Making great food is like taking a trip in a time machine. How can a simple meal take you back decades? I have always found the close relationship and ownership we develop towards a dish we had at a certain point in life to be fascinating. The pleasure that comes from reminiscing about that particular day, or this special person, or some dear location; a whole movie starts playing in our heads the second we take that first mouthful. It is quite magical.
This simple apple tart does just that for me; it has been my mother’s trademark dessert for as long as I can remember. I vividly remember the exquisite smell of baked pastry, apple and cinnamon wafting through the house. Me as a six-year-old standing in the kitchen, schoolbag still on my back—holding a giant slice of still-warm apple tart, devouring it in less time than it takes to say “tarte aux pommes”!
Maman is not a fussy cook—she is all about simplicity, quality ingredients and seasonal cooking. She lives in a small apartment near my hometown of Orleans but still grows and harvests her own fruits and vegetables from a nearby communal garden. Sadly she did not pass on the green-thumb gene to me...
She outsources the rest of her groceries from the local farmers’ market each Sunday. This tart is a perfect example of her wholesome approach to produce and cooking, which I have always admired.
A simple dessert popular all through France, its true flavour and simplicity allow it to remain unchanged and a crowd pleaser that never goes out of fashion. It will feature in virtually every bakery, home and even supermarkets in the country.
Every chef will have a version of shortcrust pastry. Christophe Felder is one of the world’s most talented, inspiring and respected pastry chefs. After working in prestigious establishments such as Fauchon and Guy Savoy, he was appointed head pastry chef at the Hotel Crillon, where he remained for 15 years. He has published more than 20 cookbooks, including Mastering the Fundamentals of French Pastry, which belongs on the bookshelf of every pastry aficionado.
Making pastry in the Thermomix is a dream; never in my baking days pre-Thermomix had I been able to obtain such perfect dough so consistently. The key with pastry is precision and pace—working the ingredients fast while keep everything at a low temperature. The Thermomix does just that.
Depending on the sort of pastry, it will take between 10 seconds to just over one minute and the result is always identical. This pastry does not crumble, is silky smooth, easy to roll and handle, but most importantly is home-made.
- For the pastry, place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl and blitz 10 seconds/speed 8.
- Add butter and mix for 8 seconds/speed 6. Finally add the cold water and blitz 8 seconds/speed 6. Tip the dough out onto a silicon mat or lightly floured bench and flatten into a disc before covering in cling film and resting in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Once ready to use, roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench about 3 millimetres thick. Transfer onto a tart tin and trim the overhang so it is flush with the tin edges—prick the pastry gently with a fork, then rest in the fridge while you make the compote and prepare the sliced apples (15–30 minutes).
- For the compote, put the apples, sugar, lemon juice, water and vanilla essence in the bowl and cook 12 minutes/100 degrees/speed 2. Once cooked, blend for 10 seconds/speed 6, transfer into a bowl and allow to cool in the fridge.
- To garnish the tart, peel, core and cut the apples in very thin slices, sprinkle the juice of half a lemon over them to stop them from browning.
- To assemble, spread the cooled apple compote evenly over the prepared lined tart shell and arrange the apple slices in a circle around the edges, overlapping slightly and neatly. Repeat this process for the inner circle but going in the opposite direction to the outer circle. Brush melted butter over the apples and sprinkle with raw sugar and a little ground cinnamon.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are caramelised and tender. Cool on a wire rack. Serve hot, warm or cold, as is, or with cream or your favourite ice cream.
AND … Puff pastry can be used instead of short crust. Roll out the pastry to a disc shape on baking paper—add the apples and cook as per recipe.