Apples at their simplest can be their very finest. Sure, I love an oozy, heavily spiced and lidded apple pie, but I also think there is something matchless about apples, butter and sugar, baked until bubbly. This classic apple tart is from Alice Waters, but she says that it was actually Jacques Pepin who created it at Chez Panisse more than 20 years ago. I can see why they’ve never gotten tired of it.
You start by making a very simple pate brisee, yes, that kind, but this one doesn’t demand precision. You’re going to want to roll it out really, really thin. Now, the original recipe suggested that you use a tart pan, but I think you can skip it, and go galette-style.
Next, peel apples. The original recipe suggested more than I needed, not that I complained about having slices to snack on. I like to halve them and use a melon baller, which is getting a big workout this week, to remove the cores. Save all the peels and cores.
I like to tightly armadillo them. Keeping them together helps when you want to lay them out, as you can just lightly tilt them and they’ll fan out.
Like so. Pull the excess crust over the apples, crimping it at intervals. Brush the crust and apples with two tablespoons of melted butter.
Sprinkle it with a few tablespoons of sugar, then bake it for almost an hour, rotating it frequently until it’s a deep, golden brown.
Meanwhile, boil all of the reserved peels and cores in a sugar water until it reduces to a syrup. Strain it. Brush the syrup lightly over the tart, hot from the oven.
See if you can keep away until guests arrive. It might even be the hardest thing you’ve done that day.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, lightly sweetened softly whipped cream or a dollop of creme fraiche, either alone or stirred into whipped cream. Make plans to repeat it with pears next week, er, tomorrow. Let this be your go-to recipe for everything awesome.
Alice Waters’s Apple Tart
Found buried deeply within my recipe bookmarks folder!
1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 85 grams) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 ml) chilled water
2 pounds (910 grams) apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons (65 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
MIX flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. 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 disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush.
PLACE dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, or galette-style with it. Heat oven to 400°F. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)
OVERLAP apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.
BRUSH melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons over apples. (Deb note: I found it nearly impossible to coat it with this much sugar, so I used a little less–more like 3 tablespoons. It made a lightly sweet tart, which we found perfect.)
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.
MAKE glaze: 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.
REMOVE tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.
BRUSH glaze over tart, slice, and serve.