The first thing I noticed about pastry chef Bill Corbett is that he has the physical cadence of a zen master. I watched as he slowly and methodically began to make his Smoked Apple Tart, one of the desserts at the lauded Hayes Valley brasserie Absinthe. You know—making caramel, cooking down apples, blowtorching some specially sourced fig tree wood in a smoker he just built on the spot from a couple of pans and some Cling Wrap.
Yup, just as soon as I thought I was on board with what was happening—ok, chop some apples, yeah, and ok, I've made caramel before—apples were being smoked, Bear Grylls-style, in the middle of the pastry kitchen. It was a pretty awesome turn of events done in the most nonchalant of manners.
"I want to use a vehicle or flavor combination that my customers are familiar with but then add something different. The apple tart looks like an apple art but then you dig in and it's smokey," Corbett explained as the apples sat in their smoke bath. "But really I'm just trying to make people happy. I try to have fun with it."
Fun is definitely one way to describe the process of making this tart, and happy is a way to describe eating it. It's a play on tarte tatin: a sable breton dough is packed with smokey apples and brushed with a caramel-apple sauce. The warm tart arrives with a scoop of tangy buttermilk ice cream and pieces of crunchy, candy-like hazelnut croquant.
Interested in seeing just how easy assembling a smoker can be? Flip through the slideshow to see how the Smoked Apple Tart is made.