A Simple French Apple tart

I like apple-based desserts more than any other kind, from a homely apple crumble or pie (which always has to be served with Bird’s custard in my house or there are complaints!) to fancier tarts and cakes. I’ve made little tartlets on flaky pastry, deep-filled tartlets. I’ve made tarts with apple purée on the bottom and sliced apples on top. This simple French Apple Tart is in essence like the ones from Normandy which have a custard within the apple slices; if I’d had some calvados to hand to add to the custard that would have been perfect! But the fact that I didn’t wasn’t so bad for this is really an easy recipe that gives a great result.

I first made this back in the late 1970s when I was still working in publishing full time and commissioning and editing cookery books. The book I took it from was Cooking Today, Eating Tomorrow by Jan Hopcraft, who we (Methuen) published. The idea behind the book still seems a great one – three-course menus with recipes that can be prepared well in advance of entertaining so you’re not rushing around the kitchen at the last minute and missing out on talking to your guests.

I followed the basic recipe but made my own version of a slightly sweet shortcrust pastry, enriched with egg, and used eating apples rather than cooking. You could make this even easier or quicker by using some good-quality ready rolled shortcrust pastry. I also added a glaze at the end as I think it makes the tart look so much more attractive.

I used to make this tart a lot but hadn’t for years so what would the family think? I’m sure you can guess that they loved it.

A Simple French Apple Tart – Serves 6-8

Pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a little water

Filling

  • 4-5 eating apples
  • 75ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Glaze

  • about 2 tablespoons of marmalade or apricot jam
  • a little water

Make the pastry first. I put all the ingredients in my food processor (about a tablespoon of water but add a little more if the dough is too stiff). Blitz until it comes together into a ball. Gather together and flatten a bit and shape out on a floured worktop. Wrap in some clingfilm and put aside in a cool place for about 20-30 minutes. I didn’t put mine in the fridge because sometimes the dough is then too hard to easily roll out, but if you make the pastry hours ahead you’d need to do this and then take it out a bit before using it.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180/Gas 6 and put a baking sheet on the shelf so you have as much heat as possible cooking the base of your tart.

Grease a flan tin with a loose-fitting bottom. The recipe asked for a 20cm one and I only had 24cm. You certainly wouldn’t want larger or you’d have to increase the filling measurements. 

Roll out the pastry until fairly thin (about 2-3cm). Roll it back slightly over the rolling pin and lift onto the prepared tin and gently press down. (You’ll have a bit of pastry left over.) Crush some greaseproof paper so you can shape it into the flan case and fill with baking beans (or dried beans). Place in the preheated oven for just 5 minutes to give the base a bit of a start and hopefully avoid a soggy bottom! Remove the greaseproof paper and beans.

 

Peel 4 apples (have another apple to hand in case this isn’t enough). Cut into quarters and remove core. Cut into thin slices. Lay in a circle round the edge of the pastry case with pieces slightly overlapping. Then make another circle of apple within the outside one. Fill any space at the centre with more apple.

 

Beat the double cream with the sugar and egg. Pour over the apple, distributing it as evenly as you can.

 

Put the tart back in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the apple is slightly browning and the custard set.

Leave to cool while you make the glaze. Put the marmalade or jam into a small saucepan with about a tablespoon of water. Heat gently stirring all the while until you have a bubbling syrup. You can put through a sieve if you want to ‘do it properly’ or just use as it is. Dip a pastry brush into the syrup and brush the glaze over the top of the tart, putting a little on the pastry edge as well as the apples.

You can serve it slightly warm but cold is okay. Don’t however chill it. I served it with the rest of the cream; in the summer you might like vanilla ice cream, but definitely give the Bird’s custard a miss!

The family loved it. The pastry was beautifully light and apples lovely with the custard mix. It was very easy to make and prepare but looked and tasted quite special.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

16 thoughts on “A Simple French Apple tart

  1. When we traveled in Normandy during the fall one year, I had to have a slice of tart made with the custard and apple slices. It was delicious just as I’m sure your lovely one was. By the way, I’m curious about Bird’s custard.

    1. Normandy and its food are lovely. Bird’s custard is a traditional custard powder – instant custard made with hot milk. I used to have it as a child when I thought it was the only custard. First developed by Alfred Bird, a chemist, in 1837 for his wife who couldn’t eat eggs and later made commercially. My son insists he has to have it with classic fruit crumbles etc. It’s nursery food really. I’m sure the French wouldn’t eat it! But I have to say I like it with an apple crumble too but wouldn’t use it in a French flan or anything sophisticated.

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