FRENCH APPLE TART – Tarte Normande
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I enjoy eating all kinds of fresh fruit in all seasons, and today we can find almost any kind of fruit in our supermarket year round. However, fruits that are in season locally are always best for flavor. Oranges and apples are perhaps the only seasonal fruits available under the grey sky and chilly air of February in Northern California. They are juicy, plump and sweet – at their peak flavor right now.
Apples come in many varieties. Some are sweet and juicy and best enjoyed eaten fresh, but some are a bit tart and acidic, and are best for baking. I personally don’t eat fresh apples very often, but I love all kinds of baked apple confections, except typical store-bought or restaurant-style American apple pie (they are too sweet, spicy and doughy for my palate).
One of the easiest and most enjoyable is what I call “My Apple Tart,” which is fresh, thin-sliced apples on puff pastry with a sprinkle of sugar and butter on top of the apples, then baked in a hot oven for about 35-40 minutes. I don’t make puff pastry very often, as it requires a fair amount of time and effort. I just buy the pastry, so all I have to do is peel, core and slice the apples for a super-delicious “Homemade Apple Tart.” It is very simple tart but great pleasure!
This apple tart is one of the most popular confections in France. Normandy, northwest of France is very famous for their prized butter, cream and apple. This tart, you can find anywhere in France is that sliced apples are baked in custard cream with Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy) for a warm, soft and wonderfully flavorful tart that is perfect to enjoy this time of year. If you bake it at home, your house will be filled with an irresistible sweet apple smell all day long.
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- 5 ounces (140g) unsalted butter, soft
- 3 ounces (85g) granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups (175g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- A pinch of salt
- 1 large fresh egg yolk (20g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons cold water if needed
- 4-5 organic apples (about 2 pounds/900g) of your choice
- juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2-3 tablespoons Calvados or other brandy (optional)
- 2 eggs (or only egg yolks if you prefer)
- 3 ounces (85g) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (4 ounces/115ml) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar crystals or confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle on the tart
- Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Add the salt, egg yolk and vanilla and mix until completely combined. Add the flour and mix until there are no dry patches (you can do this in a food processor). Incorporate 1-2 Tbsp of water if the dough is too dry. Gather pastry into a ball and flatten. Wrap the pastry with plastic and refrigerate about 2 hours or overnight.
- Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface or between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap (you will still need a bit of flour), about 13 inches diameter and about ⅛ to less than ¼ inch thick. Place (flip and invert) over the tart pan, press gently around bottom and sides and trim around the edge nicely. Cover and refrigerate until apples are cooked and custard made. (This pastry does not need prebaking.)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Peel and core the apples, and cut them in eighths (toss with the lemon juice if you wish). In a medium-size skillet, melt the butter and sauté the apple slices until lightly cooked. Wait a few minutes to cool, then place the apple slices in concentric circles in the unbaked tart shell.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk in the heavy cream and Calvados, until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the egg/cream custard filling over the apples in the tart dough. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the tart pan over parchment paper or foil on baking sheet. Bake the tart until it reaches a deep golden brown on top, about 40 to 450 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
- Serve the tart warm or at room temperature. Normally tarts like this are served on their own but you can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.
- The tart is best enjoyed the day it's made. It can be kept up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Sautéing the apples is not necessary if you are using sweet/soft apples and you wish to omit the extra butter. Instead of apples, you may use pear slices (no need to sauté if it is ripe/sweet) and add some almond slices on top.