This is the life. I walked in the door yesterday at noon after a morning in Paris, to find a golden apple tart sitting on my kitchen counter. The kitchen was filled with its buttery smell; a genie of steam was rising from its center.
It was the handiwork of Marissa Mathews, a young, American, French-trained pastry chef who is here for a few months. I asked her where the apples came from – a worthy question, as they are not only tumbling from the trees in my garden, but arriving by the bushel from friends, dinner guests, neighbors. It’s high apple season here in Normandy.
“I picked two off the ground outside,” she said as though it was as easy as going to the grocery store. “The others, I got from that big basket there.” She pointed at a mound of rough-skinned boscoop apples; the two from the ground were either Cox Orange Pippins or Reines de Reinette.
When Fiona came home from school we cut into the tart. There was a fine layer of white fig jam on its base: the apples were a perfect blend of sweet and tart, the buttery pastry crackled with grains of sugar Marissa had sprinkled over it. It was divine.
Here’s a recipe for a facsimile. Use a combination of apples on each tart, for the best flavor.
INDIVIDUAL APPLE TARTS WITH TENDER TART PASTRY
Apple tart is universal in France, and Bordeaux is no exception. This simple tart, which brings this meal to a close, is made special with a drizzle of honey – it adds a floral hint to the apples, an added dimension.
On Rue Tatin’s Tender Tart Pastry (see recipe)
3 medium (about 5.5 oz; 165g each) apples, such as Cox Orange Pippins, Reine de Reinette, Jonagold
2 tablespoons (25g) light brown sugar
3 teaspoons mild honey
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Roll out the pastry as fine as you possibly can. Cut out six 7-inch (17.5cm) rounds, and transfer them to the baking sheets. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to several hours. If you plan to refrigerate them for several hours (or overnight), cover them with parchment paper, then aluminum foil so they don’t dry out,. pastry.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
4. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut them, crosswise, into paper-thin slices. Remove the pastry rounds from the refrigerator and arrange the slices from one-half an apple on each of the pastry rounds, overlapping the slices slightly, and mounding them attractively in the center. Sprinkle each tart evenly with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, then bake in the oven until the pastry is golden, apples are golden at the edges and the sugar has begun to caramelize, 25 to 30 minutes. If you have the baking sheets on two racks, you will need to switch them halfway through cooking so the tarts bake evenly.
5. Remove the tarts from the oven and immediately drizzle the apples on each one with ½ teaspoon of the honey. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool slightly, or to room temperature, before serving.
6 individual tarts
ON RUE TATIN’S TENDER TART PASTRY
LA PATE TENDRE D’ON RUE TATIN
1 ½ cups (205 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons (180 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- Place the flour and the salt in a food processor and process once to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the 5 tablespoons ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together. If the pastry seem dry and dusty, add the remaining 1 tablespoon water.
- Transfer the pastry from the food processor to your work surface and form it into a flat round. Let it rest on a work surface, covered with a bowl, for at least 30 minutes. The pastry can sit several hours at room temperature, as long as the room isn’t warmer than 68 degrees. The pastry is ready to use as desired.
Pastry for one 10 ½-inch (26 ½ cm) to 12-1/2 inch (31.5cm) tart