“I want to bake something.” “Like what?” “Mmmm, there are many apples left uneaten. Perhaps, some apple tarts.”
That was the conversation between myself and Arnaud. I suspect I have been slowly trained to have a sweet tooth. Whenever I see fruits, no longer I think they are to be eaten raw but more of what I could use them in different ways. As I was full of energy and enthusiastic, I decided to make everything from scratch. (Yes, includes the pastry!)
There is one book, Pastry – Savoury & Sweet by Michel Roux that has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time. I used it a few times but not as frequent as I would like to. I took the book, flipped through and landed on the page that says apple tart. Looks pretty straight forward and I decided to give it a go.
Based on my experience, it is best to prepare pâte brisée (short crust pastry) and apple compote before hand. This will allow you to cut down a lot of time when comes to assembling the tarts. Assembling apple slices could be a challenge as I wanted to do it my way and from only one direction. Well, more of a patience game to get it done nicely. I definitely need a bit more practice on this.
The recipe is to make a big single apple tart of 24cm. If you want to make small tartlets like I did, make sure you have enough moulds so that everything can be baked in one batch and waste no time to savour them!
These days (especially during weekdays), I have been trying to find ways to cut down time that I spend in the kitchen by preparing things in advance and then put in the fridge for next days. It has worked out well. So, whenever comes to baking, I apply the same workflow to speed up. Preparation in advance for me is necessary as a result of challenging lifestyles we may have in this modern world.
Now, back to the apple tart. What I like most is the glaze on top. It gives such a glistering look and the first bite is so pleasing that you know you are embarking on a sweet journey!
Pâte Brisée: (makes about 450g)
250g plain flour
150g butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
1 tsp fine salt
pinch of caster sugar
1 tbsp cold milk
300g pâte brisée
850g dessert apples (such as Cox's)
1 vanilla pod
80g caster sugar
1. Heap the flour on a work surface and make a well. Put in the butter, salt, sugar and egg. Using your fingertips, mix and cream these ingredients together. Little by little, draw in the flour, working the dough delicately until it has a grainy texture.
2. Add the milk and incorporate gently with your fingertips until the dough begins to hold together. Using the palm of your hand, work the dough by pushing it away from you 4 or 5 times until it is smooth. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Roll out the pastry to a round, 3mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24cm diameter (3mm deep) loose-bottomed tin or flan ring. Punch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher than the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2mm thick slices. Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring).
5. Add 50ml water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency. Leave to cool. For the glaze, in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.
6. Prick the base of the pastry case lightly. Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.
7. Leave the tart cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a plate and serve cur into slices.