As I wait patiently for the arrival of more spring fruit, I return again to my favorite staple, apples. I always have apples on my table so they quickly became the focus of this great little tart.
This is a very easy crust that envelops apple slices lightly sugared and sautéed in a bit of butter. To that I’ve added one of my favorite flavor combinations for apples, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Just before putting the tart in the oven, I sprinkle a very tiny bit of crushed fleur de sel over the top. The end product reminds me of a French apple tart without having to chill and roll out the crust.
This tart is rather simple and rustic but very delicious in its own way, not too sweet or heavily spiced. The flavor and texture of the apples balance each bite nicely. It would be perfect for brunch, an afternoon snack or as a dessert course with some great cheddar cheese.
- For more flair, you can add a little bit of finely chopped thyme or rosemary to the apple sauté in place of the vanilla bean. If you prefer a more American treatment, use brown sugar to sauté the apples and add a pinch of cinnamon. Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top of the assembled tart before baking.
- Fleur de sel (flower of salt) is a special salt harvested by hand. It has a flaky texture and a softer flavor. For this pastry, I crush it with a rolling pin for a fine sprinkle.
- I'm often asked about baking pan substitutions. You always want to try to substitute a pan that has the same volume so you don't have to adjust the baking time and you can still wind up with a similar presentation of height. The Baking Pan has a very good list of dimensions and volumes that they've accumulated from several authoritative chefs and cookbooks. It has lots of different sizes and types of baking pans for easy comparison.
1 1/2 C flour
1/4 C + 2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
1/4 t lemon zest
4 oz (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks
1/4 C sour cream
2 small apples or 1 1/2 large apples
1 T butter
2 T sugar
1/3 vanilla bean
scant 1/4 t lemon zest
tiny pinch of crushed fleur de sel (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and slicing them 1/4” thick. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the sliced apples, sugar and lemon zest. Slit the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds and add them and the bean casing to the mix. Sauté the apples for about 5 – 8 minutes or until they are softened a bit and the aromas of the vanilla and lemon zest have permeated the fruit. Set aside to cool.
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Mix the yolks and sour cream together and add to the food processor. Pulse just a few times until the mixture looks like it’s coming together. Do not overmix. The dough should be very crumbly. Pour into a large bowl and toss gently with your hands.
Pour about 2/3 of the dough crumbles into a 14” x 4” tart pan or a 9” tart pan. Gently spread an even layer without compressing it. Just make sure that the pan is covered and there aren’t any holes. Layer the cooled apples on top. Sprinkle the remaining dough crumble over the top of the apples. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of fleur de sel, if desired.
Place the tart on a sheet pan lined with parchment and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the tart pan to serve.