Friday, November 19, 2010

french apple tart

We finally made it to our fall picnic. The weather was so beautiful, we thought: either now or never...or at least not until next year. We packed some food, blankets, an umbrella. Rolled down the windows, put some music on and drove along the panoramic highway to look for a perfect picnic spot. It was such a hot day, last breath of summer in the middle of November, if we only packed the swimsuits!
Naturally we brought more food than we could ever eat: freshly baked baguettes, caprese salad, wine, cheese, olives, some chicken sandwiches and a special treat - french apple tart!

I was really excited about this one, it was made with apples from our own tree! Plus french apple tart had been on my to-do list for quite some time, but I'd always assume there was a long list of ingredients, or some complicated technique, or something else...

As it turned out, I couldn't be more wrong. I found this simple recipe by Ina Garten in her "Back to Basics" book, which was exactly that - basic. Shortcrust pastry, sliced apples sprinkled with sugar. Baked for 45min and then brushed with apricot jam and brandy mixture, and voila! Simple and delicious Tarte aux Pommes was ready! And just to make sure it was authentic french, I first compared the recipe with Larousse Gastronomique, which is an amazing french food encyclopedia, and then I made my friend Pierre a taste tester.

Success! Ina's recipe was almost identical to the one I found in "Gastronomique" and Pierre described it as "excellent"!

for the apples:* 4 Granny Smith apples  * 1/2 cup sugar * 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter,small diced * 1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam  * 2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water.
for the pastry: *2c all-purpose flour * 1/2 tsp kosher salt * 1Tbsp sugar * 12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced * 1/2 c ice water

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices.

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices.

Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter. I usually skip the butter here and it still tastes great.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking.  When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

bon appetit!

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