substitute was usually dried peas (preferably yellow peas) that were browned in the oven and then ground to make a “coffee”.
Some recipes call for one large tart made up of of three large layers, while others call for small, individual tarts. I like the idea of each person having their own little apple dessert. Plus, it is easier if everyone can cut into their own. The filling is usually a type of applesauce but as it is autumn, I added in a bit of spice for more flavor and kept the apples somewhat intact for more bite and texture.
Potato Tarts with Spiced Stewed Apples (potet-terte)
(Makes about 5 three-layered tarts)
For the puff pastry:
- 150 g starchy potatoes (about 1-2 small)
- 150 g (2/3 cup) lightly salted butter, softened
- 150 g (1 ¼ cup) all-purpose flour
For the spiced stewed apples:
- 8 small, firm and tart apples diced, skins on (about 5 cups)
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 1⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (100 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teasooon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- whipped cream
- confectioners sugar
Boil the potatoes with the skins on for about 10-15 minutes, until tender and easily pieced with a knife. Drain. When slightly cooled, peel and discard the skins. Run the potatoes through a potato ricer or mash well to ensure there are no lumps. Place in a kitchen stand with the dough attachment or a bowl and add in the softened butter and flour. If using a kitchen stand, combine on medium speed or, if using a bowl, blend with a wooden spoon or your hands. Place in the refrigerator to cool while preparing the stewed spiced apples.
In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the apples, sugar, water, spices, and lemon juice over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering for 5 minutes or until the apples are soft. Remove from the heat then stir and mash the mixture slightly, leaving chunkier pieces. Set aside to cool.
Take the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out into a thickness of about 1 cm (10 mm). Cut small rounds with a pastry cutter or bowl. For this recipe, I used a 3-inch (8cm) pastry cut to get approximately 15 rounds. Place the rounds on prepared baking sheet (I use baking paper or parchment paper on top of my sheet). Poke each round with a fork a couple of times to prevent the dough from puffing up too much.
Bake in the oven at 400°F / 200°C for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, 10 minutes.
To layer, place one potato cake down and top with some of the spiced stewed apples. Add another cake and top with more apples and then finish with a final potato cake. Top with whipped cream and confectioners sugar. Serve warm.