i did some etymology on the phrase “as easy as apple pie” this weekend. if you’ve ever made a pie, especially the first time, you’ll probably be in agreement that there’s nothing easy about making pie. in fact, many other baked goods, like brownies, muffins, cupcakes, are far easier to make than pie. on top of that, pies and tarts are typically rustic affairs, unlike cakes that are typically associated with special occasions. they are something that you’re supposed to be able to just throw together without much effort. i can whip out a cake any day. i can’t, however, whip out an apple tart without at least a day of planning. tarts are a multi-step process and a labour of love.
the french apple tart is like an american apple pie primped and pressed into a pair of haute couture denim jeans — they are jeans just a bit nicer. the french apple tart is less gooey, less sweet with apples fanned out on display in impossibly thin slices. It’s still unmistakably rustic but in a marie antoinette’s petit hameau kind of way. I can’t, however, imagine making apple tarts/pies in any other way.
Apple Tart (a 5 step process)
- tart shell: you can use any tart shell you have on hand, although it’s typically made with pate brisee. i used pate sucree in the picture above.
- apple compote
- apples for fanning
- note: there’s a lot of peeling and coring of apples involved. if you can’t be bothered, this really isn’t the recipe for you.
Prepare tart shell and let rest for several hours.
Roll-out tart dough and line the tart ring. Place in freezer and let chill while oven is heating. Blind bake the tart shell for about 30 minutes at 350°F or until the shell is golden brown. When done, take the shell out of the oven and set aside.
Make apple compote. Peel and core 2.5 apples (golden delicious is best). Cut the apples into 1/4 inch cubes. Place apples and the juice from half a lemon into a sauce pan. Add in about 1/4 cup of sugar and a vanilla bean (split and scraped). Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened and the juice has mostly evaporated. Take off heat and set aside.
Prepare apples for the top of the tart. Peel and core 2-3 apples. As soon as you’re done peeling the apples, rub lemon all over the apples to prevent them from turning brown. Slice eat apple in half and carefully take out the rest of the core. Rub lemon over the inside of the apple as well. With the interior of the apple face down on a cutting board, cut apple across its width into the thinnest slices possibly. It’s easiest to do this with a paring knife. You should also keep the cut apples together so as to form their original apple shape.
Arrangement. Evenly spread the apple compote into the bottom of the tart shell. It should completely cover the bottom of the shell in a 1/2 inch thick layer. Pick up the slices apple halves and fan them out on top of the apple compote, until the tart is completely covered.
When done, sprinkle some sugar on top of the apple slices. You can also drizzle some burnt butter on top of the slices for extra flavour.
Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the apples are caramelized. After baking, you can also glaze the apples with some apricot syrup for extra shine (optional).