In my book, Maman Blanc makes the best apple tart. Again she finds this recipe takes it roots from simplicity.
The secret of this dish is choosing the right apple, with the right balance of acidity, sugar and a great apple flavour. My favourite apples for this dish is not as you might think a golden delicious, but cox’s orange pippin, Worcester, Egremont Russet, or Braeburn. They will fill your
kitchen with a wonderful apple aroma, they will caramelise and fluff up beautifully.
I have created another variation which you must try in your own home, as it is simply divine. All what you need to do is to pour in a light custard of egg, cream and sugar for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Here, we have used apples, but plums, apricots or cherries make an equally delicious alternative.
For the short crust pastry dough:
For the apple tart and the glaze:
Icing sugar for dusting
For the shortcrust pastry dough:
In a large bowl, rub together the flour, butter and salt using your fingertips until it reaches a sandy texture. (*6) Create a well in the centre and add the egg and yolk. (*7) With the tip of your fingers, in little concentric circles, work the eggs into the flour and butter
mixture; (*8) then at the last moment when the eggs have been absorbed, bring and press the dough together to form a ball. Lightly flour your work surface and knead with the palms of your hands for 20 seconds, (*9) until you have a homogeneous consistency. Reserve 20-30g of
dough, tightly wrap it in cling film and store for later. Wrap the remaining dough in cling film and flatten it slightly to 2cm thickness and refrigerate. (*10)
Lining the tart ring:
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Place a baking stone or pastry tray in the middle of the oven.(*11) Place the dough in the middle of a large sheet of cling film 40cm x 40cm, cover with another sheet of cling film, roll the dough out to 2 – 3mm thick circle shape. (*12) Place the tart ring on the wooden peel lined with greaseproof paper.
Lift off the top layer of cling film, (discard) then, lift the dough using the bottom layer of cling film closest to you, and drape into the tart ring. Lift the edges and push the dough into the ring; then, press the dough wrapped in clingfilm into the base of the tart ring. Ensure the dough is
neatly compressed and moulded into the shape of the ring. (*13) This will minimise shrinkage or collapse of the dough. Trim the edges of the tart by using a rolling-pin.
Now, raise the height of the dough 2mm above the tart ring. You achieved this by pressing your index finger and thumb and pushing the pastry gently to the top of the pastry case all around the edge of the tart ring.
With a fork, prick the bottom of the tart. (*14) Allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes to relax the pastry.
For the apple tart and the glaze:
Lay the apple segments, closely together, overlapping onto the base of the tart case. Brush with the melted butter, sugar and lemon juice, dust liberally with icing sugar. Using the peel, slide the tart into the oven, onto the pre-heated pastry tray and cook for 10 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 200°C; continue to cook for a further 20 minutes until the pastry becomes a light golden colour and the apples have caramelized. (*15) Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for a minimum of one hour. Remove the tart ring and slide onto a large flat plate.
Dust with the icing sugar and leave to cool slightly for 30 minutes before you serve.
Chef’s notes (*):
*1 Here are 3 essential tools which will help you making better pastries. Peel – Peel is a shovel-like tool used by bakers to slide loaves of bread, pizzas, pastries, and other baked goods in and out of the oven. Baking stone – I am sure each of you remember this soggy, undercooked pastries or
tarts, simple because they was not enough bottom heat. The baking stone is the best for pastry, as it sits directly on the baking stone, the heat
radiates directly through the base, giving your pastry this wonderful baking quality and crust.
A pizza stone or baking tray is a good substitute. Tart ring – You need a bottomless tart ring for this recipe which will allow an instant transfer of heat from the hot baking stone to the base of the tart, cooking it perfectly. *2 Flour – Use a standard plain flour; reserve these strong flour’s for pasta and bread making. *3 Mixing the shortcrust pastry dough – If the butter is cold you will have problems mixing it. To have a successful pastry you need to have even distribution of butter within the flour. This is why the butter needs to be at room temperature and pliable.
*4 Which Apple? – Apples; you need to get to know you apples. Some are over acidic, cook down too easily, they release too much juice, lack flavour, or do not caramelise because of the low sugar content. Or indeed sometimes they are too sweet. I have found that the Cox Orange Pippin, Braeburn, Worcester and Egremont Russet are delicious for tarts (baking) and pan-frying.
*5 Glaze for the apples – Butter, lemon juice, caster sugar mix; the butter will enrich, the lemon juice will bring acidity and more flavour, and the sugar will bring sweetness and browning. The Calvados is optional, but many farmers are now making some great Ciders and Apple Brandy’s, so a trip to your local farmers market is well worth a visit. *6 Mixing the shortcrust pastry dough – Delicately with your fingertips mix the butter and flour together until a have a sandy texture.
Do not try to knead at this stage; the even distribution of the butter is mportant which will give the flakiness to the pastry. *7 Egg – The egg will add richness, moisture, thickness and baking quality. It will also help bring the dough together. Egg quality – Always buy Organic or free range eggs. They follow good husbandry practices & good ethical standards. For all preparation where egg white is raw you must use an egg with the lion mark which comes from a vaccinated hen so you run no risk of Salmonella. Markings on Eggs – There is some red writing on the shell which it does give us important information on the freshness, the quality, and provenance.
The “Lion” stamp. Doesn’t mean it is the best quality but you can be reassured it is safe to use in your preparation. Best-before date – The date sets the shelf life of the egg which is 21 days after it has been laid. Try to use fresh eggs. Numbers – There is also a number which identifies the standards of quality and assurance scheme and system of husbandry – 0 for organic, 1 for free range, 2 for barn eggs and 3 for cage eggs. Any of those numbers are followed by a country code (e.g. UK) and a set of numbers which identifies the farm from which the egg originated.
*8 Consistency – At this point it is for you to judge the consistency of the dough, if it is too wet add a little flour. Every flour is different and have different absorption rates. *9 Kneading – Now to gather the dough together and press it with the palm of your hand. If you over work the dough, the pastry will lose some of its flakiness, and will retract whist cooking.
*10 Resting – At this stage because you have worked the gluten in the flour, the dough is elastic and by resting it in the fridge, it makes the dough easier to roll, less elastic and more pliable. This will minimise shrinkage. *11 Middle of the oven – If you put the tart at the top of the oven it will burn, place the tart in the middle of the oven where the heat can circulate and cook evenly. *12 Rolling the dough – I am sure each of you remember rolling out pastry in a hot kitchen and it becomes sticky and then a nightmare to use. This technique avoids both. The easiest way to roll the dough is between two sheets of clingfilm, this will enable you to roll it very thin without using any flour. Then discard the top layer of cling film and carefully pick up the pastry and place into the tart ring ensuring the cling film is facing up.
*13 Technique – By tucking in the base of the tart you minimalism the retraction of the pastry whilst it cooks. *14 Pricking – of the base will help the distribution of the heat and thorough cooking. *15 Variation – After 10 minutes you could add a light custard as a variation, (1 medium egg, 50g sugar, 100ml whipping cream, whisked together) and finish in the oven for the remaining 10 minutes.
You can make the pastry by putting all the ingredients into a food processor and use the pulse button till the
dough just comes together. Plums, cherries, Pears, Peaches, or whatever fruit is in season would be perfect for this tart as well. Or, finish with
a custard topping: Mix 1 whole egg with 50g sugar, then add 100ml whipping cream. Pour over the top of the cooked tart and finish in the oven for 10 minutes.