Three apple tart recipes get top marks for their wholesome good taste.
It's apple season – you can Google it on your iPhone if you don’t believe me and I won’t blame you. Isn’t it amazing that in this country where apple trees can’t grow we can get apples all year round – so much so that the passing of seasons, usually also signalled by the changing fruit scene, sometimes passes us by completely.
So I feel obliged to remind you that fall is when apples fall from the tree in great numbers – you may have noticed that there are more varieties of apples in the fruit stores and cheaper, too. And they certainly taste sweeter in season.
Apples are of course great for eating as is and great for you. But they are also great for cooking and baking into desserts.
Sometimes you just want something simple like an apple pie for dessert. With its not-too-sweet and not-too-rich taste, apple pastries are desserts that you can enjoy without guilt. Go on, have another slice!
So I say let’s make apple tarts, and make an extra one for the neighbour and her cat.
Our go-to chef, being the true Frenchman that he is, immediately suggested an apple Tarte Tatin (pronounced tart tatain), that most illustrious of French apple tarts – an amazing upside-down pie.
I am always wowed by how perfect the Tarte Tatin is, both in terms of taste and aesthetics. Even bottoms up, the humble apple pie looks incredibly stylish and desirable – don’t ask me why, but the plump and velvety apple halves remind me of cute baby bottoms!
Don’t be put off by how many apples this recipe needs – it just means that you will be eating a lot of apples in this dessert instead of other less wholesome stuff. And despite the sophisticated looks, it’s very easy to put together. (Read: you can create a big impression with very little effort.)
The chef wants to show how you can use just one fruit – and one dough – to make three outstanding desserts that taste quite different from each other.
> Apples remind this chef of his home in the beautiful south of France, where apple trees grow in the garden alongside cherries, peaches, apricots, figs, lemons and walnuts. In KL, find him peeling apples at The French Culinary School in Asia.
SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
250g all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
45g caster sugar
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
Mix the flour and salt. Add the cubes of cold butter – spread them out – and rub the butter into the flour with the fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the mixture and add the yolk and water. Mix to a soft, smooth, pliable dough – do not overwork it. (The pastry can also be made quickly in a food processor.) Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 1 hour to firm it up.
16 small to medium size Fuji apples
400g shortcrust pastry
To prepare filling
Preheat oven to 180?. Melt the butter in a heavy-base pan over low heat. Remove from heat and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter. Stir and return to heat. Cook over low heat until the sugar starts to brown and caramelise. Remove pan from heat and keep caramel warm.
Peel, halve and core apples. Arrange, cut side down, in a non-stick baking pan, or silicone mat placed on a baking tray, and spoon the caramel over each apple half to coat it evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
To prepare pastry base
Preheat the oven to 180?. Roll out the shortcrust pastry to a 23cm round shape. Half bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool and trim to fit the mould if necessary.
To assemble and bake
Preheat the oven to 180?. Tightly pack the cooled apple halves, standing on their sides, in a buttered 21 x 4cm (height) round, non-stick pan or silicone mould, starting from the circumference and working towards the centre. Top with the shortcrust pastry and gently pat it into place. Bake for 20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place a weight on top. Set in the fridge to cool and firm up, about 2 hours.
Invert the tart onto a serving platter or board. Cut it up into wedges or squares. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
FRENCH APPLE TART
300 to 400g shortcrust pastry
1 egg white, beaten, for brushing
4 large apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp powder
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp extract
4 large apples, peeled (or leave unpeeled), cored and sliced thinly
50g apricot jam
For the pastry shell
Roll the dough out to ½cm thickness to fit a 20 x 5cm (height) round mould or its equivalent. Prick the base with a fork.
To blind bake the pastry shell
Preheat the oven to 150?. Line the base of the pastry with a piece of baking paper. Fill with beans, raw rice or baking beads to weigh it down lightly.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is firm. Remove from the oven; remove the weights and baking paper. Brush the base and sides with the egg white – the glaze helps to seal the pastry and prevent the wet filling from soaking into the crust.
Return to the oven to bake for another 5–10 minutes until lightly browned all over. Cool the shell before filling – it can be warm, but not hot.
For the apple compote
In a heavy-base pan, tip in the apples, and add enough water to cover. Cook over low heat, pan covered with a lid, until water evaporates and apples are soft – add more water and cook further if apples are not soft enough.
Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Set in the refrigerator to cool.
To assemble and bake
Preheat the oven to 180?. Spread apple compote at the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the sliced apples on top and bake for 20 minutes.
Combine apricot jam and water. Bring to boil and strain. Brush tart with apricot jam. Serve at room temperature.
APPLE & ALMOND CUSTARD TART
300g shortcrust pastry
2 apples, peeled, cored and halved
125g caster sugar
125g butter, at room temperature
125g almond meal (powder)
For the pastry shell
Line a 18 x 2.5cm (height) ring mould – or its equivalent such as a frying pan – with non-stick baking paper.
Roll the dough out to ½cm thickness to fit the mould. Prick the base with a fork.
Slice the apple halves thinly and arrange them in the pastry shell, keeping each half of sliced apple together.
For the custard
Cream together the sugar and eggs. Add in butter and whisk until creamy. Add in almond powder. Mix well and cast into the pastry shell.
Preheat oven to 180?. Bake for 35 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
TIPS & VARIATIONS
- You can use round, square or rectangular moulds or even a heavy-base frying pan – just adjust the quantity accordingly.
- Any extras can be used to make small, individual hand pies or tiny cocktail tarts.
- For the Tarte Tatin, it’s also delicious made with a good store-bought puff pastry.
- The best apples for making Tarte Tatin are ones that will hold their shape after cooking instead of melting into a sauce. That means crisp and crunchy apples are better than those with a powdery texture. Some good choices include Fuji, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith.
- Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, peaches, pineapple, tomatoes, mangoes or vegetables such as onion.
- For tarts that are less than 3cm tall, blind baking is not necessary.