4- or 4 1/2-inch tartlet crusts, baked and cooled (puff pastry, filo, shortbread or sugar cookie crusts)
In This Recipe
Note on the tartlet shells: In the photos above, we used puff pastry, cut into 4-inch circles and scored around the circumference with a sharp knife about 1/4-inch in, so as to form an outer "crust" while baking.
Peel one of the apples (reserving the peels) and cut it in half through the stem. Remove the core, leaving each half intact. Lay one half flat on the cutting board, cut-side down. Slice it crosswise (i.e. from the apple's "top," where the stem was, to its "bottom") into scant 1/8-inch slices, keeping the slices together in the shape of the apple half. Transfer the slices to a saucer, pushing on the top to fan them only slightly. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sugar. Cover loosely with a square of wax or parchment paper, tucking the ends under the dish. Microwave on high for 1 minute (my microwave is 800 watts use; 45 seconds if your microwave is more powerful). Set the saucer aside and let the apples cool and reabsorb most of its juice undisturbed. Meanwhile prepare and cook the other apples one at a time, always reserving the peels. Cool all of the apples on the saucers they were baked in.
To do this in an oven rather than a microwave, preheated the oven to 350° F. Put the sliced apple halves, still together in the shape of half an apple, in a baking pan. Sprinkle 4 to 5 tablespoons sugar over them and 2 tablespoons of rum, if you like. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and baste apples with their juices. Cook uncovered for 10 to 20 more minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cool completely before forming roses.
To shape the roses, leave apple slices in their saucers. Nudge half the slices over, opening the slices up like a book. (Go here to see a video of how to do it! https://food52.com/blog/17933-the-prettiest-thing-you-can-do-with-an-apple-is-as-easy-as-slicing-and-baking-it) Use your fingers to twist the center apple slice into a cone or spiral to form a bud at the center of the rose. Wrap one or two adjacent slices partially around the bud to resemble the inner petals of the rose. Continue to arrange the adjacent slices, working from the center outward, until the apple looks like an open garden rose lying in the saucer! You can cover and refrigerate the roses up to 4 days before serving them.
To make the glaze, combine the apple peelings in a small saucepan with the apple juice, rum (if using), the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and pinch of cinnamon. Simmer until the liquid is reduced and thickened to a sticky glaze. Pour into a strainer set over a bowl and press the solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 1/4 cup of glaze. Discard solids. Set the glaze aside until needed.
To assemble tartlets, spread a little apple butter, jam, or pastry cream in each tart shell. Slide a metal spatula under a rose and transfer it to a tartlet crust. Repeat with the remaining roses. Reheat the glaze and brush it on the apples to give them a little shine.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).