Once I saw this apple tart, I knew I had to make it. I’ve kept all my Cook’s Illustrated magazines dating back almost 30 years, I frequently go back and search for seasonal recipes. I love the depth of testing they go into for each recipe, and this apple tart is no exception. But this French apple tart isn’t anything like a typical American apple pie!
How is this apple tart different from a traditional apple pie?
First of all the crust isn’t made in the traditional way with chilled butter and ice water. The crust is made with melted butter which allows it to be more easily molded into a fluted tart pan. (As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)
The second big difference is that there are no spices! No cinnamon or nutmeg. The flavor of the apples is enhanced by the apricot jam and a pinch of salt. That’s it! There is no sugar in the filling other than what’s in the apricot jam, so it’s much less sweet than an American apple pie.
If you want to try another pie without cinnamon, try this British apple pie. The filling is creamy and lush and is the perfect base for the apple slices. Pre-cooking the slices makes them easier to bend into
The third difference is that the apples are cooked in two batches. Half of the apples are cooked gently until they are pliable. They become the top decoration for the apple rose tart look. The second half of the apples are cooked down to a thick puree and used as the base for the apple rose slices.
What kind of apples are used in this apple tart?
The original apple tart recipe from Cook’s Illustrated calls for Golden Delicious apples. I searched for Golden Delicious apples from mid-September until early November with no luck. I was told, “they’d be in later in the season”.
But after going to at least 4 stores, I was told that “they are no longer being shipped to stores”, as they are more delicate to transport. I suspect this is California issue, as we’re not really known for growing apples.
What apples can be substituted for Golden Delicious ?
Since I couldn’t find Golden Delicious anywhere, I opted for Jonagold and Gala. Other good substitutions for Golden Delicious are Pink Lady and Fuji. If you can find Golden Delicious apples where you are, go ahead and use them.
Ingredients for the apple tart
- Pre-baked crust consisting of flour, butter, sugar and salt.
- Filling is 5 pounds of apples. 1/2 of the apples will be used for the rose apple tart top and 1/2 of the apples will be cooked down to a thick puree and used as a base for the decorative apple slices. There is no sugar in the filling except for what’s in the apricot jam.
- Apricot glaze. This is made with apricot preserves which are thinned down and strained. Three tablespoons of the apricot glaze is reserved for finishing the tart, the remainder is cooked with the apples to enhance and sweeten the puree.
How to make a French apple tart
Making the crust
First make the crust. Mix the flour, sugar and salt together, then add the melted butter.
Mix until a dough forms.
Press 2/3 of the dough into a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom.
1/3 of the dough is pressed into the fluted sides.
I use a sheet of parchment and the bottom of a measuring cup to smooth and even out the dough.
It also keeps your fingers from getting greasy.
While the crust is baking, prepare the apples. Once the tart is a deep golden brown, set it aside while you prepare the apples.
Prepare the apples
There are a lot of apples to peel! 10 to 12 if you can find 8 ounce apples. You need 5 pounds. My girls loved using this apple peeler when they were young and helped me in the kitchen. To keep the first apples from turning brown while you’re peeling the last of them, fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the bowl. This acidulated water will help prevent them from turning brown.
1/2 of the apples will be sliced into quarters, each quarter is sliced into quarters as well for a total of 16 sliced per apple. If some of them are a bit thicker, cut them again. You want some thinner ones for the center of the tart.
The remaining 1/2 of the apples will be cooked down into a thick puree with the remaining apricot solids and any glaze left after you’ve measured out 3 Tablespoons.
Keep the apples in the water until you’re ready to cook them.
Making the filling
The first 1/2 of the apples will be gently sautéed in 1 Tablespoon each of butter and water for about 5 minutes.
You’ll want the slices to be slightly transparent and pliable. Once you can bend an apple slice without it breaking, set the apple slices on a large tray or sheet pan until ready to assemble.
If they are too crowded, the ones on the bottom will get brown. These are the ones that will be on top for the rose apple tart effect.
Next is the filling. The remaining 2 1/2 pounds will be cut into 1/2″ slices and sautéed until soft, with the apricot jam, about 10 minutes.
After they’ve been pureed, the apples are cooked down further, until there are just 2 cups.
Assembling the apple tart
Once all the components are prepared it’s time to assemble the tart. Spread the 2 cups of puree on the baked tart shell.
Then begin placing the remaining apple slices in a circle starting at the edge of the tart and working towards the center, overlapping the slices.
Save the thinnest, most pliable slices for when you get the the very center of the tart.
Bake the tart. Once the tart is baked, remove it from the oven and turn the broiler on. Next is to glaze the finished tart and broil for just a few minutes to get a caramelized look.
Heat the 3 Tablespoons of strained apricot glaze in the microwave for about 20 seconds so it’s thin enough to brush on the top of the tart.
Carefully brush the apples, avoiding the crust which will make the tart more difficult to release from the tart pan.
On the top rack of the oven, place the tart under the broiler. Watching carefully, broil the tart for 30 seconds at a time, turning the sheet pan each time to ensure it’s caramelized evenly, about 1-3 minutes.
Remove tart from oven, and allow to cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving. This French apple tart is best assembled and eaten on the same day.
Can I make this apple tart ahead of time?
While it sounds like there are a lot of steps, the most tedious part is peeling the apples. If you want to make components of the tart ahead of time, here are some tips.
- The pie crust can be baked a day ahead of time. Once it’s completely cooled, wrap it well and store it at room temperature. No need to refrigerate.
- The filing and slices can also be made ahead of time. They should be stored separately, covered in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Store the slices in one row if possible to prevent brown spots.
A note about apricot glaze
I am never with at least one jar of apricot jam in the fridge. When I was in the pastry section of culinary school, a large pot of apricot glaze was always on the back burner of the stove. It was used to finish off and glaze just about every tart or pastry that came out of the kitchen. Its neutral taste and light color makes it the perfect, nearly transparent, glaze for baked goods. I also use apricot jam for these Jam Tea Tarts, or to glaze this Fruit Tart. But apricot jam can also be used in savory dishes like Apricot Glazed Chicken or as a dipping sauce for Sweet and Sour Pork Balls. While I usually get jam with low sugar, this is one time you’ll want to use regular jam with sugar, it flows better and offers a better glaze than the “no-sugar” varieties.
How to make apricot glaze
For this apple tart recipe, you need 1/2 cup of apricot jam. (Opt for a jam with sugar rather than a low or no-sugar jam.)
Heat the jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
It should be fluid enough to press through a small strainer or sieve.
Once you have 3 Tablespoons of strained glaze, set it aside for the finished tart. The remaining apricot jam, solids and glaze will be added to the apple puree.
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
For the crust
- Adjust the oven so that one rack is in the lowest position, and one rack is about 6" from the broiler unit. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir with a spoon until dough forms. Use 2/3 of the dough to press into the bottom of a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Use the remaining 1/3 of the dough for the fluted sides. Smooth dough with your hands to an even thickness.
- Place tart pan on wier rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and bake on west rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to the touch, 25-30 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through for even browning. Set aside until ready to fill.
- Peel and core all of the apples. Place them in cold water with the juice of a lemon to prevent them from browning while you slice them.
- 1/2 of the apples will be cut into thin slices for the top of the filling. Cut 1/2 of the apples into 16 slices. Keep the remaining 1/2 of the apples in the lemon water while you cook the decorative slices.
- Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and 1 Tablespoons water to the skillet and toss. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable. About 5 minutes. Spread apples in a single layer on a tray or large plate. (This prevents them from browning) While the apples are cooking make the apricot glaze. (Don't bother to clean the skillet, you'll use it again to cook the remaining apples)
- The other 2 1/2 pounds of the apples will be cooked and mashed to make the base of the filling. Cut the remaining apples into 1/2" wedges.
- Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add apples, any remaining apricot preserves and solids to the sauce pan and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally until apples are very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Mash the apples with a food processor or immersion blender until they are pureed. Continue to cook the puree until it's reduced to about 2 cups, about 5-7 minutes.
- Spread puree on the cooked tart shell. Reserve the most pliable apple slices for the center of the pie.
- Place the apple slices around the edge of the tart, working towards the center, using the thinnest for the very center of the tart.
- Bake tart, still on wire rack and baking sheet, on the lowest rack of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
- Heat up the remaining 3 Tablespoons of the apricot glaze in the microwave, until liquid, about 20 seconds. Brush the thinned glaze on the apples, avoiding the crust.
- Place tart on the upper rack and broil for 30 seconds at a time, watching carefully, turning each time, until the tart caramelizes on the edges, about 1-3 minutes total.
- Allow the tart to cool for 1 1/2 hours before transferring tart to serving plate or cake stand.
- While the apples are cooking, microwave apricot preserves in the microwave until thinner, about 30 seconds.
- Strain the apricot jam, pressing and reserve 3 Tablespoons of the strained glaze for brushing on the top of the tart.
- The remaining apricot solids and any additional strained jam will be added to the filling. Set both aside.
- Tart is best prepared and served on the same day.
- Crust can be pre-baked, and wrapped well for 24 hours. Do not refrigerate.
- Both the puree and the cooked apple slices should be stored separately in the refrigerator, in air-tight containers, for up to 24 hours.
- To prevent the decorative slices from browning, try to keep them in one or two layers.
- Store apricot glaze in the refrigerator.
- Assemble the tart with the chilled puree and apple slices, adding 5 minutes to the baking time.