So frenchy so chic: classic apple tart

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe is a French apple tart: thin apple slices edged in dark brown, forming rings or rosette patterns, resting on pureed roasted apples and framed by delicate flaky pastry. It’s pretty as pretty can be.

This recipe is not technically difficult, but is time consuming. It demands attention to detail at each step to bring out the best of its simple ingredients in a beautiful form. TWD pointed me to the episode of Baking with Julia in which chef Leslie Mackie makes the ‘perfect’ tart dough and this apple tart (here and here). Leslie’s low key manner made it seem like just another day in the family kitchen – which is how home baking should be.

I had two opportunities to make this tart, each time using different techniques (where the recipe offered options). Both times, the guests wowed over the tart’s good looks and taste; and I learned a little more about the art of pastry.

Apple topping and filling

The apple topping gives French apple tart its elegant, decorative appearance. Apple slices are laid, overlapping, on a bed of apple purée to create a pattern of concentric circles or rosettes. I opted for the concentric circles, and created three circles around a ‘flower’ like centre.

The apple slices are coated in melted butter and some sugar, and baked until the apple slices are edged in dark brown. The browning accentuates the pattern formed by the slices, so that it looks almost like a line drawing.

In the video, Leslie Mackie suggested brushing the apple topping with extra melted butter halfway through baking. I did this for the second tart, which seemed to help the apple slices brown a little quicker. Though I still gave the tarts an extra 10-15 minutes in the oven for the apple slices to get browned edges.

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Some apple purées can be a bit ‘meh’. This apple filling was not one of those. Baked in an oven until the apples become soft enough to mash, this also concentrated the apple flavour. (Again, I needed to bake the granny smith apples for about 10 minutes longer than the recipe indicated.)

On its own, the apple purée was like a spoonful of autumn sun – and since I was putting a bunch of Australian native flowers into a vase that a friend made for us (how cool is that!), I used the autumnal-coloured cuttings as the setting for some of the photos.

For the second tart, I started to play around with the flavours. I dolloped dark chocolate (65%) onto the centre of the tart base, and spread raspberry jam to cover the rest of the base, before adding the apple purée. This gave us alternate spoonfuls of sweet-bitter chocolate and sweet-tart raspberries, each of which complemented the apple. Then I remembered a recipe for apple mosaic tart with salted carael on Smitten Kitchen, which gave me the idea of adding a layer of salted caramel instead of chocolate and raspberries – something for next time.

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Butter and shortening pastry

Pastry often seems like the supporting actor for the more glamorous tart or pie fillings. This pastry got our attention – two guests remarked on the lightness of the pastry and thought it was the best part of the tart.

This was easily the best tart pastry I have ever made, and can stand up to the pastry from my morning bakery. Fresh from the oven, it was light, flaky from the shortening, with enough butter to have that rich taste we love so well. While the dough was soft, it kept its decorated edge during blind baking to become a delicate, thin tart base. Also, the dough also didn’t shrink much even under my somewhat inexpert handling.

Since I made the tart twice, I tried two methods for making the pastry – in the kitchen mixer, and by hand using a pastry cutter.

Sadly (for my lazy half), the pastry cutter produced the superior result.

The kitchen mixer made the job easy, but the pastry cutter gave me that additional degree of control. I could really see the butter and shortening coming together with the flour, becoming a soft pliable dough after I added iced water. Perhaps once I become more familiar with the steps involved, it will be easier to get the same result using the kitchen mixer.

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Recipe

The recipe for this French apple tart can be found on the blog Laws of the Kitchen, and on pages 379-381 of Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. To see how this tart turned out for other TWD bakers, go to Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia.

Anything else? Ahh yes. I baked the tart in a silicon tart pan. It does not have a removable base, and is floppy. I found out the hard way that it is impossible to lift a warm tart out of a floppy silicon pan, without ruining the pattern formed by apple slices. I think this is a good reason to invest in a metal tart pan (hurrah!).

Til next time!

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42 thoughts on “So frenchy so chic: classic apple tart

  1. Experienced Tutors 22 January 2013 at 10:04 pm Reply

    I must say, all looks very scrummy yummy

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 9:37 pm Reply

      thanks, it may be good comfort food after an afternoon in the snow

      • Experienced Tutors 24 January 2013 at 9:50 pm

        I don’t need snow to partake of comfort food – naughty but nice!

  2. Dawn 23 January 2013 at 7:24 am Reply

    Lovely post! I applaude you for being so creative and making the tart twice, once as written and once with some fun new ingredients. 🙂

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 9:58 pm Reply

      I also thought your mini tarts are creative and fun!

  3. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories 23 January 2013 at 7:36 am Reply

    Oooh. Caramel! What a great idea. I loved this pastry too! your photos are so beautiful.

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 9:59 pm Reply

      I wish I had thought of caramel before I started writing this post, but this just means another apple tart on this blog soon…ish

  4. louisawalter 23 January 2013 at 9:06 am Reply

    Very beautiful photos! Very artsy! Kristine

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:01 pm Reply

      Glad you liked ! flowers seem to work well in food photos

  5. Krissy 23 January 2013 at 9:34 am Reply

    Such a well written post with beautiful photos to equal your beautifully creative write-up. Your tart is perfect and I’m so happy you enjoyed it so much. This tart is so pretty that I do want to make it again, however, with tweaking. I do have some ideas and am appreciative of all your good ideas. Great baking!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:07 pm Reply

      Thanks so much! I also found your critique of the tart useful, and your thoughts on different apple varieties.

  6. Elaine 23 January 2013 at 10:47 am Reply

    I am so impressed that you made two of these tarts and were able to play around with the flavors on the second one. Your presentation is beautiful and I love your doily and lace-edged napkins.

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:11 pm Reply

      I saw the doily in the shop and couldn’t resist, and now there is a use for them. Clearly I needed them! 🙂

  7. bakeawaywithme.com 23 January 2013 at 11:06 am Reply

    Your tart looks beautiful with gorgeous photos!! I love the idea of adding a layer of jam or chocolate to the bottom of the apple filling. Sounds yummy…I will be making this one again, it was totally delicious!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:15 pm Reply

      Thank you, it was fun playing around with the native flowers and the camera on a Sunday afternoon! I agree this is a keeper.

  8. SandraM 23 January 2013 at 1:15 pm Reply

    What a fantastic post. I really enjoyed reading it. Loved all your explainations and techniques. I made my pastry dough by hand and think it helped to make it so great. (as I tried very hard to not over process it)

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:20 pm Reply

      It was a tricky dough, but it would probably say ‘but I’m worth it’. Hand making the dough was also worth it, I think.

  9. thekitchenlioness 23 January 2013 at 10:54 pm Reply

    Your photography is wonderful, you put together your explanations with so much attention to detail and your variations on the basic French Apple Tart theme are very interesting – let´s not forget the Tarts, of course, ithey are very very pretty! A fabulous post!
    Have a great Wednesday!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! I am new to blogging and really appreciate feedback. I had fun with this post, and the tart is so pretty we couldn’t go wrong.

  10. Jill 24 January 2013 at 12:24 am Reply

    Your tart looks lovely. Great idea to experiment with jam and chocolate, and the idea of caramel sounds delicious too.

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:34 pm Reply

      Thanks! the caramel does sound good doesn’t it?

  11. Sara 24 January 2013 at 1:47 am Reply

    Wonderful post! I agree that this pie crust is good enough to get attention on its own – I love it! It always behaves so nicely for me. For me, the filling just wasn’t very interesting. It does make for a beautiful tart, though! Well done!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:36 pm Reply

      It sounds like people who like tart apples enjoyed the filling, others, less so. But plenty of other fillings to go with the beautiful pastry!

  12. galettista 24 January 2013 at 2:43 am Reply

    Your layering of other flavors on the bottom of this tart sound delicious. Great idea. I like the crust a lot too and will use it again. Your photos are beautiful.

  13. breaddivas 24 January 2013 at 3:57 am Reply

    What a lovely post and beautiful photos! I love the idea of adding other flavors, especially the salted caramel. Yum. This is my new favorite pie crust recipe and agree that (at least so far) it is best made by hand. Welcome to the TWD group!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:57 pm Reply

      Thanks for the welcome, TWD seems to be a great group. I didn’t try the salted caramel but now I want to, soon.

  14. bakingismyzen 24 January 2013 at 5:42 am Reply

    Lovely presentation. Glad you like the tartiness of the apples.

    Carmen

  15. Cathleen 24 January 2013 at 9:47 am Reply

    Lovely first photo. The addition of caramel sounds tasty.

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:59 pm Reply

      Thanks, it was a fun photo to set up!

  16. Miette 24 January 2013 at 10:16 am Reply

    Wow! great ideas to try since I’ll be making this one again.

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 10:59 pm Reply

      Me too (will be making this again)!

  17. Liz 24 January 2013 at 10:38 am Reply

    Your photos and tart are simply gorgeous! And I love your idea of a salted caramel layer…wow!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 11:01 pm Reply

      Thanks so much, I think I must try the tart with salted caramel soon.

  18. Patty 24 January 2013 at 1:04 pm Reply

    Beautiful presentations. And its fun to vary the flavors, great ideas!

    • saucygander 24 January 2013 at 11:03 pm Reply

      It is fun to play around with flavours, isn’t it?

  19. Sally 26 January 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply

    Great name for a food blog. Your pictures are exquisite – very impressed by your level of research. A caramel layer in a tart sounds fantastic.

    • saucygander 30 January 2013 at 11:21 pm Reply

      Hi Sally, thank you for your kind words. Speaking of caramel, my friend made salted caramel fudge on the weekend. And we are talking about a caramel related bake-off…

      • Sally 31 January 2013 at 5:33 am

        Count me in 🙂

  20. Cher 5 February 2013 at 1:04 pm Reply

    Gorgeous tart and beautiful pictures!

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