Apples and Autumn (and lavender)

My daughter, Annie, recently had the privilege of studying abroad for a semester in Montpelier, France. Knowing my affinity for all things lavender, she took a side trip to Avignon, trolling for lavender goodies. I was thrilled when she returned to North Carolina with an assortment of lavender finds - among them, a jar of Fleurs de Lavande (lavender jelly).

Perhaps Annie's love of the French language is rubbing off on me. Armed with a recipe that she shared and inspired by a huge assortment of apples at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, I decided to make an apple tart. It is reminiscent of the classic tarte Tatin. I chose crisp, juicy and slightly tart Mutsu apples from Hendersonville, NC. The little jar of Fleurs de Lavande had been sitting on my pantry shelf since June, and while the recipe did not call for lavender jelly, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try it. And... I barely detected any lavender tones at all! Another time I used strained apricot jam, which worked equally well.

French Apple Tart Directions: For the tart pastry, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a mixing bowl; cut in 12 Tbsp. chilled butter using a pastry blender. Gradually add 1/2 cup chilled water, working mixture into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least an hour. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Roll the dough out on top of the paper. If necessary, use your fingers to press the dough all the way to the edges of the pan.

For the apples, peel and halve 4 to 5 large tart apples, such as Mutsu or Granny Smith. Slice the apples in 1/4-inch-thick slices, removing the core. Arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry (see photo) and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup apricot or apple jelly (or lavender jelly, if you happen to have it), 4 Tbsp. butter, and 2 Tbsp. rum in a small saucepan. Heat just until sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Pour mixture evenly over the apples. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until done. Let cool completely before serving. Bon Appetit!