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Caramel Apple Tartlets

I had a little mommy meltdown yesterday. It was very unpretty…crying, rocking, gasping for the air which seemed to be sucked from the room. And over what? I don’t even know. Nothing even worth writing about. Stupid, every day, normal stuff…just too much of it. Fighting with an uncooperative vacuum while trying to banish the tumbleweeds of dog hair from our living room was the little thing that sent me over the edge. So silly. And yet in the moment it felt like the world was caving in on me. To an objective observer, I probably looked pretty ridiculous, throwing myself down onto the ground and mumbling under my breath as I cried, while my inner voice tried to coach myself to pull it together and act like a grown-up. But for me the feeling was crushing. Sometimes day-to-day life is just overwhelming.

Sadly, the kids witnessed my little meltdown, and I can only imagine how scary and unsettling that must have been for them. In the moment, rational mommy (as compared to crazy lump of tears mommy) told them I loved them and explained that I was just stressed and needed to cool down for a minute. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get that minute of serenity in a house with three young boys. Eventually, I stopped fighting with the vacuum, collapsed against one of the toy boxes and closed my eyes for a second.

And then the most beautiful thing happened. I opened my eyes and my precious 17 month old was sitting in front of me, completely silent. He sat facing me, knees bent, feet together, so that his entire little body was nestled within my own bent legs. And he just smiled. Silently, calmly smiled. I kissed his forehead. He smiled and leaned forward to rest his head against my chest. He stayed like that for what felt like a perfect eternity. I inhaled his sweet baby hair as I felt my heart rate slowly returning to normal. Eventually he turned around so that he was leaning against me, holding my hand as it rested on his little belly. And he stayed like that until his daddy arrived home from work. He greeted his daddy, then returned to sit by my broken side, smushed up against me with a perfect grin on his face. He was like a tiny, precious bomb defuser.

Such perfect, simple love…and trust. He saw me torn apart and irrational. If it were me, I would have run from that crazy woman. But he came straight to me. As close as he could get to me. Confident that his presence would fix me. How in the world did I get so lucky??

These drool-worthy caramel apple tartlets are bursting with flavors as uncomplicated and confident as my sweet little man’s love. We baked them using fresh-picked apples from our favorite local orchard. Though the apple crops up here were hit hard by an early spring bloom followed by a bloom-killing frost, the kids got every bit of fun out of filling buckets of unusually small apples. I made these tartlets using store-bought puff pastry and caramel sauce for time-saving convenience. The end result is still dripping in homemade yumminess.

Focus on Technique – Puff Pastry

Puff pastry is a rich and flakey pastry made by repeatedly folding and rolling generous quantities of butter into the dough, resulting in puffy, delicate layers when baked. It’s a manageable and fun thing to make at home (and will totally wow your guests), but takes a few hours of repeatedly rolling and chilling to be made properly. When ease is the name of the game, store-bought puff pastry provides great results with great convenience. It can be used to make decadent savory appetizers, like warm pastry-wrapped brie or sweet treats like these caramel apple tartlets. Check your grocery store’s frozen section, near the frozen pie shells for boxes of puff pastry sheets. Always defrost the sheets according the package directions and lightly sprinkle your clean work surface with flour before rolling.

Easy Caramel Apple Tartlets


  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 2 large apples (or 4 teeny-tiny ones), very thinly sliced
  • 4-5 tablespoons caramel sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly sprinkle a clean work surface with a bit of flour to prevent sticking, then roll the sheet of puff pastry into a square, about 12″ wide. Cut the square into four 6″ squares. Place the squares on the prepared baking sheet. Spread about 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce into the center of each pastry. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced apples on top of the caramel. Then, pull each of the four corners over the apples, slightly twisting each point so that the corners meet in a sort of pinwheel design revealing four pockets of the caramel and apples. Gently press the points together with your fingers to hold them together. Brush each pastry with some of the egg white. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over each pastry. Bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Enjoy hot out of the oven or at room temperature.

Makes 4 Individual Tartlets


12 responses »

  1. Amy, I can imagine how matters overwhelmed you! Children have an unexplainable instinct. After reading your recap of the events, I could only think : “How is it possible that out of all the little boys in the whole world, you got the best ones?”

  2. I hear you–life is crazymaking sometimes! (Especially with three little ones at home–mine are all girls.) 🙂 Toddler empathy is so sweet–my youngest is 18 months old and whenever her sisters cry she goes running to them, yelling “hug! hug!” It’s a good reminder that that is probably the natural reaction we should all offer when our loved ones are in distress. I’m glad you got a good snuggle when you needed it.

  3. Sweetheart:

    We all have meltdowns!

    Crying.. I would say was a good one. It is when cursing and swearing and blaming the children is when it is bad.

    Now that you have had that cry I bet you feel so much better. And you will be healthier for it!

    Sometimes it is good to show our children our feelings, that way they do realize that mommy and daddy have the same feelings as they do and it is all right to cry.

    Don’t beat yourself up for it.

    You are a great Mom.

    How precious our children are, they haven’t learned yet about conditional love and I pray they never will.

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie (female)

  4. Thanks so much for this sweet, sweet story.

    I have many moments just like that, totally losing it over something so small, so ordinary, that it sounds ridiculous to even explain it. Then my three-year-old says, “I want Mommy to be HAPPY!” and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry harder.

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple months and have already tried several of your delicious recipes. You’re my kind of cook, my kind of mother. Thank you for the ways you enrich my life.

  5. Ahhhhhh, this was so beautifully written. Unconditional love from our babies put life in perspective.

    The apple tartlets is something I will surprise my gang with after dinner tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Aren’t little kids amazing? Mine (I’ve mentioned before, but not sure you’d remember—almost exactly the ages yours are. . . 2 boys & a baby-girl) can drive me up the wall to exhasperation especially when you throw in malfunctioning equipment & endless mess after mess. I’m sad to say moments like you describe here have happened more than once since #3 has been born thanks to the overwhelmingness of everyday life. . . But when I have moments like you describe, I inevitably get one, two or three of them coming over to hold me, smile at me, love me . . . no matter what they were doing a moment before. That beatuiful baby-smile or them giving me some of the same comfort I’ve given them when they hurt. . . it definitely heals the heart & returns perspective on the silliness of whatever my meltdowns have been caused by. I’m homeschooling my 5 (and 4) year old, and it can definitely get stressful with 3 little ones constantly wanting to hold center stage on top of the “normal” chores of the house. But much more often, I am reminded how much I’m blessed to have these moments (even during my not-so-great-mom-moments) with them as only young, impressionable, beautifully compassionate children can be.

    Looking forward to finally making a couple of your Chinese dishes this Friday. . . and this looks YUMMY. . . you keep churning them out faster than I can fit them in, lol. THANKS!

  7. Thank you so much for all of your nice comments! We’re all in this together!!

  8. You are not alone. We all go through have a way to comfort us like no one else!!
    love your recipes…I am sure the apple tartlet will be a hit at our house w/ a bit of vanilla ice cream..and the house will smell great!! thanks…

  9. I hate days like that…I’ve had my share, we have 4 boys…not toddlers anymore…but oh boy did I have days like that, still do and when the youngest comes over just to give me a hug because mom needs a time out, it reminds me how lucky I am. Because of all those tiny little crazy meltdown moments we all might have, the unconditional love our children give us through a smile, hug, snuggle whatever its is, it some hows makes the crazy OK, might not fix it, but its OK…
    God Bless you and your family, and enjoy those sweet momens….

  10. This looks so beautiful and so super easy to make. Gonna try soon.

  11. Thank you for the story! Sometimes I still can be surprised about the fact, that other mothers melt down too, not just me. Luckily we have these fantastic children: Last Friday I had the same melt down, caused by my 19 months old son’s tantrum and hours of screaming. Suddenly I just couldn’t take it anymore, I collapsed into the armchair, sobbing, gasping for air, wanting to die. Then my son stopped freaking out, came to me, crawled up in my lap, looked in my face with a timid smile, then hugged me. We stayed like that for a really long time, it was like he was trying to say sorry and comfort me. Babies are amazing! 🙂

  12. Your son is adorable! I love puff pastries (have not made one by myself yet…) but may just have to consider it! Thanks so much! ~


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The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

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