French Apple Tart

December 29, 2014

For me, holiday meals usually involve pulling out all the stops. Usually a week’s worth of planning and cooking. And so it was that I came to make this beautiful Apple Tart for Christmas, one of the most visually stunning desserts that I have ever made. The crust had 10 tablespoons of butter (so it’s got to be good). The tart used 5-pounds of apples, so it was destined to be filled with apple flavor. Inexplicably, against everything my eyes were telling me, I simply didn’t like the tart. Just 2-stars.

Looks like a work of art.

Looks like a work of art.

At first, I thought that the desserts downfall primarily lay in the high visual expectations, coupled with the unpopular applesauce-like consistency of the puree used to hold the slices in place. All of my guests complained about the “applesauce”. But as I more closely examined the recipe I noticed a few ingredients were not part of the recipe. Most notably: sugar. While billed as a “tart”, its did not have any relief of the tartness of the green apples.

Rating: 2-star.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 10:00 AM. End time: 12 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Crust Ingredients:
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (6 2/3 ounces)
5 tablespoons sugar (2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Put butter in a small sauce over low heat and allow to slowly melt; about 5 minutes. Also, set an oven rack to lowest position and another rack 5″-to-6″ from broiler element. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Add melted butter and stir with stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  4. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough into bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan.
  5. Press and smooth dough with your hands to even thickness.
  6. Place pan on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake on lowest rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Set aside until ready to fill.

10 Golden Delicious apples (8 ounces each)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Peel and core 5 apples (remaining 5 will be used later). Cut lengthwise into quarters and cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices.
  2. Set 12″ skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Add apple slices and 1 Tablespoon water and toss to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave apricot preserves for 30 seconds until they become fluid. Strain preserves through a fine-mesh strainer reserving the solids. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the strained preserves for brushing tart (most will be used for making the applesauce).
  5. Transfer apples to large plate, spread into single layer, and set aside to cool. Do not clean out the skillet.
  6. Peel and core the remaining 5 apples and slice into 1/2″-thick wedges. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium burner. Add the strained preserve, apricot solids, apple wedges and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover with lid and cook for 10 minutes; stirring a few times until the apples become very soft.
  7. Use a potato masher to mash into a puree and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until it has reduced to 2 cups.
  8. Put puree into baked tart shell and smooth. Select 5 or 6 of the thinnest sauteed apples to use in the center.
  9. Start at the outer edge of the tart, arrange slices in concentric circles, offsetting each circle so that the slices don’t line up. It will create the flower-like pattern. Use the thin, reserved slices to fit into the center.
  10. Bake at350 degrees for 30 minutes (still on the wire rack in sheet pan).
  11. Remove from oven and pre-heat broiler. Water the 3 tablespoons of preserve from Step 4 in microwave for 20 seconds. Evenly brust over the entire surfact of the apples, but avoiding the crust.
  12. Broil for 1 to 4 minutes until the apples are attractively browned. Allow tart to cool for 1-1/2 hours before removing from tart pan and serving.
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