This apple tart is an amalgam of three of my recipes from More than Cake – my pâte brisée, apple butter, and the apple tart – all recipes are below.
Though familiar to the point of ubiquity, the truth is that a great apple is the most appealing and flat-out delicious of all the myriad fruits to add to baked goods, particularly tarts and pies. Over the years, I’ve riffed on the apple tart over and over again, looking at this timeless pastry from all different angles. I’ve paired Pink Lady apples with nutty, almond frangipane (classic and buttery); Granny Smith apples with sugared shiso (sour and refreshing); and poached Red Dragon apples with vinegar, ice cream, and whipped cream (drippy and fussy but still great).
With so many ideas bobbing around, the recipes that will live in your repertoire will be the ones that are the most direct and impactful. Here, the apple stands alone, exuding nuance and versatility. No American-style warming spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, no rich additions like frangipane or cheese, no secondary fruit like cranberries or strawberries. To further emphasise the tart’s resolute apple-ness, there’s a swipe of electrifying apple butter on the bottom and a tangy, sticky apple glaze shot through with apple cider vinegar.
Triple Apple Tart
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) tart
serves 6 to 8
25 minutes active time
40 minutes inactive time
Pâte Brisée (see below for recipe)
All-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
3 large Honeycrisp apples
¼ cup (80 g) Apple Butter (recipe follows below)
1 large egg white (30 g), lightly whisked
½ cup (100 g) sugar
¾ cup (180 g) water
2 teaspoons (10g) apple cider vinegar
Flaky sea salt
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C); see tip #1.
- Roll out the brisée. Let the chilled dough sit at room temperature until slightly softened but still cool to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the flour and place the disc of dough on top. Using firm, even pressure, roll the dough out from the middle of the round in a radius pattern, rotating the parchment like a turntable, until you have a large circular shape about 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Use a small knife to trim the dough into a neat round. Slide the dough and parchment onto a half-sheet pan and transfer to the refrigerator to chill.
- Prep the apples. Peel the apples, reserving the peels for the glaze. Cut the apples in half through the core and then in half lengthwise again. Place each quarter apple cut side down and carefully slice out the core at an angle, saving the cores for the glaze. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 equal wedges. If the apples are huge, cut into slices about ¼ inch/6 mm thick.
- Shape the tart base. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Spread the apple butter on the surface of the dough, all the way to the edges. Use the tips of your fingers to bring 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the dough up and over itself all around, creating a braid-shaped crimp about ¾ inch (2 cm) high. (If the dough cracks, let it warm up on the counter for 5 minutes and then try again.)
- Arrange the apples. Begin laying down apple slices, starting at the outside perimeter, overlapping each slice by one-third (see tip #2). When the outside ring of apples is complete, start the next ring, this time with the apple slices facing in the other direction, making sure to overlap each ring of apples by ½ inch (1.25 cm). Continue until you have reached the centre of the tart. Brush the braided crust with the egg white and sprinkle ¼ cup (50 g) of the sugar all over, particularly on the crust.
- Bake the tart. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the tart glaze. Transfer the reserved apple peels and cores to a small pot and add the remaining ¼ cup (50 g) sugar. Add the water and simmer over medium heat until the colour is drained from the peels, about 15 minutes. Strain the mixture into small jars. Taste the glaze—it should be viscous and slightly tart. Add the apple cider vinegar. If the glaze still appears watery, place the syrup back on the heat and reduce for an additional 5 minutes.
- Glaze the tart and serve. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before applying the glaze with a brush. Sprinkle the surface with flaky sea salt. Slice into 6 to 8 wedges and serve.
makes 2 cups (500 g)
10 minutes active time
3 to 4 hours inactive time
6 apples (aim for a mix of sweet and tart varieties, like Honeycrisp and Granny Smith)
2 tablespoons (30 g) water
1 tablespoon (20 g) honey
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
- Prepare the apples. Cut the apples into quarters and cut out the cores. Place the apples and water in a 9-by-13-inch (12 by 33 cm) baking dish and drizzle the honey on top.
- Bake the apples. Cover the pan with foil and bake until the apples are very soft and falling apart, about 2 hours. Remove the foil and bake, stirring occasionally, until the mixture looks reduced and dried out, about 2 hours longer. The darker the puree, the more intense the final apple butter will taste. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly.
- Make the Apple Butter. Transfer the apples to a blender or food processor and puree on high for several minutes, until velvety. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. This can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks; frozen, the apple butter keeps for up to 2 months.
I picked up this indispensable technique for making pâte brisée from Ashley Whitmore, who ran the pastry department for Marlow & Sons and Diner, both in Brooklyn, from 2010 to 2014. We used a giant food processor to make huge batches of dough, which came in handy once the Thanksgiving pie orders started rolling in. This pastry is tender and has enough structure to support heavy fruit and more.
makes 1 pound (455 g), enough for a 12-inch (30 cm) galette
10 minutes active time
2 hours inactive time
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
9 tablespoons (4½ ounces/135 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (1.25 cm) cubes, cold
6 to 8 tablespoons (90 to 120 g) ice-cold water
- Combine the dry ingredients and butter. In a food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse twice to blend. Add the cold cubed butter all at once and pulse 8 to 10 times to combine. The butter should mostly be the size of a pea or lentil, with just a few chickpea-size pieces.
- Stream in the water. Jogging the pulse button of the food processor as quickly as you can, stream in 6 tablespoons (90 g) water, so that it hits the blade and is sprayed in every direction, thus coating the flour mixture indirectly. Once the dough begins to climb up the sides of the bowl, stop adding water. The mixture should look like damp bread crumbs, with some larger pieces of butter. If it feels powdery, add up to 2 more tablespoons (30 g) ice water, flicking it across the crumbs with the tips of your fingers, like drips from a watering can.
- Double-check the texture. Pick up a handful of the damp crumbs and firmly grip them in your palm to press them into a mass. Open your hand. Poke the mass with a finger—it should fall back into crumbs. If it feels stretchy and gummy (meaning the gluten was overworked), it is overhydrated and will bake into a tougher crust. If it doesn’t stay together, clenched in your fist, it’s too dry and needs more water.
- Pack into plastic wrap. Dump the crumbs onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, pull the edges of the plastic up, and gather the edges into the centre, pressing down to seal. Press out the extra air with a rolling pin until the pack is airtight, forming a disc about ½ inch (1.25 cm) thick and 6 inches (15 cm) across. Roll the surface all over with the pin to seal (see tip). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough pack can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.
Recipes excerpted from More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023.
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