The recipe for this French Apple Tart comes from ‘America’s Test Kitchen’
Food magazine covers often catch my eye.
Such was the case recently when I was browsing the racks of a newstand at the Toronto airport on my way to to visit my elderly mum in London, UK.
I am especially wont to buy a food mag with the word “best” on the cover. I am compelled to buy it when that word is accompanied by a luscious-looking tart with apple slices arranged in beautiful concentric circles, all glazed in glistening wonderment and burnished brown at the edges.
So naturally I purchased a copy of “The Best of 2015” by America’s Test Kitchen.
(I don’t know how it can be the best of 2015 when published early in the year. I assume there are more compilations like this to come.)
Let’s get to the core of the matter – pun intended. I made that apple tart.
Once I’d streamlined the method, it was surprisingly easy. Best of all, it looked and tasted divine – like it belonged in a French patisserie. This was one happy day that can be yours.
The main secret – and every great recipe has a trick or two – is the unusual pastry made with melted butter. The other is the layer of simple, skillet-made applesauce that goes under the layer of concentric apple slices.
I’ll let America’s Test Kitchen explain that brilliant pastry method, and I quote:
“For the easiest-ever tart dough, melt the butter. Traditional French pastry crusts that call for cold butter require a series of chilling, resting, and rolling steps to ensure that the dough doesn’t shrink or slump during baking. For our modified pâte sucrée, we use melted butter, which allows us to skip the fussy pre-baking steps—and offers a couple of other benefits, too.
Melted butter thoroughly coats the flour proteins, preventing them from linking up and forming the elastic network known as gluten that causes dough to retract during baking. This dough is also so malleable when raw that it can simply be pressed into the pan rather than rolled out. Pastry made with melted butter bakes up with a fine, crisp crumb and resists turning soggy. Best of all: This dough will work for any sweet tart recipe.”
To the above, I say a heart-felt: “Amen.”
French Apple Tart
For best flavour and texture, blind-bake the crust thoroughly until deep golden brown. Miraculously, this requires no weights or beans as is usually the case. I like to use Ida Red, Royal Gala or Cortland apples for a dessert like this. This is more detailed than recipes I usually create but I feel the little details are helpful in this case.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter, melted
10 apples, peeled, cored
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Adjust 1 oven rack to lowest position and second rack 5 to 6 inches from broiler. Preheat oven to 350F.
For crust, whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl. Add melted butter; stir until dough forms. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough evenly into bottom of 9-inch/23 cm tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan. Place pan on wire rack set in baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack until crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.
For filling, cut 5 apples lengthwise into quarters; cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and water; toss to combine. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to large plate; cool. Do not clean skillet.
Heat apricot preserves in microwave or small saucepan until soft. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl, reserving solids and 3 tablespoons strained preserves for brushing tart.
Cut remaining 5 apples into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apple wedges, strained apricot preserves, apricot solids and salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash until pureed using potato masher. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Transfer to baked tart shell.
Select 5 thinnest slices of sautéed apple; set aside. Starting at outer edge of tart, arrange remaining slices, tightly overlapping, in concentric circles. Arrange reserved slices to fit in centre. Bake tart, still on wire rack in sheet, on lowest rack, 30 minutes. Remove from oven; heat broiler.
Brush reserved strained apricot preserves evenly over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, turning as necessary, until apples are attractively caramelized, 1 to 3 minutes. Cool. Remove from pan; transfer to serving platter. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or thick yogurt.
Makes 8 servings.
This fantastic plum cake is easy-peasy and as delicious as it looks
It was another happy day when I came upon this other best-ever fruit dessert by chance while cruising Facebook. Here, I quote the intro that ran with this magnificent recipe almost verbatim. A cinch to make, it’s no wonder this delectable cake has long been a hit with hordes of home cooks.
Original Plum Torte
“The New York Times published Marian Burros’s recipe for Plum Torte every September from 1982 until 1989, when the editors determined that enough was enough. The recipe was to be printed for the last time that year. “To counter anticipated protests,” Ms. Burros wrote a few years later, “the recipe was printed in larger type than usual with a broken-line border around it to encourage clipping.” It didn’t help. The paper was flooded with angry letters. “The appearance of the recipe, like the torte itself, is bittersweet,” wrote a reader in Tarrytown, N.Y. “Summer is leaving, fall is coming. That’s what your annual recipe is all about. Don’t be grumpy about it.” We are not! And we pledge that every year, as summer gives way to fall, we will make sure that the recipe is easily available to one and all.”
In contrast with the French Apple Tart above, this is a bare-bones recipe. There is no need to grease the pan. There is some debate about whether to place the plum halves on the batter skin side up or down – I did the former. The original version calls for a little lemon juice to be sprinkled over the plums before baking – that will depend on the plums’ sweetness. This recipe works like a dream and the cake is simply delicious.
¾ cup plus 1 or 2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
24 halves pitted purple plums
1 tsp cinnamon, or more
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream 3/4 cup of sugar and butter in electric mixer or food processor. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs; beat to mix well.
Spoon batter into 9-inch/23-cm springform pan. Cover top with plum halves skin side up. Combine remaining sugar with cinnamon; sprinkle over top.
Bake about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from pan. Cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
Makes 8 servings.