The Stock Pot: Sweet Treats – Simple French Apple Tarts
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: I had never made an apple pie in my life until a few months back for the Indispensable Pie Dough photo shoot. There, I said it. Phew! What a relief! How, you ask, have I not come to make this iconic dessert until now – one that is identified with being so typically American and inherently wholesome? The stock answer of World War II G.I.’s who, when asked why they were going to war quipped, “For Mom and apple pie?” And the one that advertisers used, exploiting the patriotic connection, in that 1970’s jingle: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?” Yep, that one.
Now, I love apples and all things pie, but I just think there are a few more interesting ways to highlight a crisp Granny Smith or Golden Delicious than in an oozing, double-crusted number. Something simpler that brings out the true essence of the fruit. No bells, no whistles…no distractions. Smallish (my small-scale obsessive thing). Nothing too sweet. Oh, and with a buttery, crisp pastry that crackles and leaves small pieces of that flaky goodness all over your shirt when you bite into it. And something that can be whipped up in no time would be nice, too. Pie in the sky hopes? Not at all. Taking inspiration from similar Parisian pastries that are never complicated, this scaled-downed version is the very essence of what an apple tart should be and made even easier using frozen puff pastry. It’s my husband’s favorite new thing (at least for now) and I imagine that once you make this, it’ll become yours, too.
I stumbled across a few funny facts while studying up a bit on apples. 1. We all know Johnny Appleseed, right? A picture of a raggedy man with a pot on his head, walking barefoot scattering seeds comes to mind. Apparently, he wasn’t just spreading seeds for his love of orchardry, but as an investment in hard-cider stills. Old Johnny was a bootlegger (and, gasp! A sometime cross-dresser)! 2. With prohibition’s ban on the production of cider in the early twentieth century, the Apple Marketing Board of New York (supposedly), in an attempt to restore the apple’s reputation as an acceptable comestible, came up with the slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
- 1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed
- 3 small, sweet apples, peeled, cored and small-diced
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
- 2 tablespoons cold, cubed unsalted butter
- confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside (do not skip this step!). On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out slightly to an ⅛-inch thickness. Cut out four 4-inch circles (I use a bowl to trace the circle) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps, re-roll and cut out the fifth circle. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
- In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the sugars and apple pie spice. Center some of the filling (about ⅓ cup) on each pastry circle and top with several cubes of butter. Bake until the apples are tender and the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Dust each tart with a little confectioner’s sugar before serving.
Planning: Some of the apple juices will run and burn in the pan (that’s why it’s important to use a rimmed pan and to line it) but DON’T PANIC! That will not affect the taste of the tartlets.This pastry is best served warm from the oven, or at most, a few hours after being baked.
Product Purity: Most commercial puff pastry is not made with real butter and contains hydrogenated oils. Look for an all-butter puff pastry (I use Dufour Pastry Kitchens) at specialty kitchen stores.
Presentation: You can roll the puff pastry into a rectangle for a single tart, if desired, but I prefer individual ones. Skip the plates and serve them on a square of wax paper for a hand-held, just-out-of-the-bakery feel.
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