TWD: Apple Tarte Fine

I made this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, a slender apple tart with puff pastry, and it was oh so good.

But the real story belongs to the humble apples that went into the tart, and where they came from.
My friends, I went apple-pickin’ this week! Brace yourselves for a plethora (a gaggle? a herd? a murder?) of apple-pickin’ pictures, and please do say that to yourselves in a country accent in your heads. If you’re not the apple-pickin’ type, there is more tart deliciousness at the end of the post, so scroll on down. I won’t mind too much.

My very favorite sous-chef, my ma (of Tuesdays with Mommie fame One, Two, and Three) was in town visiting. What better field trip than to drive an hour outside of Pasadena, into the mountains of San Bernadino, and visit Oak Glen, an apple-pickin’ paradise?

Our first stop was Riley’s Farm, which offers U-Pick apples, pears, and raspberries. We were wildly optimistic and decided we needed a half bushel of apples, and I foolishly opted for the raspberries too. Did you guys know raspberry bushes have wicked thorns? Truth.

We know a thing or two about fruit trees, but we still felt like city slickers in the midst of the apple groves, wandering around trying to figure out which varieties they were, and if they were really ripe. Most of the apples were fairly small and many seemed quite green, even when they pulled from the tree easily. When it seemed like all the good apples were high up in the branches, my mom took matters into her own hands and employed THE CLAW to pick the tree tops.

Jason disproved the common wisdom that “white men can’t jump” and eschewed the wooden claw in favor of his own hands and impressive vertical leap:

By the end we had a box overflowing with freshly picked apples and pears, still warm from the summer sun.
Next stop was Snow-Line Orchard. We already had more apples than we knew what to do with, so why a second apple farm stop?

I’ll give you a hint:

Snow-Line is famous for their apple cider doughnuts. To look at them they don’t seem so special. They’re small, maybe 2 inches across, and rolled in a light coating of cinnamon and sugar. They’re sold by the dozen, and not to flaunt our piggishness, but we easily polished off 2 dozen between the 3 of us.

They didn’t have a strong apple flavor, but the cider did lend a deeper sweetness that was marvelous with the cinnamon-sugar on the outside. I honestly don’t know what made them so good, but they were light, and crispy, perfectly fried and still soft on the inside. Our visit to Snow-Line consisted mostly of moaning and making these faces:

Once we got home and faced the mountain of apples, we knew we had to act fast. Fortunately, the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe this week called for apples (but, um, I’ll need to make this tart 25 more times before I use up my stash).

I love the simplicity and elegance of this tart, but just like with the Parisian Apple Tart before it, I always make some modifications when baking apples in puff pastry, and I thought I’d share my tips to getting the perfect tart.

First suggestion: if you want clean lines around the tart, make a border. I prefer an even crust all along the outside, so after the tart is rolled out, I use a pizza cutter to cut thin (less than 1″ strips) from the length and width of the rectangle. Brush the edges of the tart with a little egg wash, then press the strips along the outer edges of the tart. When it bakes up, you’ll have a nice square shape, instead of lumpy edges with apples poking into them.

Second suggestion: cook the apples. I know, I know, the beauty of this tart is that it’s so simple, and cooking the apples beforehand adds more time and complication. But honestly, every time I use this method I end up with apples that have dried out due to high heat and extended baking times. I prefer to take a little more time to make luscious apples that taste great, even after a long bake.

And really, sauteeing apples is pretty low-stress. I don’t even measure, I just eyeball things. I put a good-sized chunk of butter (3 tbsp?) in an iron skillet and let it melt until it’s foamy. Add a cup (or two!) of sugar, and slowly let it dissolve, stirring as little as possible. Squeeze some lemon juice on top to prevent crystallization. Let the sugar get to be a nice dark brown color, then add the apples. The caramel will seize–not to worry. As the apples cook, it’ll liquify once again, and soon your apples will be swimming in a delicious caramel soup. You can add other things at this point–I added the seeds from a vanilla pod and a little cinnamon. Simmer until the apples are soft and have taken on some color, then remove them with a slotted spoon and let them cool. Once cool, you can arrange them on your pastry and you’re good to go. They have an awesome flavor and stay nice and soft in the oven.

Bonus: keep the saucepan on the stove, add some cream, and cook it down. You now have a delicious apple-caramel sauce to put on your tart! It pairs wonderfully with vanilla ice cream and this warm apple tart:

We pretty much destroyed this tart in the space of one afternoon. I have no regrets. I’d do it all again. And with the mountain of apples staring me down, I just might!

20 Responses to TWD: Apple Tarte Fine
  1. Heather says:

    Now here is a real tarte fine! Mine is a bit of an experiment as it's the first time I've tried one. Thank you for the excellent tips – I'll follow them next time.

  2. chocolatechic says:

    Brilliant idea to cook the apples.

    I heart cider and spice doughnuts.

  3. Beth says:

    This recipe sounds wonderful, and I love your apple-picking photos. I'm about to get a windfall of apples this morning, so I'll put this recipe on my short list!

  4. Mary says:

    Gorgeous tart, and perfect after a day of apple picking. Now, where can I find me one of them donuts? (said with a country accent)!

  5. Jeannette says:

    feel free to send a bushel of apples my way ;)

    your tart looks great and i just might have to make this again utilizing your tips and tricks!

  6. Jodie says:

    Yum! We're going to do this in a couple weeks. Love it!

  7. Leslie says:

    I love your tips! Now I can't wait to make this again, make the border, cook the apples and bliss out on an even more delicious tart! Thanks for baking with me this week.

  8. cindy says:

    Beautiful tarte, great activity!

  9. Katrina says:

    Seriously, you win! Best in show. Great photos. Fun apple-picking sharing. Yum to cooking the apples in caramel!

  10. Katrina says:

    Oh, and I'm not super big on donuts, but I made apple cider donuts last year and they were SO good.

  11. Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says:

    That looks like so much fun! Looking forward to all the apple posts ;)

  12. sarahe says:

    WOW! very very impressive! and your tart looks huge!

    we have an orchard in town that used to have cider doughnuts, but they stopped making them! wtf?? so sad…

  13. jillbert says:

    Very cool that you picked apples! Thanks for the tips on making a border and sauteeing the apples!

  14. Paula says:

    Great tips! I didn't bake this week but will definitely remember what you wrote when I do. Loved the pictures in the orchard.

  15. Judy says:

    There's nothing better than freshly picked apples. I'm stuck in the middle: do I go north to San Luis Obispo or south/southwest to Oak Glen or Julian. When I make apple pie, I always cook my apples beforehand. Your tarte looks super delicious.

  16. Flourchild says:

    What a fun day! Your tart looks very good!!

  17. Jacque says:

    oh, holy cow, does that ever sound delish?!?!? Wow, a perfect sounding day followed up by a perfect tart.

  18. Lynne says:

    Gorgeous tart! I'm so jealous of your apple picking day! The photos are lovely-your mom looks like your sister!

  19. Liz says:

    Lynne: I think you just made my mom's Christmas list this year!

  20. Kayte says:

    Okay, here I am again. I lost your blog address in a great upheaval many months ago wherein everything computer died. I kept thinking, "Oh, where is that girl with the teashop picture on her blog???" I found you again! Yahoo for me. So I've been reading, and reading, and reading, and I won't comment on all of them, but this ONE has my heart, or my tummy, whichever way you want to look at it. I am going back in on this tarte with your suggestions and ideas…wow does that look/sound wonderful. Love all the apple photos…that always speaks to my heart as well. Hope you are having a great fall. Now that I have found you again, I'm coming around often.

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