Last Friday, I finally gave in and got a big slice of caramel apple pie from a local cafe. It was welcome, if not entirely needed; it's just been one of those weeks.
I admit I'm guilty of stress-eating sometimes. Like this week, for instance, I've gone through quite a bit of sugar (let's not even talk about the chocolate) and have been craving pie. To me, pie is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Warm, sweet, buttery. Crumbly and homely, so you don't have any qualms about just digging in with a fork.
Mid-November always brings a few weeks of extreme stress at college; I think it's the combination of the last round of papers and midterms of the semesters, the onset of final exam and final papers preparation, plus a slew of elections for most of the major student elections. It's one of those moments when it hits me that I really am at Harvard, surrounded by people who are used to having straight As and being president of all their extracirriculars. It's generally quite inspiring, but at times like this, it can all seem rather overwhelming.
Anyways, I'm posting this recipe for French Apple Tart that I made a couple of months ago, right before I came to school, in the last lazy days of summer. It's a lighter, more sophisticated take on American apple pie. I hesitate to use the word "light" - it implies some sort of tasteless diet food, which this is not. It simply tastes like...apple. Apple, and buttery pastry. If you're looking for an alternative to traditional Thanksgiving pie, this is it. It's sure to impress, yet surprisingly easy to make.
Give this one a try; it's definitely a keeper. It's perfect for a fancy dinner, or if you're looking for a tart without the sticky syrup of apple pie filling. Or simply because you could really do with a slice of something sweet and warm.
For the crust
½ cup butter, cubed
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
¼ cup water
4 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
For the Apple Compote Filling
6 medium apples, such as Gala, Golden Delicious or Honeycrisp
⅓ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Topping
3 medium apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon hot water
Preheat the oven to 410 F.
Place the butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt in an oven-proof bowl. Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until the mixture is boiling and the edges turn golden brown.
Carefully take the bowl out of the oven, and even more carefully, add the flour and mix until incorporated and it forms a soft dough. (The butter/water mixture will spit when you add the flour, so do not lean directly over it!)
Let cool for about 15 minutes. Scoop the dough into a tart pan, and let cool for another 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, make the apple compote. Peel and dice the apples, then place them in a medium pot with the water and sugar. Cook the apples over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the apples have stewed down to a paste. Stir every 15 minutes or so and add some water if the mixture becomes too dry. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until just warm.
Using your hands, shape the dough around the tart pan. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Bake the tart at 410 degrees F for about 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden-brown.
Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 F. Spread the apple compote evenly over the crust.
Thinly slice the three apples for the topping. Toss the slices in lemon juice. Arrange them on top of the compote; start from the outer edge, overlapping the slices slightly, and work your way in . Bake the tart for about 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of the apple slices on top turn golden brown.
Mix together the apricot jam and hot water, and brush over the top of the tart. Let cool until warm, then serve.