a tribute to my superhero

apple tart1i

It’s the first week of the fasting month, Ramadan, here in Singapore, and as always, baking takes a step back in my household during this month, while I concede to my kitchen maestro of a mother who fills up the dining table with dishes, both sweet and savoury.

I remember that even in my younger years, I’ve always marvelled at the fact that there will be a spread during iftar, our session for breaking fast, and it would almost always be executed single-handedly by the mother. And even in my half-eyed grogginess of waking up around 4 in the morning for our pre-dawn meal, sahur (suhoor), a part of me looks forward to seeing a fresh new array of dishes on the table, along with the six different warm glasses lined up by the kitchen counter (the drink of the morning would alternate between tea and Milo, a malted chocolate drink) waiting for my siblings and I.

I pretty much have always thought that my mother was quite the superhero.

Until now, that is.

apple tart2i copy

Helping my mother out in the kitchen, I’ve learnt that whipping up dishes for the two meals requires more planning than our normal every day meals. In Ramadan, everything is done with such an impeccable precision that I’m actually left wondering if she already has had the whole month’s menu organised in her mental Excel worksheet. And yes, she has specific persons in mind when she comes up with the menu.

For iftar, there is always a choice between warm rice, and The Noodles of The Day (my mother takes great care in non-repetition), considering that some of us prefer a lighter meal with a small serving of noodles, while others prefer a full meal with rice. Accompanying the rice will be a couple of main dishes, usually some meat and vegetables, which will also double up as sides to those having their noodles.

For sahur, there will always be at least one new dish, usually some clear vegetable soup to sort of drown your rice in. It’s the most important meal to start the day with, so rice it has to be. The warm soup will provide a little more fluid for those too sleepy to drink that extra glass of water you’ll need to keep you hydrated for the day ahead. The spicier/seafood dishes of yesterday will also be replaced in consideration of those with a weaker stomach.

apple tart3

Most importantly, both meals have been planned such that there is minimum leftover (if any) and yet, the mains or appetisers for iftar will be sufficient enough to give some portions over to the neighbours and near relatives just before the call of breaking fast.

With all of those nitty-gritty details my mother takes into consideration and perfectly executes in our meals, now I pretty much believe she has always been, and will always be, a superhero.

While this apple tart is merely a smidgen of a semblance of what my mother brings to the table, this is my tribute to her. You see, my mother doesn’t like apples, and never eats them by choice. About the only times I’ll ever see her eating apples would be in my bakes, but not being a fan of cinnamon, she’d always detect the faintest amount of cinnamon, smile, and ask me to reduce the amount the next time. Just like my dad, however, she’s a fan of pastries;– preferably simple plain ones, without the creme patissiere nor any whipped cream.

So this was for her. A wonderfully flaky tart filled with concentric rows of cascading thinly sliced tart apples tinged with just a bit of cinnamon sugar, and glazed with a lovely aromatic apple syrup accentuating the natural apple flavour. She barely detected the cinnamon in this, and fell in love with the lovely design and the gorgeous texture of the tart dough, requesting I make another soon, in between forkfuls.

For all that she’s done, I would be honoured to make this every single day.

Alice Water’s Apple Tart
(adapted from here)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons (80g) butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (reserve the cores and peels for glaze)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Apple Syrup Glaze
1/2 cup sugar
cores and peels of apples

Making the dough:

  1. Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter into the flour-sugar mixture, until it resembles large crumbs.
  3. Add in the water, one tablespoon each time, mixing with your fingers, until you are able to roll the dough into a ball. (Note: You may not need to use all 3 1/2 tbsp water.)
  4. Flatten the dough into a 4-inch-thick disk and refrigerate for at least 30mins.

Assembling the tart:

  1. Remove and place the dough on a lightly floured surface; roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.
  2. Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 200C.
  4. Arrange the sliced apples by overlapping the slices on the dough in a circle. Continue inward until you reach the center.
  5. Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge.
  6. Sprinkle the sugar all over the apples.
  7. Bake for about 45 mins, or until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 15mins before brushing the glaze over the tart.

Making the glaze:

Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve.

37 thoughts on “a tribute to my superhero

  1. the mister

    I was reading your entry and going “Yah, man! How do they do it?!”

    Mummies are amazing, especially during puasa when they work their magic for sahur and buka. I’m still waiting for my mom’s air jagung for this year, man! πŸ˜›

    Hmmmm…. Which brings me to the question… “Wonder what I’m having for buka today?” Hehe..

  2. The Little Teochew

    Awww, this is such a sweet post. And what a lovely looking tart! The slicing is impeccable πŸ™‚ Hope the bake sale is going well … just linked you in my comments … hopefully more orders! ;P

  3. faizah

    my mind and nose are playing tricks on me! i think i can detect the scent of warm apples, baked crust and cinammon in this cold cold room.

    thanks for sharing the recipe, dear.

    have a good spread, later alligator!

  4. ovenhaven Post author

    the mister: I just hope you’ll make it back in time for buka this evening! And yes, your mom’s famed air jagung that I still have yet to taste *dons a muka taktu malu* πŸ˜› Hehe. Have a good iftar later, dear!

    Dorothy: Haha, yes I’m from Singapore! You should come by when you can, and when you do, don’t forget to do your B&J dance and video it! πŸ˜›

    samantha ezra: Thank you πŸ™‚ And thanks for dropping by!

    The Little Teochew: Awww, you’re so sweet, dearie. Thanks for the shoutout! πŸ˜€

    faizah: You too, sweetie! Oh, and you should definitely give the dough a go (okay, that sounds like a bad rap right there). It’s possibly the easiest yet flakiest tart dough I’ve had; in fact, it’s going to be my turn-to recipe for fruit galettes from now on πŸ™‚

  5. zurin

    Hi , what a lovely blog you have. Thanks for dropping by mine. Ur mom is an amazing lady. Its not at all easy to plan 2 meals with one of them at 4 am in the morning and in my case with 5 different stomachs and tolerences…so I do my best but your moms far far better! :)) She’ll be over the moon reading this dear. You’re a good daughter. πŸ™‚

  6. jean-marie

    Awww, what a sweet post πŸ™‚ Feels like its Mother’s Day! πŸ˜› I really luv the 1st photo. Looks reaaaaaally good… *drool*

  7. felicia

    awesome post.
    this post just reminds me..
    that my boyfriend has been bugging me for forever for french apple tarts!
    he loves the one at tangs, in the basement.
    have you tried those?

  8. oneordinaryday

    What a beautiful post and tribute to your wonderful mom. I also appreciate learning more about Ramadan, so thank you!

  9. ovenhaven Post author

    percicilan: Ooopsies! πŸ˜›

    zurin: Awww thanks, sweetie. I’m sure your kids also appreciate all that you’ve done for them, and see you as their own superhero πŸ™‚ Perhaps it’s a gift bestowed to mothers; I sure hope that one day I’ll come close to being the awesome mother that my mom is to me πŸ™‚

    jean-marie: Now that you’ve mentioned it, it does sound Mother’s Day-esque, huh? Well, I guess appreciation knows no specific day! πŸ˜›

    felicia: Oh I’ve heard of those, but never tried them before. Give this dough recipe a try; it’s really light and flaky and goes well with the tart apples πŸ™‚

    oneordinaryday: You’re welcome, sweetie! Glad to have shared πŸ™‚

  10. 19thmayflower

    oh i always have a hard time, thinking of different dishes to cook. for two meals. but i’d usually cook a lot so that it can be “stretched” out till the next meal, either sahur or buka heheh.

  11. grace

    i’m quite certain your mother appreciates this tribute, and i do tooβ€”it’s a gorgeous tart and a lovely post all-around. πŸ™‚

  12. Indigo

    She really does sound like a superhero, and definitely deserves such a beautiful tart! I may make one for my own mum… but she’s a cinnamon fiend, so I’d have to do the opposite to you and increase the amount of cinnamon in it, heh. Beautiful!

  13. ovenhaven Post author

    Ashley: Hehe, thanks sweetie πŸ™‚

    19thmayflower: I think ‘stretching’ it out is a good idea; minimal wastage too!

    grace: Awww, thank you, dearie πŸ™‚

    Indigo: Thanks, sweetz πŸ™‚ Haha, your mom sounds much like me! Though I must say that just a small amount (as I’ve used here) goes quite a long way πŸ™‚

    Ingrid: Good qn! After a visit from the mister’s parents, we’ve landed ourselves with a bit too many apples on hand, and my mother was worried they’d go bad (I think she was more worried that she might have to eat her share!), so I reckoned baking with them would allay her worries πŸ˜‰

  14. Happy Homebaker

    Your apple tart is so awesome!! I love reading your posts, your writing is so beautiful. This post has given me an insight to your culture, like what is served at iftar and sahur. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  15. ovenhaven Post author

    Helene: Thank you, sweetie πŸ™‚ What an honour coming from you.

    Happy Homebaker: Awww, thanks dearie πŸ™‚ Glad to have shared!

    Karine: Thanks, Karine! And thanks for dropping by πŸ™‚

  16. veron

    I have such a weakness for apple desserts specially pies and tarts. Yours look phenomenal! And yes, wit a scoop of vanilla ice cream, please!

  17. ovenhaven Post author

    Gala: Thank you! And thanks for dropping by πŸ™‚

    19thmayflower: Alamak, kesiannye!

    thecoffeesnob: That’s what I thought too, but before I knew it, the slice was gone before the ice-cream came out of the freezer. And then the next, and the next…

    veron: Thanks, veron! I’m a big fan of apple pies and tarts too. In fact one of the first apple desserts I remember that got me hooked in my early teens was a class-act from a cafe; a warm apple turnover with a gentle sprinkling of powdered sugar, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. My word.

  18. happygrub

    Sahur and buka prepared for me is a luxury I remember before marriage and moving out. Now its more like groggy bowls of cereal or toast. Enjoy it as much as you can now since u’re tying the knot soon πŸ˜‰ Then again of course, u can always run home for buka as often as you please! Or better still don’t move out?

    Gorgeous photos.. looks like a polaroid but not exactly? Was it with ur slr?

    Happy fasting!

    PS. I’m not! Imagine paying back 30 days…..!!

  19. ovenhaven Post author

    Haha, I can only imagine what’d it be like when I move out. Especially given my kitchen history, or rather, the lack thereof. And yup, the photos are with my dslr; I guess the lighting must have contributed to the polaroid-esque feel πŸ˜›

    And wah, 30days! Hehe. Eh, don’t forget to invite me when the baby’s out! Confirm lawa πŸ™‚ Best of luck with the pregnancy, dearie!

  20. jen

    hello. i tried this very same recipe and singapore weather is just too hot and i couldn’t manage the dough, do you do your preparation in an air conditioned room or something?

  21. ovenhaven Post author

    Hi jen, nope I didn’t, though I’ve always secretly wished I had an air-conditioned kitchen πŸ˜› Two possible reasons here; firstly, your butter could be too soft, and secondly, you may have used too much water. I’ve noted in the method of preparation that you may not need to use up all of the 3 1/2 tbsp of water; I only used about 2 I think. You need just enough water to get the dough to come together, and for you to shape it into a rough ball.

    Because of our humidity here, we need to make discerning modifications to dough recipes (add more flour, less water, etc) based on our own judgment. I hope you’ll give this another go the next time, because it really is the simplest dough recipe I’ve turned to! If you have any further enquiries I can help you with, feel free to drop me a mail at ovenhaven(at)gmail(dot)com.

  22. jen

    instead of rollign out the dough i just pressed it down into a galette style way. the taste was good but rolling out the dough properly would def make it prettier. i’ll try it again. thank you so much (:

  23. amy

    I think my mum is a superhero too in her mummy ways:) I wonder if it is a coincidence or a mum thing to not like cinnamon and have a penchant for apple pies/pastries but not really liking the fruit itself? I definitely would want to make this for my mum seeing that she has been pestering me to make an apple pie with the mountain of green apples in the fridge! thank you for sharing this recipe my dear:)

  24. ovenhaven Post author

    No problem, sweetie πŸ™‚ I hope your mum will like it! And hey, you’re right, perhaps it is a mummy thing, since I’ve had another reader with the same mummy situation as well πŸ˜› She ended up baking this for her mum’s birthday! Perhaps it’s just the tartness of the apples they don’t quite fancy, or maybe it’s just that they taste wayyy better baked πŸ™‚


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