When we were musing on what to make out of November’s Bon Appétit, we were both drawn to two categories–potatoes and pies. There are some seriously good looking potatoes in last month’s issue. But, given that we are households of one and two respectively, we decided that having a whole dessert to go through might be wiser than a whole pan of potatoes. And from there, given our well documented love of browned butter, this apple tart seemed like an obvious choice.
Tho we each read the recipe through several times, the weekend we had set aside to make the tart we both realized that we should have started the dough a day ahead…as the directions clearly state. Whoops. We decided that Jessica would go ahead and make the tart with store-bought pie dough, and Laura would make the recipe’s recommended dough from scratch.
Jessica’s Take: I cheated all over the place with this recipe. As mentioned above, I used store-bought pie crust. And, lacking the perfect tart pan, I decided to just use a regular old nine inch pie pan. I’m not sure if the second part made a difference, but Laura assures me that she thinks the crust was worth it. Next time!
Even tho I technically made this recipe a lot easier for myself by skipping the crust, one step still stumped me: how exactly does one core an apple and then slice it into perfect rings? I know there must be a gadget, but I surely don’t have it. I used my mandoline (for the first time! so satisfying) to slice the apples, and then cored each slice individually with a little spoon. It was pretty silly. I checked in with Laura about this after the fact, and she said she wasn’t sure what the procedure is, either. Mysterious.
Other than the crust and the timing aspect, this tart is pretty simple. Butter is browned and infused with a vanilla bean, sugar and eggs are whisked together, salt and flour are added, and you end up with a surprisingly thick mixture that, when poured over apple slices, puffs up into something almost like a custard. I was especially pleased with the vanilla scented butter–such a simple and great addition. I had a fair amount of the filling left over, I think as a result of not using the recommended tart pan. It made me a little nervous that the tart might overflow in the oven, but happily everything stayed where it should.
One definite plus of this recipe is that it makes the house smell absolutely amazing while it bakes and cools. Speaking of, the recipe calls for a two hour cooling time once the tart comes out of the oven. I had a friend coming over to taste test this with me, and definitely didn’t have two hours for it to cool–I probably gave it more like 45 minutes, and it seems like that was fine. The apples I chose weren’t the most flavorful, but in spite of that the tart was warm, comforting, and very fall. Delicious with vanilla ice cream, tho the recipe recommends whipped cream.
Laura’s Take: I was SO sure this crust was going to be a flop. Have you ever heard of a crust that you make by beating everything together with a hand mixer? I thought all pie doughs had to have their butter skillfully cut into the flour and their scant liquids carefully folded in at the end. This dough recipe was more like a recipe for sugar cookies. Turns out that was the genius of it. I’ve had a lot of short crust-ed tarts and they are sweet, crunchy, and cookie-like, but this crust was truly a sugar cookie. It was truly good.
As Jessica noted, the crust takes time and planning. In fact, the tart as a whole takes the better part of a day to make. The dough comes together fairly quickly, but it needs to chill overnight. Then you go through two more dough working and chilling sessions before blind baking. The tart takes a surprisingly long time to bake — 70 to 80 minutes — and a devastatingly long time to cool: 2 hours. Making it ahead isn’t ideal, because the crust will lose its crispiness and flakiness after day one. On a lazy Saturday and Sunday, spending a day with this lovely tart is no problem, but this is not a tart that could work on Thanksgiving, the year’s busiest kitchen day.
Jessica gave me a heads up that the tart filling might be a little lacking in the flavor department. To combat this potential weakness, I used tart Granny Smith apples, a vanilla bean, and a couple of generous glugs of Maker’s Mark. The result was sophisticated, custardy, and subtly flavorful. The taste was a lot like the tendresse aux pommes I made earlier this fall.
Jessica liked the process of this tart a lot–it was kinda fun to fight those apple slices–but probably wouldn’t bake it again over a more traditional apple pie. She would definitely brown more vanilla infused butter, tho.
Laura thought this was a pretty and unique take on apple pie, but it took too long to make. She baked this for her parents, who both devoured it and declared it a winner. The crust recipe is definitely one to keep on file.
You can find the recipe on the Bon website.