A good friend of mine once said to me ‘There are no new ideas; just reinventions of old ones’. While I’m not entirely certain he’s correct, it’s provided comfort on days when I’m feeling unimaginative or uninspired. This year, as I struggled against the current of Time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to show up with the same creativity and personal touch that has become not only a source of joy, but a signature.
Remember those classic confections? You know; the ones that stuck to your teeth and left you with no choice but to lick your fingers clean? They were a favorite of my father’s. Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve outings to the Pike Place Market, followed by a stroll along the waterfront and a visit in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, ending the day with some fish and chips at Ivar’s. It was customary while at the market to pick up a box of aplets and cotlets, which rarely made the trek home unopened.
So that’s what I thought of when I envisioned this tart. I’d received a special request for apple pie, however I was thinking I could do a bit better and really wanted to “wow” with presentation. Tarts are fantastic that way, as the fruit is really the star, all caramelized and glistening to perfectly baked perfection. I’ve made many pies, and have gotten the basics of a good flaky pastry down. Always, always start with ice-cold ingredients, minimal handling, and appropriate rest. It’s like nurturing a new relationship: love the pastry. respect it. don’t interfere too much.
It’s quite simple really. I used a basic recipe for pate sablee ( you can find a link here), which I proceeded to roll out and tuck into a fluted ceramic tart pan, brushed generously with melted butter. It could easily be rolled out flat; placed directly on a cookie sheet, folding up the edges for a bit of rustic appeal. A tart pan with a removable bottom is also an option.
I then coated my apples with bits of butter and a mix of sugars for caramelization, along with lemon zest for fragrance and brightness. The perkiness of apricots complement the apples wonderfully; I found several examples that combined apples and apricots in turnovers, or using apricot jam as a glaze. Another consideration would consist of a simple glaze made with a reduction of honey, lemon and fresh ginger, though I would use a sweeter apple as the base.
Something to keep in mind: the crust may start to get a bit brown, and that’s okay. an interim solution is having strips of foil at the ready to fold around the edges. If you have a piecrust protector, then you’re a bit ahead of the game. Laying the dough flat and covering with apples end to end will also alleviate the concern for excessive browning, however, the perfectly browned, fluted borders really make a statement. In any case, this crust is cookie like, buttery, crisp and perfectly lovely in every way. Enjoy!
For the tart:
1 recipe pate sablee
4 tart apples (example: granny smith)
1/4 c each granulated sugar and brown sugar (muscovado is nice)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. butter, frozen and then grated or chopped into small bits the size of peas
For the glaze:
~1/2 c apricot jam
2 tbsp. apple juice, liquor, or water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, or if you are using a mold, brush bottom and sides generously with melted butter.
Measure the diameter of the tart pan you’re using. I used a pan that was ~8″x11″ at the base.
Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and press into pan, allowing the dough to come up the sides. Pierce several times with a fork, then let rest in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
Mix the sugars and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant; set aside.
Peel and core apples; slice into 1/4 inch lengths.
Fan apples onto the tart dough in rows, or if using a round pan, fan along the outer edges, working toward the center.
Sprinkle apples generously with sugar, then dot with butter.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Note: About mid-point in the baking, warm jam and liquid over medium heat until lightly bubbling. Strain into a bowl or measuring cup (I use a sieve to remove the fleshy bits of fruit). Set aside.
Remove from oven and brush with apricot glaze.
Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or crème fraiche.