The past few days have been an emotional rollercoaster and it feels good to be back in the kitchen cooking for fun.
If you remember from my loss at the bagel bake-off, the final bake-off to determine who is the master baker on the floor is going to be a tarte aux pommes challenge (French apple tart), or the variant tarte aux pommes normande (Normandy variant of the French apple tart, typically with custard and sliced almonds, or almond paste).
I tried tarte aux fraise not long ago, with David Lebovitz’s interesting recipe for French tart dough (hint: there’s no rolling required!), which he learned from French chef Paule Caillat. The tart crust itself was decent, but the cream wasn’t great. :( I thought I could just leave out the gelatin, as Amanda’s boyfriend can’t have pork, but it just went really runny.
I also didn’t have a tart pan back then, so it looks ugly, too.
I debated whether to do the tarte aux pommes or the tarte aux pommes normande, as Michael is from Normandy, so I assume he’ll be making that, and it does sound fancier. But, I do know that there are some people at work who are allergic to nuts, so I’m wondering if it’ll be a disadvantage to prepare one with nuts. But then again, it could be an advantage, as more people will eat the non-nuts one, just because they can, and they won’t vote. Which will leave less of it for the people who can compare the two and cast a vote. In the end, I decided to go with the tarte aux pommes because even though my French is improving, there are more English recipes for the non-Normandy version, and that’s better for me.
Since my pastry mat is at the new house, I had to use the no-rolling recipe again. So I used that for the tart crust, but for the tarts themselves, I found two variants I wanted to try (I asked MrFodder which of the apple purée or custard base ones would be better, and he said he’s biased because is crazy about custard. 8 years together and I am still learning new things about him). So I decided to make both and let his co-workers decide.
First, the tart crust. I was inspired by the episode of Yakitate Japan!!! where Yukino makes the reverse fold tart dough, but I don’t have icy hands, and I also couldn’t find a recipe that uses that technique. So here’s the David Lebovitz method:
85g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
160g (5.5oz, or 1 rounded cup) flour
1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees Celcius. Put the butter, oil, water, sugar and salt in a medium-sized oven-proof bowl.
2. Put the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until you start to get brown bits.
3. Add the flour. It will start to bubble up, so be careful when adding the flour. Start stirring to mix together. It says keep going until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. I don’t really know what that means, but I kept going until it was ball-like.
4. Probably a holdover from all the cake baking I do, but I line my tart pan with baking paper to stop it sticking, but I’m not sure it’s needed, as I find the tart doesn’t stick to the pan.
5. Put the dough in the pan and spread it out with a spatula. Once it’s cool enough, use your fingers or a fork to press it up into the sides. If you have too much on one side, it’s easy to tear the surplus dough off and patch up the side with less. The author says to reserve some to patch up broken bits after baking, but I found I didn’t have any dough leftover. :(
6. Pierce with a fork about 10 times, and bake for 15 minutes.
It looks kinda OK in that photo, but from this angle…. disaster!
It seems you might need to blind bake it with baking paper and weights. I have pie weights, but you can use beans or rice instead (I read that if you do use beans or rice, throw it out afterwards, you can’t eat it.)
Now for the filling.
The first recipe is from kitchn – http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-tarte-aux-pommes-1-63286
(It’s for a 10-11″ tart, but I only have a 9″ tart pan, but that just meant I had a bit of apple leftover. I also modified the recipe slightly as I couldn’t be bothered making the apricot glaze from preserved apricots, and used apricot jam instead.)
For the filling:
7 medium-sized (6oz) apples, peeled, cored and quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup warm apricot glaze
1 10 or 11-inch prepared tart shell*, refrigerated (I used David Lebovitz’s tart instead).
For the apricot glaze:
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat oven to 205 degrees Celcius. Take 4 apples and dice them up. Put them in a medium saucepan, with sugar and water.
Yeah, I know I said medium, but we don’t have a medium-sized saucepan, but I’m sure it’ll work out… Do as I say, not as I do.
2. Cook over medium for about 3 minutes, until you can smell that lovely apple-y smell. Remove the lid and keep cooking until it looks a bit like compote (I don’t really know what that is, so I’d say until it looks like stewed apples) (or in my case, because I couldn’t put the lid on, just keep cooking).
(See? It all fits now…)
3. Slice the remaining apples into 1/8 inch slices.
4/ Fill the tart with the the apple compote. Try to make the layer as even as possible, otherwise you’ll have a hard time laying out the slices on top.
(Again, do as I say, not as I do, I had trouble laying out the slices, because some bits were higher than others.)
5. Lay out the apple slices in a circle. Then, if you can fit them, make another circle of slices. Then fill the middle however you want. Brush with melted butter.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the apples are brown, but not burnt. I had to turn it 180 degrees halfway, as my oven isn’t even.
7. To make the apricot glaze, in a small saucepan, put the jam and water. Heat over low heat to reduce until it’s spreadable.
8. I saw this thing on Joy of Baking where she coats it with sugar and broils it to caramelize the top, and I tried that, but I failed and just burnt my apples instead. :(
9. Caramel top or not, brush with the apricot glaze. If you have a tart pan with a removable bottom, turn a bowl upside down and put the pan on top. The side will fall away making it easy to remove the tart and place it on a cooling rack.
10. Cut a slice and enjoy.
The second recipe is from La Recette du Jour, and features custard – http://www.larecettedujour.org/2010/12/a-classic-french-tarte-aux-pommes.php
Crème pâtissière (the custard)
25 g flour
2 egg yolks
50 g sugar
vanilla (1 pod, or 2 teaspoons of paste / essence)
250 ml milk
a knob of butter
Apricot glaze (see above – you should have enough for two tarts)
Because I’m a snob, I omitted the flour, because I want to learn how to make crème pâtissière properly.
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Warm the milk and vanilla (if using a bean or paste, if using essence, add it with eggs) in a medium-sized saucepan until it’s just at its boiling point.
2. Beat the other ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, making sure to whisk the entire time, so you don’t cook the eggs. Then move the mixture back to the saucepan, and return to a low heat. Constantly stir it, it should start to thicken.
Mine ended up curdling a bit. That’s what I get for being a snob – the author said the flour prevents this.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and cool. Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface so it doesn’t develop a skin.
5. Peel, core, quarter and slice up the apples.
6. Put the custard in the tart crust.
7. Lay the apples out on top.
8. Bake for 30 minutes (I had to turn it halfway, as my oven is uneven.)
You can kinda see the ugly curdled custard underneath. :(
9. Glaze with apricot glaze.
10. Remove from pan, slice up and enjoy!
MrFodder says he prefers the non-custard one better. I don’t know if that’s a reflection of my bad quality custard or… it just means further experiments are required. He did say the custard wasn’t “vanilla-y” enough. Maybe I should practice making crème pâtissière on its own, as it seems like an important skill in French dessert-making.