As part of Bawarchi’s new series, we explore legacy dishes that have withstood the test of time. Here Executive Chef, Taj Bengal, Sujoy Gupta talks about a tart that is as old as the hotel itself.
By Madhulika Dash
A quick search on Google on ‘Apple Tart with Cinnamon Ice cream’ will yield a thousand results today, some claiming it to be the ultimate pairing – better than the Club Classic of serving warm tart with a dollop of clotted cream, which was eventually replaced with vanilla icecream. But 30 years ago, says Chef Sujoy Gupta (Executive Chef, Taj Bengal), “when the dessert was included in the pre-opening menu of The Chambers, one of Calcutta’s finest address to enjoy European fare, it was considered by many as revolutionary. In fact, it was often nicknamed by patrons, who still come to The Chambers only to indulge in their favourite dessert as a ‘sweet symphony’."
For most chefs who have drifted in and out of these culinary corridors, he continues, “it remained one of the finest definitions of creating a masterpiece. After all, here was a dish that never had to be replaced even when The Chambers menu was revamped more than once to stay relevant. Even the recipe was perfected to such an extent that it would get the exact result each time.”
While that made the dessert one of the bestsellers of The Chambers to this day, for many it became a lesson in fine dining. It is an exercise, says Chef Gupta, “not only in keeping things traditional but showing restrain while adding a new twist. But what really gives the dish its timeless appeal is the creation.”
Unlike other apple tarts in the city, the one from The Chambers is all about celebrating apples – its sweet-tartness and firm texture. This little nugget, says the seasoned chef, “makes apple tart one of the most versatile dessert as you have a good list of apple varieties to play with: from Granny Smiths to Jonathan or Jonagold, Cortland and Honeycrisp. In fact, a good tart is all about apples that are more on the tarty side than sweeter and have a firm body that can withstand baking, and also because the tart compliments the sugar or sweet things you have added to the apple.”
For our version, says Chef Gupta, “we go by this base rule, and often use Washington apples or play around with the varieties in season to get that combination right. For instance, if we are using the Gala or Red Delicious (both indigenous variety), we opt for more natural sweetness instead of sugar and in pared down quantity. Remember, we have an ice cream to add too in the end, and even the honey caramel drizzle.”
The benchmark of a well-made tart is a well baked, caramel-brown hue top tart that creates a crusty sound when the knife is moved over it. The second test of course are the apples, which adds Chef Gupta, “should be firmed, coated with the syrupy goodness of sugar and a hint of spice and its warm after taste mouthfeel.”
And since apple and cinnamon go classically well, the best way to bring their warm, balmy foreplay to the fore is with an ice-cream. The cream, says Chef Gupta, “is infused overnight with cinnamon stick that gives it that aromatic, fuzzy warmth and Christmas-like taste, which complements the apple tart really well.”
So what’s the role of Honey Caramel Sauce? “It is the proverbial icing on the tart,” says the culinary expert who often serves the dessert in a warm-cold combination. There is nothing more seductive than watching ice cream melt over the warm tart – it is the making of a perfect bite!