Dear friends, family, colleagues, casual acquaintances, and indifferent web surfers,
You may have thought that I had stopped cooking delicious deserts to pursue other, more social pastimes. Maybe I threw a wild party, watched a football game, or even went clubbing.1 Not so. I’ve been quietly cooking and baking away during my few waking hours away from work, but simply haven’t found the time to share my experiments projects.
I’m of the firm belief that tarts are among the most rewarding of desserts to bake, because it always looks like you’ve put way more effort into them than you actually have.2 Lovers, enemies, small children, and pets are always impressed with a well-decorated tart. This particular apple tart actually happened last November, so bear with me while I attempt to recreate the process. The recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Simplest Apple Tart, which came from Alice Waters, who (allegedly) got it from Jacques Pépin. I took the ingredients, but changed the form a bit. This is, by the way, easy peasy to make vegan. Just use a butter substitute, and the rest is already animal-friendly.
Deceptive Apple Tart
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional, but delicious)
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. (I just used a wooden spoon and elbow grease.) Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.
Dribble in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropy with some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disc; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smoothe cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.
Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan. (A pie dish or circular/square-shaped casserole dish would also do in a pinch.) Heat oven to 400°F. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)
- 2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced4
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- a sprinkling of cinnamon
Overlap apples on dough up to the sides in a spiral pattern. Continue inward until you reach the center.
Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 1 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 2 tablespoons over apples.5 Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top.
Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.6 This is a good time to start simmering your glaze.
- 1/2 cup sugar
Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth. (Though I just put it through a regular strainer, not having a cheesecloth readily available.)
Remove tart from oven, and let cool at least 15 minutes. Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve. It’s going to be really difficult to slice it, though, because it will be so goddamn beautiful.7
- Hint: These are all things I make a habit of avoiding. [↩]
- You see? Deceptive.. [↩]
- Next time I’ll try it with my usual pie crust recipe and see how it compares. [↩]
- I got mine from–where else–the local farmer’s market. And spent about 20-30 minutes meticulously slicing them. This extra effort will pay off, I promise. [↩]
- I probably ended up using even a little less, like 1 and 1.5 tablespoons. You’ll find it’s hard to cover a tart with that much sugar. [↩]
- Yes, this rotation thing is important. [↩]
- More photos, as usual, on Flickr. [↩]