julia child's apple tart

by Stacy

For my birthday in September, my husband’s older sister very kindly sent me Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. So when I brought back some apples from the grocery store with a plan no more concrete than “dessert,” I decided this might be a good time to bust out the cookbook.

Also for my birthday (but delivered last weekend) I received a tart pan that needed some christening. See where I am going with this?

Apple tart time!

According to Julia:

The classic French apple tart consists of a thick, well-flavored applesauce spread in a partially cooked pastry shell. Over it thinly sliced apples are placed in an overlapping design of circles. After baking, it is coated with apricot glaze.

Not too bad, right? Let’s count the elements here: 1.) applesauce, 2.) tart shell, 3.) sliced apples, 4.) apricot glaze. There are three recipes (all on different pages) within this recipe. One of the recipes (the tart shell) even includes directions in another chapter.

This tart sounds deceptively simple, but it took a little longer than I had planned. Part of the problem was that I had … umm… never made crust before. Ever. I was very pleased with how it turned out, I just had to read a lot of instructions to make sure I was going about it correctly. If I had been more comfortable with the steps, it would probably have gone much faster.

Enough gabbing, time for dessert! We need a partially-baked tart shell (my tart pan is an 8 inch, the recipe actually calls for a 10 inch) and some peeled, cored, and sliced apples:

tart shell apples sliced for tart

Toss the apple slices with lemon juice and sugar and set aside for later. Or if you’re me, drizzle them with lemon juice and completely forget about the sugar because you’re still trying to find the directions for the pastry shell.

Then it’s time to make an applesauce of sliced apples, apricot preserves, booze (apple brandy, rum, or cognac — I used Grand Marnier — or vanilla extract if it’s a G-rated tart), sugar, butter, and optional cinnamon and citrus zest. I’m all about options. About half an hour on the stove gives you a sweet peachy goo that gets spread in the tart shell.

applesauce for tart applesauce in tart shell

Slap a layer of sliced apples on top and take a blurry photo:

apple tart

Another half hour and, providing you remember in time that the bottom of the pan is removable and thus if you try to support it from the center you will drop and break your tart, you get something like this:

apple tart

While the tart is in the oven, there is just enough time whip up a nice apricot glaze. Julia cautions against letting the glaze get too hot and recommends using a candy thermometer. I don’t have one, so I just got paranoid, undercooked it, let it cool too much, and glomped it on anyway. Whoops. Lesson learned. See? Glompy:

apple tart

For the 8-inch tart pan I sort of scaled as I went, so I will give the actual measurements for the 10-inch tart which are more likely to yield a Julia-worthy, non-glompy result.

Apple Tart (Tarte Aux Pommes)

Adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
Partially-cooked 10-inch tart shell (sorry, you’re on your own for this)
4 lbs. apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
1/4 cup apple brandy, rum or cognac; or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter
(optional) 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, grated rind of 1 lemon or orange
1/2 cup apricot glaze (see below)

Apricot glaze:
1/2 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Mix the preserves and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes (225-228 degrees on a candy thermometer) until glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If boiled above 228 degrees, glaze will harden when cool. Apply while still warm or reheat before using.

Directions:
1.) Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Slice 3 cups worth into 1/8-inch lengthwise slices. Toss sliced apples in a bowl with lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.

2.) Cut the rest of the apples into slices (about 8 cups). Place in a large heavy saucepan and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for about 20 minutes until apples are tender. Beat in apricot preserves, alcohol (or vanilla), sugar, butter, and cinnamon and zest (if using). Turn up heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick.

3.) Preheat oven to 375F. Spread the applesauce in the partially-baked pastry shell. Arrange sliced apples in an overlapping layer or concentric circles.

4.) When oven has preheated, bake the tart in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the apples are tender. Slide tart onto a cooling rack and paint a light layer of apricot glaze over the top. Serve warm or cold.

apple tart

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