This is one of those recipes that’s been banging around my kitchen for years, but never quite made it to the blog. In fact, it’s about the only one that has been explicitly mentioned and still not posted. At the time, I cried “No photos!” Well, now I can’t say that any more.
This tart brings me back, yet again, to the idea of simplicity in food. It’s about great ingredients and getting out of the way. It’s about restraint and resisting the urge to add just one more thing.
This apple tart has just a few ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, salt, and of course, apples. There’s not any cinnamon, nor indeed spices of any kind at all. You don’t even have to use a pan – we’re talking way simple.
With all that simplicity going on, the apples themselves will be front and center, which is why I only make this tart in the fall. This year, I made it once with Jonagold apples and another time with Romes. In any case, you’re looking for a firm apple that lives somewhere between plain sweetness and one-note tartness.
In the spirit of simplicity, I made the crust entirely by hand – no food processor, no Kitchenaid – and I tell you, it was neither scary nor inordinately time-consuming. In fact, getting all touchy-feely with the pastry gave me a better idea of what I’m looking for when I do get the food processor back out. It was akin to the kneading meditation.
And the flavor? Clean, sweet, quintessential apple. And that’s enough.
If this has you drooling, you might also like:
Alice Waters’ Apple Tart
Adapted just a bit from Smitten Kitchen, who will someday release a book
Keep your apple halves together as you cut them, and you’ll have an easy time assembling the tart. The original recipe calls for you to save the apple peels and cores and use them to make a syrup to brush over the finished tart. I’ve skipped this step more than once and couldn’t really notice a difference on the finished tart, though you can – if you so choose, and I have – infuse some spices into the syrup if all the simplicity has you itching. I’ve sweetened the crust a bit, and reserved some sugar off of the apples in exchange.
For the pastry:
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces, divided
2-4 tablespoons ice water
For the apples:
3-4 sweet, firm apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly (depends on size)
2 tablespoons regular sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon coarse sugar like demerara (or substitute with more regular sugar)
To make the pastry:
Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the bowl and rub into the flour with your fingers until all the pieces are a bit smaller than rolled oats. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and continue to rub until no pieces are the size of small peas. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can form the dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
To assemble the tart:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Let the dough warm on the counter for 10 minutes, then roll it between parchment paper or plastic wrap, until you reach a diameter of 14 inches. The pastry will be very thin.
Arrange the sliced apples in the center of the pastry, leaving at least two inches all around. I try to keep the apple halves together, then just fan them out once everything is in place. Brush most of the melted butter over the apples, then sprinkle with the fine sugar. Fold the pastry up over the edge of the tart, crimping as necessary, and brush the remaining butter over the pastry. Sprinkle the pastry with coarse sugar.
Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating after 30 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Warm is fantastic.