I’m calling this a ‘French’ apple tart as it’s what I think of as a French-style tart rather than, say, a deep-filled Dutch apple tart. It’s also the apple tart I used to make a lot – and I mean really a lot – many years ago, as the recipe is in a book I commissioned and edited back in 1979. You can see how spattered the pages are from frequent use!
I’ve found since writing the blog that what one thinks of as ‘classic’ or ‘authentic’ is rarely a definitive way of cooking a dish. I like to do a little research before I put recipes like this on the blog and found that typing ‘French apple tart’ into Google came up with many variations. Not surprisingly some recipes put crème pâtissière on the bottom with slices of apple on top; some put a frangipane base in. More similar to my old recipe, Michel Roux Jr puts an apple purée base under the apple slices. I noticed ‘my’ recipe was called ‘Tarte Normande’ but maybe I’ve been eating too many slices of Paul Bakery’s delicious Tarte Normande over recent years and think of that having a custardy mix in with chunks of apple.
My desire for a French style was to have a crisp pastry base with a good, slightly tart and not too deep filling. And I wanted it to look as beautiful as I could manage because it has to be said that French pâtisserie does look very beautiful indeed.
It was in the end my own interpretation of what I used to do. I used my fail-safe sweet shortcrust base to line the flan tin and because I wanted to use minimum sugar, I used sweet Gala apples rather than sharp cooking apples.
French Apple Tart
- about 6 eating apples (e.g. Gala, Cox’s)
- 15g butter
- 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons marmalade or apricot jam
- 225g plain flour
- 150g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg
Make the pastry first. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until it all comes together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Prepare the apples. First make the purée. Peel, core and cut into small chunks, 4 apples (weighing about 500g). Put the apple in a pan with a dash of water, just enough to stop the apple sticking to the pan as you cook it. Cook gently over a low-moderate heat, stirring frequently, until soft. The apple pieces probably won’t break down into a mush like cooking apples, so once they’re tender, use a potato masher to break them up and then beat with a wooden spoon into a purée. Then beat in the butter. Taste. I felt I didn’t need any added sugar but if your apple purée is a bit too tart, add just a little to your taste.
I’ve been using eating apples rather than cooking apples in pies, crumbles and tarts for years now but feel it’s particularly important when I’m cooking for the little grandsons – as I was yesterday – to keep sugar at a minimum.
Heat the oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Grease a 24 cm loose-bottomed flan tin with butter. I like to then sprinkle over a little flour, shake around and tip out the excess. This helps you to get the flan out easily at the end with no sticking to the tin. Roll out the pastry and line the tin. Crumple some greaseproof paper to soften, lay over the pastry and put in some baking beans. Put into the hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove and tip out the beans and paper, put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Tip the apple purée into the flan base and spread evenly. Peel and core the remaining two apples. Then cut thin slices (about 2mm).
Lay the apple slices carefully round the edge of the flan, overlapping slightly. Then do the same in the middle.
Sprinkle over a dessertspoon of caster sugar to encourage some nice caramelisation of the edges.
Return the now filled flan to the hot oven and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned and the apples cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit in the tin and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
Put the marmalade or jam in a small saucepan with just a dash of water. Warm through, stirring, until dissolved. Strain. Then using a pastry brush, brush the warm mix over all the apple slices and edges of pastry for a nice glaze finish.
Transfer to a serving plate. This isn’t a tart to be served warm, but room temperature so is brilliant for entertaining as it’s best made in advance.
We had ours with clotted cream because I had some in the fridge that needed using but it would be lovely with Chantilly cream (whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and a little sugar) or simply some nice pouring cream or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I love the simplicity of this kind of tart, especially for warm summer days. With just apple purée rather than a rich custard at the base (lovely as that is sometimes), you get a lighter, fresher taste. It was a great hit with the family – and I really must start making it regularly again!