French Apple Tart for the Heart (Tarte aux Pommes)

In this belated Bastille Day (France’s independence day) post, I thought I’d go back to my roots by posting this exquisite, yet very easy, recipe for the classic French apple tart.

This recipe comes from my mother, a Parisian, who takes great joy in baking, so you know it’s going to be good 😉 This recipe is also worth trying out, since, as the family legend has it, this apple tart convinced my down-home, Texas-born, manly man of a father that my mother was the woman he wanted around for the rest of his life. Since consuming this refined apple tart, he’s requested it many times over the course of his 30+ years of marriage.

So to all those out there waiting to hear those three little words, perhaps it’s time to jump-start some discerning hearts with this always-charming tarte aux pommes!

[The leaf border was made by doubling the pie crust recipe and using a leaf cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the second crust.]

Equipment:

Ingredients:

Crust: (pâte brisée et croûte, or pie dough and pie shell)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water (approx.)

Filling:

  • 5 large crunchy red apples or granny smith apples
  • 4 Tbl. sugar
  • 2 Tbl. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Apricot jam or apple jelly
  • Kirsch, calvados, or cognac (optional)

Crust:

Place the flour, butter, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Mix the ingredients (with your hands and preferably with disposable gloves to keep the butter from melting) enough so that all the butter pieces are coated with flour. Add water and start kneading the ingredients to gather the dough into a ball (don’t worry if there are little pieces of butter here and there-this will give flakiness to the dough). The dough should be malleable and usable right away. If overworked, it will become elastic, in which case you should let it “rest” in the fridge for about 1 hour before using.

Place on a WELL-floured surface and roll out in a circle shape. The dough should be approx. 1/8-inch thick. Roll the dough back onto your rolling pin, lift up, and unroll onto your tart pan. Leave about an inch of dough above the rim b/c it will shrink during cooking. Squeeze a “lip” around the inside of the pan. Trim off the excess dough from the outside of the pan. (Watch video on how to do these steps) Refrigerate while handling apples.

Tart:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and core your apples. Cut apples in half and then cut into 1/4-inch slices. The end pieces will be coarse and the center slices uniform. Reserve the uniform slices, but chop up the coarse slices. (You can soak the apples in a large bowl of water during this process to help keep them from browning)

Arrange the chopped apples on the bottom of the pie shell. Fan out the center slices as you would a deck of cards and arrange on top of the chopped apples. Next, arrange some slices in the center of the shell to simulate the petals of a rose. Sprinkle 4 Tbl. sugar on top and 2 Tbl. unsalted butter, cut into pieces.

Place tart pan on a heavy cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. It should be well browned and the crust golden. Remove the tart pan from the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack.

Heat apple jelly or apricot jam in a small saucepan on med-low. Add alcohol to taste, but if you prefer not to, use enough water to make a syrupy glaze. Once the jelly/jam has turned to syrup, remove from heat and glaze the tart with a pastry brush.

Serve at room temp.

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