When company’s coming over for dinner, it’s nice to be able to offer something warm and comforting for the ever important, after dinner indulgence. Which is why I baked this caramel & apple cream cheese tart last weekend when some family was coming for a visit. We don’t often get visitors, what with living 35 minutes from the nearest city. It is isolating, but at the same time, the freedom that comes with living out in the middle of nowhere is very inspiring. Planning is key. You can’t leave the house with toddler in tow without two days worth of snacks and diapers, sippy cups and toys. Grocery lists are thorough and complete, keeping in mind you won’t be going to pick up that forgotten pint of cream anytime soon. Emergency supplies are well stocked in the garage and we’ve got enough firewood to keep us warm all winter long should anything catastrophic happen.
I stacked it all myself too. I didn’t say I chopped it. No, it came that way, well most of it anyway.
Lots of interesting things can happen when you don’t have the distractions of the city to pull you away. Maybe you have time to practice your cooking and baking skills, your photography skills, and even your rusty writing skills. Maybe you bring yourself a little closer to your childhood roots, embracing nature at every turn, and welcoming the life that comes along with rural living. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the cock-a-doodle-dooing of the neighbour’s rooster or the baaaaing of their purebred sheep. Interesting things can happen too, just take this next picture as an example.
That poor, unfortunate fellow flew right into our living room window the other day. I just so happened to be sitting at the computer, writing a post, when “BANG!” I looked out the door next to me, to the deck outside, and there were feathers billowing around all over the place. I walked out onto the deck and there he was, lying on his back, feet in the air, completely stunned. I took him inside and let him rest in the laundry room, wrapped in a towel for a few hours. I checked on him every now and then, and gave him a little ramekin of water. For some reason though, he wasn’t interested in it. After a while, I figured he must be okay. Maybe it was when he started flying around the room, desperately attempting to peck his way through the windows. So I caught him and my husband snapped this photo. He’s been back a couple of times since then too, I think he must like me.
And then there’s this. This has to be my number one reason for living so far away from my favourite boutique stores, my favourite gourmet restaurants, movie theaters, restaurant supply stores, etc. To walk 30 seconds down my driveway, and another 2 minutes down the lane way to see this. What gorgeous beauty and such inspiration, right in my backyard. If I ever have to leave here, it will be a very sad day. But for now, I revel in it’s wonderful simplicity, it’s serene tranquility and I wonder how I ever managed to make it in the big, noisy city. Then again, some questions are better left unanswered.
Caramel & Apple Cream Cheese Tart
For the crust:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or half a nut)
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (8 whole crackers)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground pecans
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3 tbsp buttermilk
For the cream cheese layer:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream
For the apple topping:
5 large apples, peeled cored and sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup creamy caramel, melted (or make your own)
1/4 cup half & half (or light cream)
1. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.
2. Add vanilla, egg and spices to butter and sugar. Mix well.
3. In bowl of food processor, pulse nuts and crackers until a fine crumb is formed. If using prepackaged graham cracker crumbs, simply measure out at this point.
4. When nuts are ground, mix together in another bowl with flour, graham cracker crumbs, oats, salt and baking soda.
5. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir to combine.
6. In a 9×13 greased, glass baking dish, add the crust and pat down evenly. Set aside.
7. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with the confectioner’s sugar until smooth.
8. Add the egg, vanilla and sour cream.
9. Pour over the crust, spreading it evenly with a spatula and set aside.
10. Toss the sliced apples with the salt, and cinnamon.
11. Lay the apples out over the top of the cream cheese layer like a deck of cards spread out on a table. One layered over the edge of the next.
12. Bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.
13. Melt caramels and combine with half and half.
14. Pour caramel sauce over the cooled apple tart and serve warm.