Sometimes, you luck into a recipe that’s both simple AND delicious, but it doesn’t always work that way. Such is my Michigan Apple Harvest Flan. The history of this recipe goes back to the opening of Opus One restaurant in Detroit in the late summer, early fall of 1987. With a glistening new kitchen, a newly trained staff and a gorgeous dining room, I knew meeting the high expectations of our customers wasn’t going to be easy.
All too often in these cases, chefs try to overextend themselves, and their menus, far beyond their ability to manage the inevitable issues and crises that arise with any new restaurant opening. If you’ve watched any of the recent reality food shows, you’ve no doubt seen the train wrecks that can occur when chefs try to manage an out-of-control kitchen staff under duress. It’s not pretty.
Back to the flan. In the case of my pastry chefs, I wanted to have a few things on my pastry selection that gave them a breather, a (hopefully) popular item that was somewhat easy to make. As it turned out, not only was it popular but it also became a signature dish that was on the menu from the first to the last day of operation–some 20 years.
A great apple dish, of course, features a great apple. I chose alternating between Granny Smith for its sweet/tartness and Golden Delicious for its spicy sweetness. Other good choices are Braeburn, Honey Crisp and a rather NEW varietal, the Sweet Tango.
Another key ingredient is a reduced apple puree, a sort of condensed apple sauce, as it were. In the past, I used a professionally sourced product from France, but I’ve found that a good apple butter makes a very suitable substitute. If you want to spend a little more time, you can buy your favorite apple sauce and microwave it on low or defrost until you simmer off some of the excess liquids, and it becomes about 50 percent thicker.
The last key ingredient is Puff Pastry Dough. I say key because some brands have little, if any, flavor since they are made with shortening rather than butter. One exception is DuFour Puff Pastry Dough, which we have at Nino’s. It’s wonderful.
Those three key ingredients make this dish along with a coarse granulated sugar (you can use regular granulated sugar) and ground cinnamon. You’ll also need a beaten egg for brushing on the dough.
Okay, want to give it a shot? It’s not very hard.
- 1 Sheet of DuFour Puff Pastry, cut in half to create 2 rectangles about 4 1/2” x 10”
- 4 Apples, peeled, cut in half, cored with a melon scoop and then sliced into thin (about 1/8”) slices
- Approximately 1 cup of condensed apple puree or apple butter
- 1/3 Cup coarse sugar or granulated sugar
- Approximately 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Egg, beaten with 1 TBSP milk or water
- Preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Place both pieces of puff pastry dough on a cookie sheet large enough to have them side by side, about 1” apart from one another.
- With a small spatula, divide the apple puree between both pieces of dough and then spread the puree evenly down the center of each strip, leaving a finger’s width on each side of each strip with NO puree. This will puff up to become the side crust.
- Arrange overlapping slices of the apple directly on top of the apple puree ONLY. Shingle tightly, overlapping generously.
- Lightly brush the exposed finger’s width of side crust with the beaten egg.
- Generously dust the ENTIRE flan strip with the sugar and sprinkle with the ground cinnamon to taste.
- Bake in the 400 F oven until medium brown. The uncovered crust should rise up on both edges to create a sort of crust.
- When fully baked, remove the flans from the oven and allow to cool until warm.
- Cut the flan strips one of two ways. Either:
- Cut into 3” portions (rectangles) or
- Cut into wedges
My favorite way to serve this delicious dessert is on a pool of caramel sauce, with a small scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Sometimes, the finer things in life are the simplest. This dessert is a good example.