Tuesday, September 21, 2010

French Apple Tart


We picked our first batch of apples from our neighborhood orchard 2 weeks ago and I only got to bake this now. That is the good thing about apples, they last long at room temperature and retain their crisp and crunchiness long enough for me to get ready to attempt to bake with them! And this year, I started using the Gala and Rome varieties. The Gala variety has a very sweet smell and its crispness together with sweet taste makes it appropriate for the filling of this tart. For the outer layer, I used the Rome variety, which kind of resembles the Red Washington in crunch and taste and can withstand to baking for a longer period without affecting much of its shape.

This tart is different from the apple pie as the tart crust is purely loaded with butter and has a firm crunch to hold in the cooked and moist apple filling. And the filling is purely apple chunks cooked in sugar and water and no cornstarch added. The sugar sprinkled and melted butter brushed onto the top layer slices made so much difference to the taste of the tart, with a slight crunch on top and moist in the filling. All in all, this is really apple tart at its best !

For a tart to be perfect, it is really in the skill of making the tart dough. Cold and malleable butter must be used and I cannot stress enough the more effective way of rubbing the butter into the flour with bare hands rather than the food processor. Through your hands, you can feel that every drop of flour is coated with the butter and the temperature of the butter is still cold once the mixing is done. To get a perfect crust, the idea is to mix the flour and butter like mere coating of each other, rather than mixing it all up and crushing the butter pieces, hence melting it too fast and producing a tough dough. I added egg to this dough to get a better color in the end result as I often omitted the egg in previous attempts when the fillings of the tarts exudes alot of colors. But for this tart, the color of the apple fades and becomes lumpy after baking, hence the tart shell itself must look nicely brown.


Recipe

Ingredients
Tart Case
300g All Purpose Flour
180g Cold but malleable butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg

Filling
3 medium size Gala apples, cut to small chunks
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/2 cup water

Top Layer
3 large Red Washington apples, sliced thinly into wedges (as in picture) or use a mandolin
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Apricot Preserve, thin with 1 tsp water

Method
Tart Case
1)Sift the flour with the sugar and salt.
2)Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into the flour. Using hands, rub the butter into the flour to coat. Do not overmix, when there is no more obvious separate chunk of butter, the dough is ready. Mixture will be a mess. Or use food processor but do not over process.
3)Beat the egg and pour into the dough and mix to incorporate. Do Not overmix. Form into a disk and wrap up and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

Filling
1)Put the apple chunks, cinnamon, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and water into a small saucepan.
2)Cook at medium low heat for about 15 to 20 mins, till the liquid is evaporated. Stir gently to retain the shapes of the apple chunks and don't squash it. Remove from heat once ready and let it cool down to room temperature.

Assembly
1)Preheat oven to 375F.
2)Take out dough and let sit at room temperature for about 10 mins. Roll out to a circle and line an 8 inch tart pan with removable bottom. As the dough is high in butter content, there will be no need to grease the pan.
3)Spoon the cooked apple filling into the tart case, spread out evenly with a spatula.
4)Using the apple wedges now, place them one by one in a circular motion, with each overlapping the previous one, starting from the outer side first. Don't worry if the first round doesn't look compact and arranged, you just have to slot in apple slices in between the gaps to make it up.
5)Do the same thing with the middle part of the tart, using less apple slices and move in a circular motion.
6)Gently brush the apple slices with melted butter and sprinkle sugar all over.
7)Bake for 55 to 60 mins till the tart case is slightly brown. Prior to the last 15 mins of baking, brush more melted butter and sprinkle sugar onto the tart.
8)Remove from oven, brush with apricot preserve and let cool in pan for 15 mins and then remove from tart pan. Serve warm.

Serves : 6 to 8 person



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