Those were the glory days of the apple tree.
It still stands in our backyard today but it has grown to enormous proportions and the word “grizzled” comes to mind when thinking of this tree. Sadly the fruit is inedible and it would take a brave soul to consume even one of the apples that grow on its branches now.
Between you and me, I think the tree is a little pissed it is getting old so instead of just providing shade and being cool with the fact that it is home to a few birds, the tree decides to play games with us. It drops apples from its highest branches at terrifying speeds on unsuspecting souls who just want to enjoy a cocktail or have an al fresco meal on the deck below. And I have a real and legitimate fear that I will get bonked on the head one evening as I’m sipping on a gin and tonic. Fingers crossed I’m not home alone.
It also likes to leave apples – at a pace that is nearly impossible to keep up with – all over the lawn and my mom has decided that while I am home, a fun activity for me would be to pick them up and transfer them to the compost. She knows this is one of the last things on earth I would like to do so to entice me she offered [what she believes to be] a fair price for my services at five cents an apple. Because I have no real need for 87 nickels and the year that we live in is in fact not 1914, I told her that when inflation kicks in and we hit five dollars an apple, we can start talking.
Never underestimate a child who likes to negotiate, as this will not go away with age.
So had this been many years ago, I would have been able to say that this tart was made with apples from my very own apple tree. But please indulge me for a minute and let’s just pretend that this was the case for the above pictured tart.
I think it would make the tree happy if we could relive those good ol’ days. Just for old times sake.
This tart was adapted from two recipes, which I found in Essential Pépin, and is the most recent cookbook by the great Jacques Pépin. If you are unfamiliar with Pépin he is a French cooking superstar, amazingly awesome, and has been on the scene for about as long as my apple tree.
It is probably a faux pas to combine two of his recipes as I have done here – which happen to also appear side-by-side in the book – but I think we should just keep that a little secret and go with it.*
The crust is fabulously easy and uses warm milk, baking powder, and butter to become magic (never mind that I made another recipe hack and replaced the originally called for shortening with butter). Room-temperature butter is worked into the flour so well that it almost looks like soft sand. I was getting a little worried at this step because for my whole life I have been told to leave some chunks of butter when making crust. The ingredients intrigued me too. Not your normal crust ingredients what with the baking powder and all, but I do what Pépin says. Everything but follow recipes as written. Apparently I have an aversion to doing that.
I pushed onwards and continued along with the crust technique because if I know anything it is to never ever question Pépin. He knows whats up when it comes to tender, flaky French tart crusts.
Once you have made edible sand out of butter and flour, you add a little warm milk and stir, then all of a sudden a quick dough appears in the bowl.
Which gets pressed right into a tart pan! A soft, beautiful and buttery thing of beauty. Set this aside and get to work on your apples.
The way the apples are prepared in this recipe is where things get really genius. Peel, halve and core four apples and then slice them thin. Half the slices get saved for the top and the other half get coarsely chopped, along with any slices that have have been broken or were sliced less than perfect. The chopped apples become the base and then the pretty slices garnish the top! Best way to use apples ever, right?
In the original tart recipe Pépin sprinkles cinnamon sugar over the top of the sliced apples but I decided to continue with the theme I started, switch it up, and mix the chopped apples in the cinnamon sugar mixture instead. I wanted the cinnamon sugar apples to bake into a beautiful base (which they did) and then drizzle the top slices with honey and a touch of butter so they would soften and the edges would brown ever so slightly (which they also did) and as the whole thing bakes, it turns into a glorious thing full of fall flavor.
Honey-Glazed Apple Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart
Adapted from Essential Pépin
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (156 grams) flour
1 teaspoon (4 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, room-temperature and cut into six pieces
1/4 cup (62 ml) milk
For the filling:
4 medium-sized apples (I used Fuji, which is a sweet and firm variety)
2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) cinnamon
1/3 cup (83 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter, room-temperature
Crème fraîche, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon for the filling and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. When most of the butter has been combined, rub the mixture together gently between your palms until it feels and looks sandy, and all the butter has been incorporated. This should take several minutes.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm (or you can do this in the microwave) being careful not to let the mixture boil. Pour the milk into the flour mixture all at once and stir quickly using a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. It will be quite sticky. Transfer the dough to a tart pan and use your fingers to press it evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set aside.
Peel, halve and core the apples. Place them cut side down on the cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Set aside the larger center slices. Coarsely chop the remaining end slices and any that have broken, then toss them in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. About half the slices should be sliced and half chopped.
Spread the chopped apples evenly into the bottom of the prepared crust. Layer the slices in overlapping concentric circles. You may have a few slices left over (which would be perfect for snack time!) but just try to fit as many apples as will comfortably fit in the pan.
Gently heat the honey in a small saucepan – or microwave – until it has thinned slightly and is just warm. Drizzle about half the warm honey over the top of the tart (save the rest for a post-oven drizzle) and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the crust has browned and the apples have softened.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with the remaining honey. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraîche.
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*I feel it is important to explain myself and elaborate on why I decided to hack up Mr. Pépin’s recipe. I have made the tart (which is the inspiration for the filling technique) many times with great success. As written it calls for a pâte brisée crust (the leftovers are shown here), however when I was flipping through Essential Pépin the other day, I noticed the recipe preceding the tart calls for a crust made with a curious combination of baking powder and warm milk. The only real explanation I have for myself is that I wanted to give it a go. After making this compelling crust and seeing how remarkably fast the whole thing came together, not to mention how perfectly buttery the final result turned out, I think this crust version is a fabulous addition to the chopped/sliced apple filling technique. The two work together fantastically – if I do say so myself – and my “jazzy new fresh twist” version is what you see above.