Apple fritters, apple dumplings, or a buttery apple-filled coffee cake would have been delicious, but I wanted to keep things a little less indulgent at least until Valentine’s Day. So, I found a great way to use the apples I’ve been getting from my CSA in Martha Stewart's Healthy Quick Cook. These are easy, little tarts to make with store-bought phyllo dough, and I even found whole wheat phyllo dough to make them that much more virtuous. The phyllo tart shells are baked empty to keep them very crisp, and the cooked apples with their syrup get spooned into the shells just before serving. The recipe was kept simple and low-calorie for a dessert by using minimal amounts of butter and sugar. I did complicate matters just slightly by adding two additional ingredients with rosemary and lemon zest.
Once the phyllo was thawed by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, the sheets needed to be cut into squares. I doubled the recipe to make eight tart shells instead of four and used six sheets of phyllo which were stacked and cut into seven inch squares. I’m terrible at eye-balling a straight, even-sided square, so I used my trusty, kitchen ruler. Ordinarily, when using phyllo, each piece is brushed with melted butter before another layer is added, but here, the butter was only used on the second of three layers. A scant bit of sugar was sprinkled on each layer, and three squares were stacked for each tart. The stacked layers of dough were then gently fitted into ring molds that had been sprayed with oil. I used English muffins rings. Then, the tart shells were baked for about ten minutes until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, apples were chopped and combined with lemon juice and apple juice, and I left the peels on them. Butter was melted in a skillet, one tablespoon of sugar was added to caramelize, and a splash of cognac gave it another layer of flavor. Out of instinct, I added some sea salt to the caramel. Then, the apples and juices were added to the pan and were left to cook while the sauce reduced, and that’s when I added a sprig of rosemary. The cooked apples and sauce were spooned into the tart shells, and I garnished with chopped rosemary and some lemon zest.
If you don’t have ring molds or English muffin rings handy, you can also just make little stacks of crumpled phyllo sheets to be baked and then topped with the apples. On television years ago, I saw Michel Richard prepare a recipe involving just that with multiple layers of apples and phyllo pieces served with custard. But, if you have a way to form cup shapes with the layers of phyllo, they hold the filling perfectly. I loved how they shattered into flaky bits when cutting into them with a fork. And, the caramel sauce with lemon and subtle rosemary flavor made the apples special without being too rich.