Fast forward to July 2010. We were picking dates for our vacation and M. pretended to be astonished that I would schedule our vacation around my turn to pick the recipe. Since I thought my turn would fall the first week of October, we decided on mid-October. Imagine my surprise to get an email from Laurie telling me I'd be the host this week. It was time to pick the recipe the group would make.
I knew my ideal pick would be one that had no chocolate (shockingly, since chocolate is a favorite) so that my friend Kayte could enjoy making and eating it. It would have no nuts, since so many of my fellow bloggers (or their kids) don't like nuts. Ditto coconut. It wouldn't have ingredients that are out of season for bakers in the southern hemisphere. There would be no custard, caramel or pie crust to stress out those who feel angst over these things. It would photograph well. It would be easy, not requiring expensive ingredients. And it would be delicious. So I chose tarte fine.
What could be easier? Frozen puff pastry, sliced apples, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar, cream and egg and it's in the oven. It looks impressive, tastes fabulous, and carries you away to Paris. Which is where we'll be vacationing next month. We'll stock up on memories, buy many pastries at Pierre Herme, indulge in our favorite treats at La Maison du Chocolat, fill up on pain Poilane and their punitions, nut oils from J. LeBlanc (I'll definitely be trying the pistachio oil), fresh Maille mustards... And we'll surely have this tart in various guises.
The recipe truly couldn't be easier. Here are my suggestions:
- Unless your kitchen is very warm, get the puff pastry out and let it defrost as you peel and slice the apples. If your kitchen is hot, peel and slice the apples, toss them with a squeeze of lemon, then get out the puff pastry.
- I rolled my puff pastry on a Silpat with a sheet of parchment on top. That way, I didn't roll flour into the puff pastry. It's also easier clean up (laziness is one of my primary drivers). Don't think that the paper that separates the pieces of puff pastry is parchment and you can roll with that. Not that I made that mistake. Well, just once.
- As you roll the puff pastry, start from the middle and roll out toward the edge, but don't roll over the edge repeatedly. You want the pastry to puff around the edges and if it's been compressed by the rolling pin you'll get less lift.
- Move the puff pastry to a sheet pan before arranging the apples.
- I made the tart once with Golden Delicious apples, which Dorie recommends, and once with Gala apples. My Galas were a bit mealy and I had a lot of angst over using them. But they melted into the pastry and the mealiness was not detectable. My tasters liked the tart with Golden Delicious apples but LOVED the one with the Galas. Use whatever apples you like and adjust the sugar accordingly.
- The love of the Gala apple tart may have something to do with using Dorie's playing around suggestion for a sweeter tart: bits of butter, then a sprinkling of sugar on the pastry before arranging the apples. Then brush with melted butter and sprinkle with more sugar. Delicious!
- I didn't glaze either of my tarts, and nobody seemed to mind. The tart I made with the Golden Delicious apples (no butter) could have used a glaze but the version with butter didn't need it.
- If you live close to a Trader Joe's, rejoice! After 18 months of no puff pastry, they are finally stocking their excellent all-butter puff pastry again.
- Although apples are the classic topping for this tart, it should work equally well with any fruit that isn't excessively wet, such as pears or apricots.
- The technique can be just as easily used for savory tarts. Instead of dotting the puff pastry with butter, brush on a little pesto (basil or sun-dried tomato) and top with sliced Roma tomatoes, slivered basil and a sprinkling of cheese, or sliced artichoke hearts, olives and roasted red peppers.
Getting to pick the recipe was an emotional experience for me. This group, this cookbook, its author, and my fellow TWD bloggers all mean the world to me. Dorie is always with me in the kitchen. I imagine her calm, encouraging voice giving advice and reassurance when I need it most. Because of her book I have grown so much as a baker and tried things I never would have attempted before. Dorie, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this cookbook. The recipes I've tried from Around My French Table have exceeded my expectations. French Fridays with Dorie will be a new adventure, and I know you'll be there with me, calmly guiding and encouraging me.
This is Pearl, my co-author
Tarte Fine - makes 6 servings
Dorie says: In France, tarte fine is a chic, slender tart made from a slim layer of puff pastry topped with paper-thin slices of apple. In this country, it is often called apple pizza, a name that aptly describes the tart's looks, but not its elegance. In the end, the name is thoroughly unimportant--it's the taste and texture that mean something, and this tart gets a perfect score on those counts.
This tart is an easy treat to put together on short notice, since all it requires is store-bought puff pastry, a couple of apples, an egg, sugar and 15 minutes or less of active cutting and arranging.
The tart can be made with any sweet but lightly acidic apple, but I always make it with firm Golden Delicious apples, because they are most like the apples used for a tarte fine in France.
Note: Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets are available in every supermarket across the country. However, I can't encourage you enough to search out an all-butter puff pastry at a local specialty store. If the store doesn't carry frozen all-butter puff pastry, perhaps it will order it for you. The pastry I buy--which is so good I stopped making puff pastry at home--is made by Dufour pastry.
3 medium-size firm sweet apples, preferably Golden Delicious
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 sheet (about 8 ounces) frozen puff pastry, preferably all butter (see above), thawed
2 teaspoons milk or heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten with about 1/2 teaspoon water, for egg wash
3-4 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam, for glazing
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the apples, slice them in half lengthwise and core them. Cut the apples halves in half again and cut about 7 lengthwise slices from each quarter. Put the slices into a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice.
On a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, roll the sheet of puff pastry out into a rectangle that is about 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches. If the dough is warm, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes. If it's still cool, just lift the paper or mat and place it on a baking sheet. Arrange the apple slices in slightly overlapping rows on the pastry, making sure to leave a border of 1/4 to 1/2 inch bare. Brush the borders lightly with the milk or cream, then brush the egg wash over the apple slices. Sprinkle the apples and the borders with the sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden around the edges and the apples are soft and brown at the borders. Remove from the oven. If you want the edges of the apples to be even darker, you can run the tart under the broiler; be very careful not to overbake the pastry border. (To avoid burning the edges, you can cover the perimeter of the tart with aluminum foil.)
Boil the jam with a smidgen of water until it liquifies, then brush the glaze over the apples (if the jam has any chunks of apricot in it, avoid them).
Serve the tart hot or warm.
If you'd like a sweeter tart, before you arrange the apple layer, scatter 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits, over the pastry rectangle and sprinkle over 2 tablespoons sugar. Omit the egg wash, and once the apples are in place, brush them with 3-4 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons sugar. Bake and glaze the tart as directed.