Normandy Apple Tart

As Tuesdays with Dorie winds to a close, I’m fortunate to have a second opportunity to host a recipe this week. I was psyched to see this apple tart among the handful of recipes that hadn’t yet been chosen. I’ve yet to meet an apple dessert I didn’t like so I had little doubt this would be a hit. The timing worked out well that I got to make the tart for Thanksgiving last week and share it with my family, which was a nice bonus.

Normandy Apple Tart

I love that this tart is such a simple dessert yet the decorative arrangement of the apples on top makes it seem really special. There are only a few components to the dessert – a sweet crust at the base that is filled with homemade applesauce and then topped with apple slices. Once assembled, the tart is baked until the apples are golden and tender. I used a combination of Empire and Cortland apples for my applesauce, and though I thought I had peeled them fairly well, I guess I left enough on to give the applesauce a lovely rosy color. I skipped the extra optional sugar, but did add vanilla. Homemade applesauce is completely irresistible to me, and this ranks up there as one of the best ones I’ve made. I’m still not sure how I had enough left to fill the tart after all the sampling I did!

The only minor problem I ran into when baking the tart was that the edges of some of the apple slices that were the thinnest started burning not too long after I put the tart in the oven. After about 30 minutes I wound up tenting the tart with foil for the remainder of the baking time just to keep those slices from getting too dark, and that seemed to take care of the issue.

Normandy Apple Tart

Here’s one lesson I’ve learned after sharing a lot of desserts with people over the past few years. No one wants to be the first to cut into a “pretty” dessert, so you may need to take matters into your own hands if you want anyone to try what you’ve made! After hearing several people comment that this apple tart was too nice to ruin, I finally cut myself a slice to encourage others to give it a try. I had some concerns about how the applesauce would slice but it sets up perfectly in the oven and I had no problems cutting neat pieces. If you had any doubts, buttery crust plus lots of apple flavor = one great dessert. I definitely think this tart was best when it was still slightly warm but even at room temperature I enjoyed it.

Normandy Apple Tart

Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats also hosted a recipe this week – the sour cream pumpkin pie/tart, and although I didn’t have time to make it, it’s definitely on my to-do list next fall, if not sooner! We’ll be into December next week, our very last month of baking with Tuesdays with Dorie – can you believe it? There are still some great recipes to come too, so stay tuned :)

Normandy Apple Tart
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Applesauce
2 lbs (about 6 medium) apples, preferably red apples such as Empire, Cortland or McIntosh
1/4 cup water, or more
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1-4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

For the Crust
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), partially baked and cooled

For the Topping
2 medium apples (preferably firm Golden Delicious apples)
1 large egg, beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water, for egg wash

For the Glaze (optional)
about 1/3 cup apple jelly
1 teaspoon water

To make the applesauce: If you have a food mill, a nifty gadget that separates peel and pits from fruit as it purees and strains, or if you don’t mind pushing a little harder on a conventional strainer, don’t bother peeling and coring the apples, just cut them into chunks and toss them into a 2 to 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. (I like to leave the skin on the apples because it gives the applesauce a rosier color.) Otherwise, peel and core the apples before cutting them up. Stir in the water and brown sugar, cover the pan and put it over medium-low heat. Don’t go far from the stove, because applesauce has a way of bubbling up. Stir the apples from time to time to keep them from scorching, and if the water is boiling way quickly, add more by driblets. When the apples are soft enough to be mashed with a spoon – 15 to 20 minutes – remove the pan from the heat and pass the apples through a food mill, or press them through a sturdy strainer, into a bowl.

If the applesauce seems thin (if liquid accumulates around the edges), return the sauce to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the sauce is just thick enough to sit up on a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and return the sauce to the bowl. Taste the sauce, adding granulated sugar if you think it needs it (traditionally the applesauce for this tart was not very sweet) and vanilla, if you want it. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, and refrigerate until no longer warm. (The applesauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill the tart shell almost to the top of the rim with the applesauce and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

To make the topping: Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut each apple half lengthwise in half again and then, still working lengthwise, cut about 7 slices from each of the quarters. (The slices will be very thin.) Arrange the slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles on the applesauce, starting at the edge and laying them down so their tips are against the crust. You will probably have enough room for only 2 circles and some artfully arranged snippets of apple in the center. (If another arrangement appeals to you more, go for it.) Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash over the sliced apples.

Bake the tart for about 50 minutes – it will look as though the applesauce and apples have risen a bit. The apples should be golden, a little burnt around the edges and soft enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. If you’d like to enhance the color around the edges of the apples, run the tart under the broiler just until you get the color you’re after. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.

To make the optional glaze: If you want to glaze the tart, an easy and very professional touch, bring the jelly and the water to a boil. When the jelly is liquefied, brush a thin layer over the top of the tart with a pastry brush. Return the pan to the rack and cool the tart until it is just warm or at room temperature.

Serving: The tart can be served when it is only just warm or when it reaches room temperature, and it should be served with exactly what the Normans would choose to serve it with – creme fraiche, another of Normandy’s specialties. You can sweeten the creme fraiche lightly if you’d like, or serve it straight up, cold and tangy.

Storing: Although the applesauce can be made ahead, as with all tarts, this one is best served the day it is made, preferably within a few hours of being made.

Sweet Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

To make the dough: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.

If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.

To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To make a rolled-out crust: This dough is very soft – a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners’ sugar – so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover. If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly. Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases. If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan. Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust. Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.