Dear Tarts (of all shapes, sizes and varieties),

I apologize for always snubbing my nose at you.  For too long, I have considered you irrelevant; if you have cake or pie, why would you need a tart?  Or so I thought…

I’m sorry for being severely unhappy every time you would make an appearance for dessert and for wishing you were a giant piece of chocolate cake.  I was wrong.

Thankfully we have been spending a lot of quality time together lately.  And, in the past 3 months, I have probably made close to 500 of you.  I understand you now and even [gasp] prefer you over cake.

Thanks for being beautiful and elegant in appearance and taste.  I promise not to say anything bad about you again.

Truce?

-Emily

The absolute first thing I made when I started my bakery job was a fruit tart.  I was simultaneously ecstatic, nervous, and privately grumbling about how of all the things I could bake, I had to make a tart (I was waaay more excited than grumbly, just for the record, but it crossed my mind).

As I have gone from nervous novice to a more sure-handed one, I have learned to love not only making them, but eating them.  I love that the crust can be a flaky butter crust, chocolate, a sweet sugar dough, and even made with almond flour.  Filled with a simple raspberry jam encased in a lovely lattice, bright lemon curd, whole pears swimming in almond cream, or brimming with a nest of colorful fruit atop pastry cream, tarts are the canvas that allows the art of simple ingredients to shine.

No better example of this perfect simplicity is this French apple tart.  Barely over and handful of ingredients come together to make a stunning dessert highlighting the jammy flavor of Golden Delicious apples.

It’s hard to admit when you were wrong, but sometimes it is worth it.

French Apple Tart

Makes 1 11-inch tart

Recipe by Sara Moulton.  Featured in the January/February 2011 issue of Saveur magazine.

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

7 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and halved

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup apricot jam

Combine flour, 8 tablespoons butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until pea-size crumbles form, about 10 pulses.  Drizzle in 3 tablespoons ice-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3-4 pulses.  If dough seems too dry, drizzle in additional water 1 teaspoon at a time until  dough is sufficiently wet.  Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Unwrap dough and transfer to to a lightly floured work suface.  Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into a 13″ circle and then transfer to a 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom.  Using fingertips, lightly press dough into the bottom and sides of tart pan.  Using a rolling pin, gently press down on top edge of tart pan to trim excess dough (see picture, above).  Chill for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375°F.  Working with one apple half at a time, make thin crosswise slices, keeping the heel of your knife slightly above the cutting board with each downstroke so the slices remain connected at one end (see photo, above right).  Trim the bud and stem ends from the apple, then stand the apple half on end to cut a thin layer from the cored side so that the slices fully separate but remain stacked together (see photo, below left).  Return the half to its flat side on the cutting board and cover it with your hand, pressing down until the mass of apple flattens into a neat row of overlapping slices.  Slide a metal spatula under half the rows of slices and transfer them to the unbaked tart shell.  Arrange seven or eight of these sections around the perimeter of the tart shell (see photo, below right).

Separate remaining apple slices.  Starting where the apple halves touch and working your way in, layer apples to create a rose pattern.  Fill in any remaining gaps with extra apple slices.  See pictures below for final product.  If its not perfect that is okay, just be creative!

Once tart shell is completely filled with apples, sprinkle with sugar and dot with remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.  Bake until golden brown, 60-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat apricot jam in a small saucepan until warmed and loose; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl and set aside.  Transfer tart to a wire rack; using a pastry brush, brush top of tart with jam.  Let cool completely before slicing.  Serve with creme fraiche, ice cream, or whipped cream.

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