Crisp pastry, tender and glistening cinnamon-scented apples and an aroma to knock your socks off, this is my most favorite way to make an apple tart and it’s the one I created in hopes of getting you to try something that is usually left to the professionals. The most important thing to remember is to slice the apples very thin, about 1/8-inch thick and shingle them from one top corner of the pastry down to the opposite bottom corner, in very snug and slightly overlapping diagonal rows. If you run out of apples when applying them to the unbaked pastry, you’ll know you sliced them too thick. If you have one or two slices leftover, it’s just right.
I hope you and your family love this dessert (which is also a wonderful morning pastry) as much as we do. Enjoy! (Oh, and check out the peach variation, given at the end of the recipe!)
- Food processor or hand-held pastry blender; for the pastry
- Rolling pin; preferably tapered and without ball-bearings
- Pastry wheel to trim pastry; use a sharp knife as a substitute
- Pizza stone; optional, use a heavy flat cookie sheet (not cushioned) as a substitute
- Parchment paper
- Pizza peel; optional, use a flat cookie sheet as a substitute
- Reamer (or other juice extracting device)
- Sturdy vegetable peeler
- Apple corer or melon-ball scoop; to core the apples
- 2 or 3 soft pastry brushes
- Pizza wheel (cutter); optional, use a sharp knife, as a substitute
For the pastry
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 generous tablespoons well-chilled solid vegetable shortening
- Ice water, as needed
- Egg-wash: 1 egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water and strained
- 3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large Golden Delicious apples (or 8 peaches, if making that variation)
- About 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (or vanilla-cinnamon sugar)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Apricot glaze: ½ cup apricot preserves mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Fresh Peach Variation
Instead of apples, remove the skin and stones from 8 medium (preferably free-stone) peaches. Cut each half into quarters and place, as you would the apples, on the pastry (You're using more fruit because you won't be slicing as thin. Position the slices as snug as possible on the pastry. Because of the nature of the type of fruit, this will not be as uniform looking as the tart made with apples. (I'm telling you this so you don't make yourself crazy...) You can omit the cinnamon sugar and just use regular sugar but this is optional. Keep all other instructions the same. You can use peach preserves instead of apricot, if you choose.
To assemble the pastry and chill
Put the flour, salt and sugar into your food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Whirl the dry ingredients together for 30 seconds, until combined. Add the frozen butter cubes along with the bits of shortening. Pulse to cut the fat into the flour until it’s well distributed and the pieces are the size of peas. Pour in 1/4 cup of the ice-cold water. Pulse until the mixture in the bowl just starts to come together. Stop the machine and test several areas by gently pinching a piece of dough with your fingers (always unplug your food processor, before inserting your fingers into the work-bowl). The dough should feel moist, but not wet and should hold together when pressed gently between two fingers. If dough seems overly dry or mealy, drizzle on a little more water on those dry areas only and pulse, just to incorporate the added moisture. Be sure to check several areas of the dough before adding more liquid. Depending on your bag of flour and the humidity in the air (that day), you should need between 1/3 and 1/2 cup liquid, total.
Dump the dough out on to a large criss-cross of plastic wrap and place the exposed ends of the wrap over the dough. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and, after wrapping it securely, chill the dough for 1 hour (or up to 2 days) before using. This dough also freezes perfectly for 2 months when wrapped and placed in a labeled heavy-duty freezer bag. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator, in its original wrapping, overnight. Let the dough sit out of refrigeration for 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding.
To prepare the oven
Preheat the oven to 425F with a pizza stone placed on the center shelf (no rack should be above the pizza stone). Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes more. Alternatively, if not using a pizza stone, place a flat (not cushioned) heavy cookie sheet (one without sides) into the oven to heat as you would a stone.
To roll out the dough
Place two overlapping sheets of wax paper on your counter and sprinkle it lightly, but evenly, with flour. Place the unwrapped dough on the center of the floured paper and sprinkle more flour on top. Place two more overlapping sheets of wax paper on top of the dough and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, 1/8-inch thick. Take off top sheets of paper and trim the edges using a fluted pastry wheel (or use a knife) to even the sides. Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the trimmed dough, then place a baker’s peel (or a flat cookie sheet) on top of the paper and invert the dough so parchment paper is now underneath the pastry, which is now resting on top of the baker’s peel. Peel the wax paper off the top of the dough and brush off any surrounding flour. Fold in sides to create a border of pastry all the way around (1/2 inch wide), then slide the parchment holding the pastry onto a baking sheet and then in the refrigerator or freezer (covered with plastic wrap).
To prepare the apples
Place the lemon juice and vanilla into a nonreactive mixing bowl. Peel the apples and roll them in the lemon juice. Core the apples using an apple corer or cut each apple in half, through the stem end and remove the seed cavities on each half, using the small receptacle on a melon scoop. Use a pastry brush to paint some lemon juice inside the, now empty, cavities. Place each apple half on its side and slice very thin (no more than 1/8 inch thick (cut from side to side, not from cored top to bottom). Place all slices into the bowl with the lemon juice and toss to coat.
To assemble the tart and bake
Take pastry out of the refrigerator or freezer. Place the apple slices on the pastry, beginning in one of the top corners of the border and shingle the apples in a very tight overlapping pattern so there is no pastry bottom visible. You should use all of the apples. If you have any leftover, tuck them into a spot that seems a bit empty (apples should be very snug). Brush the border of pastry with the egg wash and, if desired, use the dull side of a paring knife to make a criss-cross design over the egg wash. Brush the top of the fruit all over with the melted butter (use all of it) and then sprinkle the top of the fruit generously with cinnamon sugar (to keep the rim of pastry from burning in the oven, try to keep the sugar on the fruit and only very minimally on the pastry rim).
Drag the parchment holding the unbaked galette onto a baker’s peel (or onto a flat cookie sheet) and place into the preheated oven, directly on top of the hot pizza stone (or hot baking sheet) and bake the galette at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for 5 minutes more. Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for 5 more minutes, or until the pastry is very golden and the fruit is tender and caramelized around the edges.
Baking Note: I use a convection mode. If you use a conventional bake mode, you might need to bake the galette longer to achieve the correct degree of color and crispness.
To assemble apricot glaze
While the tart is in the oven, heat the apricot preserves with the water in a small saucepan, over low-medium heat and bring it to a bubble. Let become totally liquid, stirring frequently, then pour this through a small, medium-mesh sieve that sits over another bowl. Use a spoon or a sturdy rubber spatula to force as much of the preserves through the holes of the sieve as you can (scrape it off the bottom of the sieve) and set the glaze aside. (I have a small, electric device (a mini food processor works well) that I use to puree the liquified preserves. I then force through a strainer.)
To glaze the galette and serve
Use the peel to remove the galette from the oven and place on a wire rack. While the galette is still hot, gently paint the cooked fruit generously and evenly with the apricot glaze so it glistens. Let the galette cool until just warm or reheat briefly before serving alone, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. To cut the galette into individual portions, run a sharp pizza wheel down the center, lengthwise, and then cut the halves crosswise into thirds or fourths.