The first time I made this French Apple Tart, it turned out so beautifully that I took a photo of it and shared it to my Facebook page. People just went crazy for it.
I share this with the hope that you will be inspired to know that you can make this beautiful dessert, too, even on your first attempt (I did). Even if you’re not a professional baker (I’m not). The trick is to follow the directions and get yourself organized before you begin.
This French Apple Tart consists of several components, including a sweet pastry crust, apricot glaze, fresh apple compote and a layer of spiced apple slices. While not a difficult dessert to make, the process is a bit involved and I find it goes much smoother when broken down over two or three days.
The crust for this tart is a pâte sucree — a forgiving, sweet pastry dough which can be made well in advance of baking and refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for several months. The crust is rolled out and then patted into a fluted tart pan, then blind-baked before adding the apple filling. For best results, I recommend using a pan with a removable bottom, which you can find locally at Creative Kitchen in Fargo.
Unlike a flakier pie crust, this dough is enriched by the addition of one egg and an increased amount of sugar. The result is a rich, buttery, cookielike crust that is stable enough to support the apple toppings.
Firm apples are a must for this recipe, and I use two different varieties in this recipe. For the sliced apple layer, I only use Granny Smith apples as I adore their tartness, but for the compote I prefer a sweeter apple, like Gala or Golden Delicious.
Like the dough, both the apple compote and the apricot glaze can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. I prefer the chunky texture of a homemade compote, but you could skip this step and use applesauce instead. I used Smucker’s apricot preserves for the glaze, but any apricot jam or jelly will work.
Stunning and delicious, this French Apple Tart is a showstopping dessert that will leave folks begging for more. Thankfully, it’s even easier to make the second time around, and you can confidently promise them they won’t have to beg for long.
French Apple Tart
Serves: 6 to 8
Tart pan with removable bottom
Parchment paper or foil
Pie weights (rice or dry beans also work)
Ingredients for the sweet pastry crust (pâte sucree):
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
¼ cup white sugar
1 large or extra-large egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the apricot glaze:
½ cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon water or liqueur like brandy, Calvados or rum
Ingredients for the apple compote:
3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white sugar
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
Pinch of salt
Ingredients for the sliced apple filling:
3 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 ½ pounds) peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/8 to ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons white sugar (depending on how tart the apples are)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting top to caramelize under broiler
1. Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until softened, about 1 minute. You could also use a hand-held mixer or mix by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lightly beaten egg and mix on medium for 1 minute, until incorporated. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just until the dough forms into a ball, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Place the dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap with the plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. The dough may be refrigerated for up to 1 week (let rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes before rolling), or frozen for several months and thawed in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Prepare the apricot glaze: In a small saucepan, bring the apricot preserves to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from burner and pass the hot preserves through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Stir in the water or liqueur. The glaze may be refrigerated for up to 7 days and warmed before using.
3. Prepare the apple compote (or substitute with applesauce): Place all the compote ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat; let cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer over medium heat until nearly all the liquid is evaporated. Remove from burner and use a fork to mash the apples into a chunky compote.
Transfer to a heatproof bowl and cool completely. The compote will thicken as it cools. Use once it is cooled. May also refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for several months before using.
4. Roll out the dough: Set out an 8- or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (no need to grease it).
To prepare the tart, lightly flour a work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the pastry dough out. To ensure consistent thickness, start from the center and roll outwards, gently lifting and turning the dough after every 2 or 3 rolls to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Add more flour, lightly, to the surface and the pin as needed.
Once the pastry has been rolled into a 12-inch circle (it’s OK if it’s not a perfect circle, or even more of a square), lightly roll it around the rolling pin. Gently unroll the dough onto the center of the tart pan, with the excess draping over the sides.
5. Prepare the tart pan: Being careful not to stretch or pull the pastry (which can cause the crust to shrink), use your fingers to gently press the pastry onto the bottom of the pan, smoothing it into the corners, and then up and into the fluted sides of the pan. Run your rolling pin over the top of the tart pan and remove any excess dough. Check the tart crust and use any of the extra pastry to smooth over cracks or tears. Use a fork to gently prick holes all around the bottom of the crust, being careful not to push all the way through. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position the baking rack in the center of the oven. Remove the chilled tart from the fridge and line the crust with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice, smoothing out evenly to the sides. Place the tart pan on a large baking sheet.
6. Blind-bake the tart: Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the tart crust until the edges are a light, golden-brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and decrease the temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the parchment and pie weights from the tart crust.
Return the sheet with the tart pan to the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 3 to 4 more minutes until the crust is lightly golden brown and dry to the touch. Check the tart crust and remove from oven when ready. Immediately brush the sides and bottom of the crust with the apricot glaze. Let crust cool completely in the tart pan.
7. Prepare the spiced apples slices and add the apple filling: While the crust is cooling, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in the sugar, cinnamon and salt until well combined. Add the sliced apples and cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, just until the apples start to soften. Remove pan from the burner and let cool for 10 minutes.
Once the tart crust has cooled, spoon 1 ¼ cups of the apple compote into the shell and use an offset spatula or flat knife to evenly spread around the bottom. Starting at the outer edge of the pan, place a layer of the apple slices around the pan, overlapping each other (think concentric circles), until an end meets the other. Repeat for a second row or create a rose flower center by placing the apples around the circle standing up, overlapping one another, until the center is filled. Brush the apples with the tablespoon of melted butter.
8. Finish baking the tart: Keep the tart pan back on the baking sheet and continue baking at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until the apples are soft, but still holding their shape, and the crust is a medium golden-brown. Remove from oven.
To caramelize the edges of the apples, proceed to step 9, or skip this step and go straight to step 10.
9. To create the caramelized edging (optional): Heat broiler to 500 degrees and position rack 4 inches from the broiler. Use a sifter or strainer to generously coat the top of the tart with powdered sugar. Cover the edges of the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. Place the baking sheet under the broiler and cook just until the edges start to brown, turning once or twice. This should only take 1 to 2 minutes, so watch carefully to ensure the sugar does not burn.
10. Glaze and cool the tart: Transfer the tart pan (carefully so the bottom doesn’t pop out) to a wire rack to cool. While the tart is still hot, brush the top of the apples and the crust with the apricot glaze. Once cool, carefully remove the tart from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
Recipe Time Capsule:
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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.