As American As French Apple Tart

What makes this a tart and not a pie? Because it’s my blog and I say it’s a tart.

More so than any other years that I’ve experienced in New York, this fall season has been the most impressionable. Barring Mother Nature’s snow storm halloween prank, we’ve been graced with a gorgeous indian summer. Temperatures reaching the high sixties on some days and averaging a cool, crisp mid 50s make it the ultimate weather for hiking and leaf peeping.

Rebounding from a botched attempt at a Vermont getaway, last weekend we decided to explore more local terrains. Just a short 80-minute train ride from Grand Central, Breakneck Ridge in the Hudson Highlands is listed by Newsweek as one of the top ten day hikes in America. Of course, we had no clue about its reputation and our only criteria was that it would be accessible via mass transit. Aren’t we the lucky ducks.

Need I say more about the breathtaking flora?

So with the abundance of fall leaves comes the peak season for apples, apples and more apples. Growing up, I knew the red ones and the green ones. At the farmers market these days, I spy bushels of macoun, pink lady, newton pippin, winesap and my latest favorite, idared. Say it with me now: eye-da-red.

My latest apple tart creation is spiced with the usual suspects – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger… and black pepper. No, it’s not a typo. Quatre Épices (four spices) is used mainly in France for soups, stews, terrines, etc. The cinnamon is a variation of the original quatre épices containing cloves, nutmeg, ginger and pepper. At the advice of my talented belle-mère, I sautéed the apples with the quatre épices that I found at Kalustyan’s. If you can’t find it at your local store, you can make your own concoction. The black pepper definitely lends a little bit of kick in this grown-up version of apple tart/pie/ desert thingymabob.

Oh and did I forget to mention my newfound talent in pastry crust baking? Long gone are the days of my pastry debacle! Thanks to David Lebovitz for sharing this wonderful method he learned from Paule Caillat in Paris! And I suppose you could use this pastry crust recipe for a pie as well…

And yes, other than “because I said so”, there are technicalities that distinguish tarts from pies but does it even matter when you have a slice of this yumminess waiting for you?

Pastry Crust Recipe:

Find it here.

Ingredients (apple filling):

4-6 idared apples or any other variety suited for baking, peeled and cored
4 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 tsp quatre épices
zest of half a lime
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
Optional Apricot Glaze:
4 Tbsp apricot preserves
2 tsp light rum or water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, spices and lime zest.
  3. Next, slice apples in very, very thin wedges and add to the brown sugar mixture. Toss together thoroughly.
  4. In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter and sauté the apple mixture until soft. Remove from heat.
  5. Place 3/4 of the sautéed apples in a pre-baked tart shell and spread evenly. Take the remaining apples and arrange the slices in concentric circles on top of your tart. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Remove tart from oven and switch the oven function to broil. Meanwhile, sprinkle the top of your tart with powdered sugar and place it under the broiler just until the edges of the apples begin to char (about 5 minutes).
  7. Remove tart from broiler and serve warm or room temperature.
  8. Optional Apricot Glaze: In a small saucepan, bring apricot preserves to a boil and add rum. Simmer for one minute and remove from heat. Pass the apricot glaze through a fine mesh strainer and discard the leftover bits and pieces. Brush the top of your tart with glaze.

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