Recently I entered a dessert contest to support a friend who was having difficulty recruiting entrees for her organization's fundraiser. My weekend was full of activities including my daughter's volleyball tournament, my son's cross country meet, a presentation for my work and a wedding for which I prepared the cake. Did I really have time to commit to another task? When it comes to friends, I have difficulty saying "no" so I found time to prepare the dessert.
The only requirement for the contest was that the dessert had to include apple as an ingredient. Years ago I discovered a Spanish apple tart which was a combination of a sweet hand-made pastry filled with layered cinnamon apples and a homemade custard similar to flan. It is an attractive dessert as the apples line the pastry in a pinwheel design. My only concern was whether the dessert would be sweet enough for the average American dessert judge!
Thus, I decided to seek an alternative tart option and searched the Internet. I discovered a similar concept using a cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk filling topped with apple pie filling. I altered the graham cracker crust by adding chopped pecans and cinnamon. After pouring in the cream cheese mixture, which resembled a cheesecake consistency and flavor, I added the canned apples. It was painful to used canned apple pie filling. Had time allowed, I would have created a homemade apple filling with diced fuji apples, cinnamon, honey and maybe a little bit of nutmeg.
The tart baked for 20 minutes and then I topped the apples with pecans mixed with cinnamon sugar. Another 10 minutes of baking resulted in toasted, buttery nuts and a delightful looking dessert. But would it be just right to win the contest? To be honest, I really didn't care because I know my efforts were helping a friend.
I'm happy to report my dessert won first place, which included a $100 cash prize. The event required a $10 entry fee and I probably invested $10 in ingredients. Hmmm...an $80 prize for helping a friend. I guess you can't beat that!