Two apple desserts arrive at my door within days of each other. One is a tart, the other is a pie. The difference between the two is vast, but the most obvious one is that a tart is more shallow than a pie (usually just about an inch tall) and is usually served in a fluted crust. Pies, on the other hand, are served in the pan they’re baked in and can boast a variety of crusts: single or double, crumb (streusel), and some even sport a jaunty meringue topping.
Let’s take the tart first. An abundance of green apple chunks shines against a sienna mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and butter. Their playground: a pastry crust rendered tender with the addition of cream cheese, its richness imbuing a golden color to the tart. Finally, a cascade of crumbs crowns this creation.
Made by Margie Tan and her mom Daisy, the pair owns Symphony of Flavors, a food business that began as Margie’s fund-raising project in high school seven years ago. Its success led to their supplying school canteens and small coffee shops. “The baking is done only by me and my mom so as not to lose the home-baked quality of our products,” says Margie.
What I like about Symphony of Flavors’ Apple Tart (P500) is the crunchiness of the fruit. Their sweetness and tang shine with just a hint of cinnamon, a spice that usually overwhelms apple desserts. And of course, I can’t stop picking at the streusel topping, my perfect idea of finger food. There is an undernote of caramel in this tart contributed by a thin layer of dulce de leche spread under and over the fruit filling.
I only suggest that the choice of thickener for this fruit tart be rethought or modified. A thickener — typically in the form of flour, cornstarch, or tapioca — prevents fruit desserts from being too runny. Because fruit quality changes with the seasons as well as how long they’ve been cooped up in storage or transit, a baker finds that he/she will have to modify the recipe (for the fruit dessert) accordingly. The apples in this tart are covered in a gummy and opaque coating, soaking through the crust and making it soggy. There’s also a subtle flour-y taste. Both characteristics lead me to believe that either too much flour or cornstarch was used and that the apples aren’t as juicy as previous batches may have been. As a thickener, flour gives the filling a lusterless appearance, while cornstarch, if used judiciously, will lend an almost clear appearance. Use too much of either however, and the filling will undoubtedly be murky, as the one in this tart was.
I’m intrigued but haven’t yet tried Symphony of Flavors’ Blackout Cake (P450.00), and their Caramel Buttercream Cake (P500.00). But I can recommend the Mocha Brownie Pie (P450/9×9), which, despite the term “pie”, is really a brownie of the coffee-cream cheese sort.
Symphony of Flavors
It’s ironic that Symphony of Flavors’ former name was Goodies Galore because that’s the name of MJ Teotico’s baking business, though hers adds an exclamation point ”“ Goodies Galore! ”“ at the end for flourish. MJ makes quite a unique apple pie, the star of her rather limited line-up. The only other thing she sells are banana muffins with a streusel topping, curiously called Banana Crumbs (P250/9 muffins). She also sells clothes, watches, mobile phones and other gadgets on her Multiply site, but those are beyond the scope of this website.
MJ’s Apple Pie (P265/large; P120/small) has the crunchiest apples of any apple pie I’ve tried. A definitive crrrunch! reverberates in my head with my first bite, so much so that I’m almost inclined to think that she doesn’t bake her apples. While I won’t ask her if that’s true or not, MJ agrees that the, um … “audio” quality is what distinguishes her pie from the others. “I tweaked the old apple pie recipe so that the apples would be as fresh as they could be,” she explains. “Even after baking, the apples aren’t soggy like most apple pies.”
This pie is what I think of when I hear the words “homemade apple pie.” Imagine: citrus notes of calamansi, followed by the crunch of thickly cut apple chunks caressed with just enough cinnamon. All of this is encased in a rather ordinary looking crust that betrays its fine butter flavor. The high point of this pie ”“ literally and figuratively ”“ is its top crust. A gentle lull of butter and flour gives in to the bracing finish of sugar that sparkles like jewels and crackles like the apples it covers. This crust, for me, is the pie’s reason for being.
MJ tells me that the apple pie recipe is an old family favorite that she used to bake in grade school, forgot about, and then decided to resurrect just last October after the purchase of a new oven. Though comforting and fully satiating, a caveat: this apple pie isn’t shy with the calamansi ”“ it rings through loud and clear. Its apple chunks are also bigger than the usual. And, because the crust is so thin and damp, I can only guess that it’s not blind-baked (partially baked before being filled). It could do with that as well as a coating of egg white on the cooked crust, the proteins of which will bind and ensure a crispy crust ”“ to match those crispy apples.