Tarte aux Pommes: the art of tarts

French apple pie

Fall is here, and that means apples are in season all over the U.S. and Europe.

What to do with your surplus? Most of humanity agrees that there are few things better on a chilly fall day than a warm apple pastry, baked in a rich sugar-butter glaze into tender, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. As an alternative to the traditional apple pie, try making a traditional French tart with apples instead.

Tarts and pies have several elements in common, and it’s easy to see how one was adapted into the other. A truly French tart, however, always begins with the right crust.

Many recipes will tell you to use a simple flour-and-vegetable-shortening paste recipe, or even a store-bought pie crust. Mais non, this is wrong, very wrong. To get that fully French flavor and texture, you will need to prepare pâte sucrée, which combines flour, butter, sugar and egg into a rich, crumbly crust that is pressed into a fluted tart pan (rather than an American-style pie dish with slanted walls). Pause to admire the artistry of your work – French tarts are as much about beauty as they are about flavor.

Once you bake the tart shell at 400 °F for twenty minutes and cover the bottom with a layer of applesauce, it’s time to prepare the filling. Be sure to select the right sort of apples – not all are ideally suited for baking.

If you can find French varieties such as Calville Blanc d’Hiver or Ariane, these produce the best flavor and texture for tarts and pies. Otherwise, choose an American variety such as Golden Delicious or Empire. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4 inch slices. Sauté in butter with 2 – 4 tablespoons of sugar and fresh-ground cinnamon (what are apples without cinnamon?).

As soon as the apples have begun to soften, arrange them in concentric circles over the applesauce (along with pecans, if you desire) and brush with about 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 350 °F, until the apples are tender but NOT mushy. Then remove, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar and broil until the edges of the apples are brown and crisp. You must watch to avoid disaster. Finally, when the tart has cooled, add the pièce de résistance: a light brushing with warm apricot glaze gives French tarts their perfect, gleaming finish.

A french tart tatin always with an vanilla ice cream

Of course, if all this sounds like too much work, you can always come to Maison Parisienne and order the apple-pecan tart. Topped with a scoop of fresh vanilla ice cream, c’est alors la perfection!

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