French apple tart – a quick pastry cheat tip

This golden apple-topped pastry is treat to die for

To serve, stir a pinch of cinnamon through vanilla ice cream, pure heaven!  Photograph: Harry Weir

To serve, stir a pinch of cinnamon through vanilla ice cream, pure heaven! Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Everyone has their own favourite apple pie recipe. Bramley cooking apples, doused in sugar with a lid of glazed pastry edged with thumbprints or crimped with a fork is an Irish favourite.  

A French apple tart is also a classic with lots of charm, but is quite different.  With signature French glamour, the tart is decorated with an exquisite rosette of thin sliced apples and is one of the closest things to effortless elegance a beginner can make. This is a filled pastry tart, so we’ll be making pastry from scratch (but don’t worry, I have a solution if you want to cheat).  I have a really simple shortcrust pastry to give guaranteed results.  With a few simple pastry tips in mind, such as working in a cool kitchen with cool hands and chilled ingredients, you can become very confident making your own pastry.  Adding chilled ingredients into a food processor gives novices with warm kitchens great results and is quicker. 

By removing the sugar, my bog standard pastry can also be used in any savoury pastry recipe and learnt by heart for future baking adventures. 

Beneath the circular design of apples is a scrumptious almond paste called frangipane – a sweet filling of ground almonds which can be flavoured with cinnamon, kirsch, calvados or simply an extra dash of almond essence, to make it your own. A less indulgent filling which is equally common in traditional French apple tarts is puréed apple compote. 

Did I mention that this tart requires no blind baking!  To serve, stir a pinch of cinnamon through vanilla ice cream, pure heaven!

Variation

If you are terrified of making pastry or simply don’t have the time to make it from scratch, try an excellent Irish brand of all-butter pastry called ‘Roll It’.  Its made with the cool hands of Mairéad Finnegan in Kells, available in most supermarkets and very handy to keep in your freezer.

French apple tart

Serves 6

250g plain flour

125g butter, diced very small, chilled

30g icing sugar (plus extra for sprinkling over apples)

1 egg

3 dessert apples (small granny smiths)

2 tbsp apricot jam

Frangipane filling

50g butter

50g caster sugar

1 egg

50g ground almonds

1 tbsp flour

To serve

150ml whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Method

1. To make pastry in a food processor, blitz the flour, butter and icing sugar for a few seconds until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add in the egg and pulse until the mixture comes together (to make pastry by hand, rub the butter in with your finger tips and mix in the egg with a knife).  Cover the dough with clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 mins to allow the pastry to rest.

2. Grease a 20cm-22cm loose bottomed tart tin.  Roll the pastry out and line the tin making sure to ease the pastry into the edges and prick the base (trim off any excess and use leftover pastry to make small jam tartlets or cookies, or freeze it).

3. Preheat oven to 180°C fan leave a baking sheet inside to heat.

4. To make the filling, with an electric whisk cream the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.  Slowly whisk in the egg followed by the ground almonds and flour.  Spoon the filling evenly over the pastry base.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you prepare the apples.

5. When you are ready to decorate the tart, peel apples, cut away the core and slice the apples very thinly (thinner slices are easier to work with and think ahead and save the smaller pieces for the centre).

6. Starting from the outside edge, overlap the apple slices working in a clockwise direction and keep moving in a spiral fashion until you reach the centre. 

7. Dust the top with icing sugar and place the tart on a hot baking sheet in the preheated oven 180°C.  Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 170°C and continue cooking for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set.

8. To caramelise the top of the tart, sprinkle with extra icing sugar and grill for 3-5 minutes (watch it carefully). Heat the apricot jam in a small pan (or microwave) and sieve away any lumps. Use a pastry brush to brush the warm glaze over the top of the tart. Allow to cool completely in the tin. Serve warm or cold.

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