The apple tart is close to mythic in France. There are so many version, so many recipes, so many home and professional cooks who lay their reputations on this wonderful pastry.
This may be because apple trees grow in just about every region of the country, making the apple a common fruit, easy to obtain, usually right from the tree. It may also be because the apple is one of the most ancient fruits on the planet, with vestiges of wild apples dating 80 million years ago found in the Caucases, and in the region which is now Anatolia, in Turkey.
MERCI TO THE ROMANS
The Romans brought the apple with them to what is now Europe. Like a conquering band of Johnny Appleseeds, they planted some thirty varieties of the fruit wherever they went, and the soil of France proved particularly propitious. Today the many varieties grown commercially and privately in France include the DNA of those very early apples.
AUTUMN AND WINTER
The apple is an autumn fruit, though the very first variety of “summer” apples can be ready by mid-August. Usually very juicy and soft, these are less interesting than their cousins that have been sharpened and sweetened by cool, autumn temperatures. The harvest proceeds through October, when apples are at their absolute best, though storage methods are such that they can be very good through February, particularly ideal for a perfect apple tart.
The best apple varieties in France (some of which originated in England or Holland, most of which date from the 19th century) include my favorite, the Cox Orange Pippin, a firm wildly aromatic yet tart apple; the Boskop, slightly less firm with a sweet floral quality, and Reine de Reinette (Queen of the Reinettes), which is juicy and firm with a slight acidic edge that disappears as the apple ages in cold storage.
A PERFECT TART
For a perfect apple tart, several varieties of the fruit are better than just one, for each contributes a nuance of flavor, making the resulting tart extraordinary. Try a mix of sweet and tart apples, for the best result. A minimum of sugar is necessary for baking, particularly for this recipe where a fillip of caramel is drizzled over the cooled tart to enhance the apple flavors.
Not only will your apple tart be delicious and impressive with its crackle of caramel, but it will become a favorite for you to make because it is so simple. One caveat: bake it long enough that the pastry is crisp and golden, and baked all the way through, even if it takes a bit longer than indicated in the recipe. Everyone’s oven is different, but everyone’s palate is the same – we all want DELICIOUS!
Apple Tarte with Caramel - Tarte Aux Pommes Au Caramel
- For the egg wash:
- 1 small egg
- 2 teaspoons water
- One recipe On Rue Tatin pastry see blog post
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/4 cup; 50g vanilla sugar
- 6 good-sized tart apples cored, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch thick slices
- For the caramel:
- 3/4 cup 150g sugar
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Make the egg wash: whisk together the egg and the water until thoroughly combined.
- Roll out the pastry into a 14-inch (35cm) round. Line a removable bottom tart tin with the pastry, leaving the edges hanging over the tart tin.
- Mince the rosemary and mix it with the sugar.
- Place half the apple slices in the pastry, sprinkle with half the rosemary and sugar mixture. Top with the remaining apples, and the remaining rosemary and sugar mixture. Bring the edges of the pastry up and over the apples - they won’t completely cover the apples, which is fine.
- Brush the pastry lightly and evenly with the egg wash.
- Place the tart tin on a baking sheet, and bake in the lower third of the oven until the pastry is golden and the apples are softened and juicy, about 50 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and place the tart tin on an upturned bowl to remove the ring of the tart tin. Place the tart on a cooling rack, and let cool to room temperature.
- When the tart is cooled, place the sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Heat the sugar, keeping watch over it, until it begins to caramelize around the edges. Shake the sugar in the pan as it caramelizes, stirring it if necessary (a chopstick works very well for this job) to keep the sugar caramelizing evenly. When all of the sugar is dissolved and a medium-to-dark golden color, pour it evenly over the tart so that each piece when cut will have caramel on it.
- When the caramel has hardened, serve the tart.