Rustic Free-Form Apple Tart

When I was trying to decide on a second dessert to bring to our Friendsgiving last weekend, I realized I still had quite a few apples remaining from our trip to the orchard. I wasn’t sure how much longer they’d be good, so I was eager to use them before it was too late. Apple pie was pretty much the first thing that came to mind, but as I mentioned the other day, I try to avoid making pies whenever possible. I remembered a really pretty apple galette, though, that I’d seen on Lizzy’s site, and figured it was a good compromise. There was only one crust to make so that already cut my work in half, and I could also avoid the chunk of time you’d usually need to let a fruit pie set after cooking before cutting into it. Not shockingly, I was working on these desserts at the last minute, so time was definitely of the essence.

Rustic Free Form Apple Tart

The tart came together easily, and happily, I didn’t have any issues with the crust. This particular recipe incorporates not only butter, but also cream cheese, in the crust. The cream cheese makes the dough really tender, and I’ve generally found this type of dough easier to roll out than standard pie crust. It was definitely the case here – no tearing or cracking of the dough at all. I wish I’d had more time to arrange the apples, but was still pretty happy with the look that Shane and I achieved just throwing them together in 5 minutes. We pulled the tart from the oven, transferred it to a plate and ran out the door to Friendsgiving. Luckily it survived the car ride in one piece, and after dinner slices were enjoyed topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a simple dessert, but really tasty, and it definitely hit the spot after a big meal.

Rustic Free-Form Apple Tart
adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated 

{Note: the recipe called for a mix of Granny Smith and Macintosh apples in the filling, but use your favorites.}

Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 oz cream cheese (cold), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 – 2 tablespoons ice water

Apple Filling
2 1/2 pounds apples (about 6 medium)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg white, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons sugar

Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10-12 times, or until the mixture is sandy, with pea-sized pieces of butter and cream cheese. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Sprinkle the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of ice water over the mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold to incorporate the liquid. The dough is ready when a small portion holds together when squeezed in your palm – if necessary, add up to 1 additional tablespoon of ice water to bring the dough together (the dough will still look pretty dry even after you add the liquid, that’s ok).  Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball then flatten it into a 6-inch disk. Place a large plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator – if you had it in there beyond 30 minutes, you’ll want to let it sit at room temperature for a bit until it’s malleable. Lightly flour a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Roll into a 15-inch circle, turning the dough as you go to make sure it’s not sticking (you can add a little more flour if necessary). Transfer the parchment and dough to a baking sheet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Peel and core the apples then cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices. Add to a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Arrange the apples in overlapping concentric circles, with the thick edges facing out, and leaving about a 3-inch border around the edge of the dough. (You may not use all of the apples, I had some extra slices.) Fold the dough up and over the apples, pressing it snugly against them.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is a pale golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place a second pan of the same size underneath it (to protect the bottom of the crust from getting too dark). Use a pastry brush to brush the crust with the egg white and then sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the tart back in the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is well browned and the apples are tender. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes, then remove the tart to a serving platter.