French Apple Tart

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As many of our readers and clients know, this has not been a great season for our local apple producers.  The early warm weather last March, followed by a cold snap in May and then a drought this summer has drastically curtailed the number of apples.  However, if you have had the opportunity to taste this year’s crop, they are sweeter and tastier than ever!

At the market stand of Saratoga Apple, co-owner Christine Marie Gaud reminisces of the simple tarts her grandmother would make back in France.  This reminds me of the especially beautiful apple tart that greeted me on my first visit to my French “cousins” many years ago, and started me on my search for its American sequel.

Tarts are lighter than pie, having only a bottom crust, and the apples are the flavor and the “piece de resistance.”  Only fresh local apples should be considered.

Apple tarts also are beautiful to look at and so easy to make.  You feel like a professional pastry chef when you make one and put it on the table for all eyes to admire.  Then come the spontaneous smiles and vocal expressions of delight once the first tastes are taken.  I am not sure why we don’t see more French apple tarts on our tables, but I assure you, at this time of year, they are the way to end a great meal with a “!”.

INGREDIENTS  (for one large 13-inch diameter tart; serves 8-10)

1 pie dough for large deep dish pie  (I love homemade, using lard instead of butter)
8 medium to large apples*, peeled, cored, and halved (Cortland, Crispin or Gala do best)
1/4 cup sugar (with optional 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
1/2 stick butter, cold and thinly sliced
1/2 cup apricot jam*

Note on the jam: Clear jams/jellies work best.  If you need to substitute, try Anna Mae’s Cayuga Wine or Crabapple Jelly.

INSTRUCTIONS

I use a fluted edge 13-inch diameter x 1 ½ inch deep ceramic dish for both its heating properties and the beautiful look it generates.

  1. Unwrap dough or place chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten dough, using a floured rolling pin, into a 13-14″ circle.  Transfer delicately to your pie or tart dish and trim edges. Put dish into refrigerator to keep cold until needed.
  2. Start oven and heat to 375º.
  3. Meanwhile, take one half an apple at a time and slice into thin sections and repeat until all apples are sliced. Divide into four approximately equal amounts.
  4. Take out pie dish with dough and start placing apple sections on edge into dish.  Start on the outer edge and do one quarter of the pie at a time.  Repeat process, working your way in and around the pie dough.  Feel free to create a unique pattern.  Just be sure to fill in the entire pie shell with apple slices leaving no gaps. Sprinkle with sugar and then dot with remaining butter. (If you want to add cinnamon, mix it with the sugar before sprinkling over apples.) Bake until golden brown 50-70 minutes. Do not let it burn.
  5. As the tart finishes cooking, heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan* until warm and syrup-like.  When tart is done and taken from oven, using a pastry brush, brush top of tart with jam.  Let cool before slicing.  Serve alone, or with whipped cream.

* Optional:  add a little amaretto liqueur when heating the jam or jelly

A version of this market recipe appears in this week’s edition of Saratoga Today. Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market.