through the lens:
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE SEASONS with APPLES + SPICES
by KIMBERLY DENNISON

through the lens:

APPLES + SPICES

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE SEASONS

We've always admired Kimberly's meticulous approach to recipe development and her ability to seamlessly blend the art of cooking with the art of photography. She is deliberate and passionate in both realms, a quality that shines through in her final dishes. Her recipes are thoughtfully designed and refined. When it comes to documenting her results, Kimberly styles her dishes with a keen eye for detail, sensitivity to light, and an understanding of composition.

We were keen to delve into this process and are excited to witness Kimberly's focus on drawing inspiration from a single ingredient across different seasons. Watching her navigate through trial and error, crafting art every step of the way, fills us with anticipation. We hope her journey of exploration inspires your own.

Please enjoy this quarterly series by Kimberly Dennison of Eggs Flour Milk. In each installment, Kimberly will share her thought process behind the recipe and how she refines it through three different test cooks. Food photography on this page is ©Kimberly Dennison.

FROM KIMBERLY

Have you ever noticed just how versatile apples can be? What if I told you that you can add apples to almost any food category and come away with a delicious recipe you can make at home. Join me on this quarterly series as I discover the versatility of apples and create mouthwatering recipes using Selefina spices and herbs...



summer
PROVENÇAL APPLE ALMOND TART
recipe development behind the curtains
Making a Provençal Apple Almond Tart
REIMAGINING A FRENCH CLASSIC
WITH PROVENÇAL HERBS FOR SUMMER

For this summer entry Kimberly challenges the seasonal perception of apples as a fall and winter weather fruit. Combining floral and savory notes she reimagines the French frangipane tart into a warm weather treat. Pack it in your next picnic basket.

As always it's a bit mesmerizing to go behind-the-scenes with Kimberly. We are so grateful for the view into process and her studio.

Apple Exploration - Summer 2024
Choosing apples as the star of this series was a unique and challenging decision. Typically associated with the cool months of autumn and winter, I was determined to turn this fall baking staple into a summer hit infused with the familiar flavors of herbs.

I was inspired to create a summery version of the classic French frangipane tart, an almond cream tart made with almond flour, sugar, and eggs. My goal was to infuse it with the familiar flavors of herbs and the sweetness of apples.
The challenges were numerous, from deciding on the right herb combination to enhancing the almond cream and apple flavors without overpowering them. I also had to find the perfect balance between simplicity and taste, using simple ingredients, easy preparation, and minimal bake time.

FIRST RECIPE TEST for the PROVENÇAL APPLE ALMOND TART:
First test filling ingredients showcasing sage, tarragon, and rosemary.
Quickly adding the egg and dry ingredients made the prep time faster, but eventually, it yielded an oily filling when baked.
Thinly sliced apples can be achieved with either a sharp knife or a mandolin slicer.
The blind-baked puff pastry collapsed around the edges, which made the tart look unappealing.
The apples look beautiful before baking but spread out afterward, creating a sparse design.
First Test process.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
Upon initial inspection, the tart appeared to need some adjustments. However, after it cooled, I realized that the entire recipe required significant changes. The issues ranged from aesthetic to structural to technical. I used puff pastry for the crust, blind-baking it briefly for stability. I experimented with tarragon, rosemary, and sage for the almond cream to achieve the subtle herbaceous notes I desired. Lastly, I topped the herbed frangipane with sweet, thinly sliced Envy apples.

The blind-baked puff pastry lost its structure, affecting the tart's overall appearance. While the aroma suggested a well-balanced herb combination, the 2 1/2 tsp of herbs in the filling overpowered the delicate flavors and textures of the baked apples and almond flour, leaving little room for the addition of lavender. Additionally, the filling appeared oily and underbaked, likely due to a higher oven temperature and overmixing. The apples spread while baking, resulting in a sparse topping.

PROS + CONS
The Good
  • The puff pastry was easy to use and shortened the prep time.
  • Using a sweeter apple variety added floral sweetness to the overall taste.
  • The aroma of the baking tart reassured me that the herbs had the key notes I was after.

What to Change
  • Switch to a sturdier pastry base that will keep its shape.
  • Use an herb blend that has both herbaceous and floral notes.
  • Change the mixing technique so the almond flour is not overmixed.
  • Lower the oven temperature to prevent the almond oil from separating from the almond flour.
  • Create tighter layers of apples to balance the ratio of filling and crust and to maintain the tart's aesthetic.

TAKE AWAYS
Goals for the Next Test
Use more floral herbs and reduce the herbaceous notes by switching to Herbs de Provence, Provençal Florale blend. Additionally, I will use filo dough instead of puff pastry for a sturdier base and to incorporate lavender. I'll sift the almond flour and all-purpose flour together before folding them into the wet ingredients to avoid overmixing. I'll lower the baking temperature to prevent oil extraction. Moreover, I'll use more apple slices and pack the layers tightly to ensure the apple design remains intact.



SECOND RECIPE TEST for the PROVENÇAL APPLE ALMOND TART:
Making uniform slices of apples guaranteed a consistent appearance when placed on the filling.
Adding lavender to melted butter enhanced the tart with an extra floral flavor.
The lavender-infused butter is layered between each filo sheet and then trimmed before blind-baking.
Layering the apples more closely together ensured that all the sliced apples were used and the design was maintained after baking.
The lower oven temperature and longer baking time made the filo too crispy, which conflicted with the tart’s overall texture.
Behind-the-scenes of the second Provençal Apple Almond Tart recipe test.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
The adjustments made in this round helped address some issues but also uncovered new obstacles. I used 2 tsp of Herbs de Provence, which brought out the floral notes I was aiming for. I brushed lavender-infused butter between each sheet of filo dough to enhance the floral flavor. Folding in the sifted flours likely improved the filling's texture, but reducing the oven temperature meant more time in the oven. Also, layering the apples closer together refined the overall appearance of the tart.

However, the dough was overcooked, and the ratio of filling-to-base was still too high, which made me question the size of the tart pan. The ratio and texture challenges are related to the tart pan size and the base, and the larger herbs in the blend may have roughened the texture of the filling.

PROS + CONS
The Good
  • The Provençal Florale balanced well with the mild apple and almond flavors.
  • Adding additional lavender to the base ensured a more floral-forward quality.
  • Folding in the flours improved the texture.
  • Layering the apples closer together made the tart more visually appealing.

What to Change
  • Use a press-in crust and a smaller tart pan.
  • Decrease the herb blend, but add more lavender to the filling.

TAKE AWAYS
Goals for the Next Test
A more balanced filling, apple-to-crust ratio, and fluffier filling texture.



THIRD/FINAL RECIPE TEST for the PROVENÇAL APPLE ALMOND TART:
Final ingredients for both filling and crust.
The crumbly texture to achieve before pressing the tart into the pan.
Poking holes into the crust with a fork ensured the tart did not puff when blind-baked.
Mixing the butter, sugar, and salt until pale set the foundation for the remaining ingredients.
Whisking the eggs until fully incorporated acted as the filling’s leavener. Folding in the sifted flours maintained the light texture.
Herbs de Provence, Provençal Florale was added to the flours before folding.
A smooth filling created a level foundation for the apples. A shingle pattern was used to maximize the number of apple slices on top.
The tart is ready to be sliced and can be served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a scoop of ice cream.
Final recipe video from start to finish.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
A triumphant result! By balancing the savory and floral notes, the tart's flavor profile is a harmonious blend of floral, herbaceous, and nutty. The use of Herbs de Provence, Provençal Florale, a press-in crust, and a smaller tart pan all contribute to the simplicity and quickness of this dessert, making it a perfect choice for the summer months. A dollop of sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream would elevate the complexity even further. Adding herbs to a classic recipe creates a unique dessert experience rich in flavor, without overwhelming the palate.

THE FINAL RECIPE
Summary for Selefina's Recipe Page
Experience the epitome of summer with this Provençal Apple Almond Tart. By merging sweet Envy apples, a Provençal herb blend, and a delicate almond filling in a floral press-in crust, this recipe revitalizes a fall classic into a delightful warm-weather treat, perfect for sharing with loved ones.

a sweet treat recipe using:
by Kimberly Dennison


spring
CHICKEN + APPLE HAND PIE
recipe development behind the curtains
Making Chicken + Apple
Hand Pies
HOW A SIMPLE SAUSAGE
INSPIRED A HAND PIE

This spring, Kimberly offers a glimpse into the development of a hand pie, complete with numerous photographs of her process, and even provides a behind-the-scenes look at a test cook and photo shoot.

Apple Exploration - Spring 2024
Imagine yourself on your routine grocery shopping trip at your favorite store. You head to the fruit section, where you're greeted with a wide array of apple varieties. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith- the options are endless. Which one would you pick for your next recipe?

That was one of the questions I faced when coming up with this quarter's recipe.
I was inspired by making a chicken and apple sausage into a meal. I knew I wanted to create a recipe that had a balanced herbal, slightly smokey, and sweet flavor, all cradled inside a sturdy yet light pastry. But which apple do I choose? Which herbs enhance the flavors and bring everything together like a conductor and symphony?

FIRST RECIPE TEST for CHICKEN AND APPLE HAND PIES:
The aroma and flavor of the first test filling were delicious, but the appearance needed visual appeal.
Using homemade dough for the first round required planning ahead. Using flour was essential to prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface.
Rolling out the homemade pastry until it was 1/8" thick ensured a desirable dough-to-filling ratio.
Firmly press the cutter to guarantee near-perfect circles of dough. A too shallow cut caused the dough to be misshapen when the rounds were separated.
Making a smaller dough round meant the filling had to be sandwiched between two rounds, which threw off the balance of dough and filling.
First Test process.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
My first test, in all honesty, was mainly a bust. If we eat with our eyes, then this filling will leave us starving! For the ingredients, I used a full pound (454g) of ground chicken, garlic, and onion. To accomplish the herbal/smokey flavor I was going for, I used whole fennel, whole nigella seed, chipotle chile pepper, salt, and black pepper. I chose a dry white wine to add a bit more complexity. It was all carried by a simple shortcrust typically used in pies.

The appearance of the filling was lackluster and relatively homogenous. It definitely needed more color and, in turn, more substance.

The apple was lost entirely, overpowered by the garlic, onion, and the entire pound of chicken. The whole fennel was unevenly dispersed throughout the filling, producing potent spice pockets.

PROS + CONS
The Good
  • Despite the appearance the filling was delicious, just not for this application.
  • The pastry was sturdy, flakey, and light. A wonderful compliment to the heavy filling.

What to Change
  • The aromatics dominated the filling and need to be replaced.
  • The spices also contributed to covering up the apples and need to be adjusted.
  • Use ground fennel for an even distribution.
  • The apples were overpowered, so a different variety could be an improvement.
  • There was too much filling leftover, so the amount of chicken used would need to decrease.
  • Although the pastry was fantastic, it added too much prep time to the recipe. So, a store-bought pastry is a better option.

TAKE AWAYS
Goals for the Next Test
I'm still going for sweet and slightly smokey, and I want the apples to shine through a bit more. By leaving out the nigella and paprika, changing the fennel from whole to ground, using a milder aromatic, and adding Hungarian paprika and thyme, I aim to enhance the apple instead of covering it up. Also, add in diced carrot and chopped fresh parsley to add more color.



SECOND RECIPE TEST for CHICKEN AND APPLE HAND PIES:
Second test ingredients used to improve the visual appearance of the filling.
Aromatics, spices, and carrots were sauteed first to build a flavor foundation.
The apples were added after the white wine was reduced.
The chicken was added just until warmed through.
A sprinkle of fresh parsley at the end of cooking added more color.
The store-bought pastry dough was easier and faster to work with. A larger cookie cutter ensured the pastry came second to the filling.
Larger dough rounds allowed for more filling compared to the first test.
A light egg wash and vented holes were made before baking the pies.
Behind-the-scenes of the second Chicken and Apple Hand Pie recipe test.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
This time, the failure was changing the apple variety to Granny Smith. For this round, I chose a variety of spices closer to yielding the results I was after; ground fennel, thyme, and Hungarian paprika. I chose diced rotisserie chicken instead of raw, ground chicken to reduce cooking time and decrease the filling amount. I used one shallot instead of the garlic and onion to create more harmony in the filling.

After cooking, the apples and other ingredients were well-balanced. However, the Granny Smith apples became sour and overpowered the filling after baking. I'm happy with the change in spices, and using the premade pastry made the overall prep time faster.

PROS + CONS
The Good
  • This blend of spices is precisely what I’d envisioned.
  • Faster assembly by using a premade pastry dough.
  • Less filling by using diced rotisserie chicken breast.
  • The addition of carrots and parsley made the filling more colorful and appetizing.

What to Change
  • Return to a sweeter apple variety.
  • Add chipotle chile powder for more smokiness.

TAKE AWAYS
Goals for the Next Test
I'm still going for sweet and slightly smokey, and I want the apples to shine through a bit more. By leaving out the nigella and paprika, changing the fennel from whole to ground, using a milder aromatic, and adding Hungarian paprika and thyme, I aim to enhance the apple instead of covering it up. Also, add in diced carrot and chopped fresh parsley to add more color.



THIRD/FINAL RECIPE TEST for CHICKEN AND APPLE HAND PIES:
The finalized ingredients are shown for this test.
The larger cookie cutter was the best size for this application.
The sturdier store-bought pastry allowed for the maximum amount of filling.
The pastries did not rise too much, so they can be placed closer together on the baking sheet.
Freshly baked and ready to enjoy!
Final recipe video from start to finish.

IMPRESSIONS
Outcome
Success! There's a sweet and smokey balance that comes from the Envy apple and Hungarian paprika. The fennel here is reminiscent of a chicken and apple sausage, but accompanied by the paprika and thyme, prevents the hand pie from being too on-the-nose. I'm happy to say it has its own flavor profile. I skipped the chipotle in the final test, but adding the spice will land this hand pie firmly in the smokey realm. Smoked paprika would be a great, less spicy alternative. Overall, I'm satisfied with how the recipe turned out, and I can't wait for you to try this as an appetizer, lunch, or dinner.

THE FINAL RECIPE
Summary for Selefina's Recipe Page
Enjoy this unique take on the classic chicken and apple sausage. Tender chicken, sweet apples, and fragrant fennel, thyme, and paprika create a delicious filling encased in a flaky pastry. Enjoy on its own, or pair it with soup or salad. Every bite will be a comforting and satisfying experience.