French Apple Tart is the second recipe of 2013 for the Tuesdays With Dorie crowd. This tart is one of three from Seattle baker Leslie Mackie built on her recipe for Flaky Pie Crust the group first tackled last summer when baking the very excellent Blueberry and Nectarine Pie. Hosting French Apple Tart this week is Cakelaw of Laws of The Kitchen. Readers interested in the full recipe will find it at her blog. The collected efforts of TWD participants are found here.
As alluded to, the French Apple Tart is made with Leslie Mackie’s Flaky Pie Dough. While I still feel an all-butter dough yields a more flavorful pie crust, it is hard to argue with the relatively foolproof and superior flakiness of Leslie’s dough. Though in a nod to butter’s better flavor, I increased the ratio of butter when making my pie crust this time around. As with the Blueberry Nectarine Pie, I added a small amount of sugar to the dough as well.
Having made the pie dough the previous evening, I took to the task of preparing the mountain of apples required. Knowing I would have enough dough for several tarts, I visited the Berkeley Bowl, skipping over Granny Smith in favor of two other varieties. My all-time favorite baking apple is the Stayman Winesap, which I first discovered about ten years ago in Southern California’s Apple Country. Alas, I’ve never found Winesaps at a grocer, and not even the famed produce section of the Berkeley Bowl could deliver. Instead I settled on Honey Crisp, a rather recent darling of the apple eating public, and Golden Delicious, the preferred apple for that other french apple tart, Tarte Tatin.
I made the first tart with Honey Crisp apples. In so doing, I ran headlong into the fact that different varieties of apples cook in different times, and to different levels of tenderness. Golden Delicious, for instance, will turn to sauce quite quickly. Often apple pies call for a variety which will hold their shape during long cooking. It turns out Honey Crisp were quite stubborn indeed. Once sliced and spread on a sheet pan, I must have baked my apples for close to an hour. Over that time much of the sauce that developed browned and thickened such that most of it remained in the pan. While Honey Crisp developed excellent flavor, next time I use this variety I’ll be sure to give the apples a head start in the microwave.
One mashed and cooled, and with a blind baked tart shell at the ready, came the task of filling the tart, then layering the top with concentric rings of thinly sliced apples. Having already used five large apples for the filling, the top required an additional three — quite a lot for an 11″ tart that ended up barely an inch tall. As with the compote, my decorative apples took forever to soften and brown in the oven. Over the course of an hour, tented with foil and without, basted with melted butter, the apples finally submitted to the inevitable. As I would discover though, such an extended baking time took its toll on the tart shell.
The finished French Apple Tart is indeed a looker. And the long cooking time does indeed result in a very concentrated apple taste. The crust however did not perform as well for me as it did for the Blueberry Nectarine Pie. The combination of an extended cooking time and a thin metal tart pan resulted in a very flaky, very crispy shell. While not a fan of soggy bottoms, I do like my pie or tart crust to maintain some degree of tenderness. When I make the second tart, I’ll plan on blind-baking the tart shell a bit less, and par cooking the sliced apples.