Apple tart (tarte aux pommes Maman Blanc)

I made this apple tart for the buffet table for a New Year’s Eve celebration with friends. I also baked some chocolate brownies (made with good quality chocolate, hazelnuts and organic cranberries) and a Waldorf salad which is fresh and crunchy and goes well with most buffet food.

I had a cosy time in the kitchen yesterday making the food, after coming back from watching Crystal Palace play Manchester City. We missed a penalty in the 90th minute which would otherwise have meant an amazing victory and three very valuable points (so excruciating) but overall we couldn’t complain with the point against the league leaders. We made them work very hard for the 0-0 draw.

This apple tart is a Raymond Blanc recipe, or to be more accurate, it’s his mother’s recipe, (merci beaucoup Maman Blanc). I’ve made this tart a few times and it’s actually quite easy so don’t be put off by the long instructions. You just have to follow the recipe carefully as there are a quite few different stages – such as chilling the pastry twice and baking for different stages at different temperatures. The inclusion of Calvados makes this a bit special but it’s also good to make sure you have the right apples. This is what the recipe says about that:

“The secret is to choose an apple with the right balance of acidity and sugar, and a great flavour. We have found Captain Kidd from the Cox’s Orange Pippin family to be the best – aromatic and juicy, with a perfect texture. Other outstanding varieties are Egremont Russet, Lord Lambourne, Royal Jubilee, Crimson Cox and D’Arcy Spice. If you are unable to find any of these, use Braeburn or any Cox variety.”

I actually used Jonagored apples (which I have never heard of before and may not be the best choice) but they were good value in Aldi and ‘new season’ from Suffolk (and I liked the sound of that).  More importantly I needed to use them up while they were still fresh and that was one of the reasons for choosing to make the tart in the first place. I used up some of the rest of the apples in the Waldorf salad (a quick mix of apples, celery, walnuts, mayonnaise and seasoning paper – so simple and quick).

Here’s Maman Blanc’s recipe:

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry:
250g plain flour, plus extra to dust
125g unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
A pinch of sea salt
1 free-range medium egg
1 free-range medium egg yolk

For the filling:
3 Cox’s or Braeburn apples
15g unsalted butter, melted
65g caster sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice
½ tbsp Calvados (optional)
1 free-range medium egg
100ml whipping cream
Icing sugar, to dust

Method

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and salt into a large bowl and rub together delicately using your fingertips until the mixture has a sandy texture.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the whole egg and extra yolk. With the tips of your fingers, in little concentric circles, work the egg into the flour and butter mixture. Once the egg has been incorporated, bring the dough together and press to form a ball. Alternatively you could make the pastry in a food processor, using the pulse button to bring the dough together.
  3. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with the palms of your hands for 20 seconds, until you have a homogeneous dough – do not overwork it, or the pastry will lose some of its flakiness and will shrink back during cooking. Break off a small piece (20–30g) of dough and wrap it in cling film.
  4. Flatten the rest of the dough into a disc, about 2cm thick; this will enable it to cool more quickly and make it easier to roll out. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for 20–30 minutes to minimise shrinkage during cooking. Stand an 18cm tart ring on a wooden peel lined with greaseproof paper.
  5. Place the rested dough on a sheet of cling film, about 40cm square, cover with another similar sheet of cling film and roll out to a 2–3mm thickness. Remove the top layer of film. Lift the dough by the lower sheet of cling film and invert it over the tart ring. Remove the cling film. Lift the edges of the pastry and push the dough carefully into the ring. Use the reservedwrapped dough ball to press the dough onto the base and sides of the ring, ensuring it is neatly moulded into the shape of the ring. This will minimise shrinkage during cooking.
  6. Trim the edge of the pastry by rolling a rolling pin over the top of the ring, from the centre out to each side. Now raise the height of the dough 2mm above the tart ring, by using your index finger and thumb to push the pastry gently up all around the edge, turning the tart ring as you go. With a fork, prick the pastry base all over. Place the tart in the fridge for 20 minutes to relax the pastry.
  7. Preheat the oven to 210°C/Gas 6½. Place a baking stone or heavy baking tray in the middle of the oven to heat up.
  8. Peel and core the apples, then cut each into 8–10 slices. Arrange the apple slices overlapping in the tart case.
  9. Mix together the melted butter, 15g of the sugar, the lemon juice and Calvados if using, and brush over the apples. Dust liberally with icing sugar – it will melt then caramelise in the oven.
  10. Using the wooden peel, slide the tart onto the preheated baking stone or tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Mix together the egg, remaining 50g sugar and the cream. Pour the custard over the apples and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the apples are a lovely amber colour, the custard is slightly puffed and the pastry is light golden. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 30 minutes before serving. Lightly dust with icing sugar as you serve.

 

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