When I went to Paris for three weeks the summer after my sophomore year in college, I honestly thought I would be all about the croissants.
But instead, I found myself falling for the apple tarts.
They make them different in France. There are no deep-dish apple pies like there are here, with thick chunks of apples swimming in syrupy, cinnamon-y glazes and surrounded by thick, warm rolls of flaky pie dough.
Instead, most of the tarts I ate were served cold or at the very most, barely lukewarm. The tart crust was thin, flaky, and unobtrusively buttery. The apples were sliced thin and cooked until nearly dry and velvety, somehow identical in size. It felt barely sweet, save for a glossy glaze over the top and a mysterious paste sandwiched between the pale crust and paler apples.
It’s hardly the epitome of a Thanksgiving dessert, but we had eight semi-misshapen granny apples to use up and even though I was originally debating between this deep-dish apple pie, “famous” apple pie, and this apple and almond tart, in the end I stumbled across this French Apple Tart and was instantly sold.
It doesn’t taste EXACTLY like the tarts I was imagining–the base is definitely more like applesauce (oh wait…it is) than it is the mysterious ground nut paste concoction that was not marzipan but something else in all of those French apple tarts. It’s pretty much the least sweet dessert I’ve ever made, but that doesn’t make it bad. It was actually delicious. Though I think I messed up the crust by letting the butter melt as I mashed it into shape for the fifth time, it still turned out deliciously crunchy and semi-flaky.
If you slice the apples on a mandolin, do not slice them paper thin as they will then melt and turn translucent, as you can kind of see in the final picture. I would say 1/8″ thin is about a good size.
Ah yes, pie. I didn’t have a tart pan and I ended up having to fold the excess crust over, galette-style. So what does that make this?
Also, I didn’t have jam and it’s fine without it. I added almonds instead?
I’m sure jam would be a lovely addition though!
“French Apple Tart”
Adapted from Georgia Pellegrini.
1 recipe for tart dough or store bought frozen tart shell
For the filling:
5-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
For the top:
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and very thinly sliced, including 8-10 paper thin slices for the center rosette
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons toasted almonds (opt)
1. Combine the chopped apples, lemon juice, sugar, and water in a saucepan and stir. Cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the apples can be easily broken apart with a wooden spoon but not so much so that it turns to apple sauce. Texture is good!
2. Let cool slightly, then fill the tart shell 3/4 of the way up with apple compote.
3. Begin to layer the thin apple slices closely together around the tart, overlapping in a ring around the tart. Use paper thin apple slices to fill in the center with apples arranged in a rosette design. The apples will shrink so be sure to top the tart with a generous amount of them so that no compote is visible.
4. Dot the top of the tart with small cold butter cubes and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 50-60 minutes more. The apples should be soft and brown on the edges and the pastry should be golden brown.
5. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool while you prepare the apricot glaze.
6. Put the apricot jam in a small glass bowl with the water and stir. Microwave on high for 60 seconds until it is melted.
7. Brush the top of the tart with a thin coating of glaze using a pastry brush. Serve slightly warm or cold. This tart is delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Makes 1 8-inch tart, Serves 6-8 (OR: 2 6-inch galettes)