Pomme, feminine noun (la pomme, une pomme, des pommes) = apple (pronounced pom, no s is heard in the plural).
We have already had gâteau aux pommes = apple cake, but there is also un pommier = an apple tree, and from there we could go on to un verger = an orchard, du cidre = apple cider, du jus de pomme = apple juice.
Today’s recipe is for apple tart = une tarte aux pommes, a real classic of French cuisine.
For about 6 people you will need :
- A pack of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), this time don’t buy a round, rolled up version, but a block, so that you can roll it square (don’t skimp on quality, buy the most expensive you can, pure butter, or you’ll spoil the whole recipe). If you can’t get puff pastry, buy or make shortcrust pastry.
- About 6 Golden Delicious apples (but buy a few more just in case; Golden Delicious are good because they don’t go mushy)
- About 6 apples to make stewed apple (I’m not good on Anglo Saxon varieties, I use Reinette Grise du Canada, a little grey green apple that makes fluffy stewed apple)
- Icing sugar
- A vanilla pod
- Peel, core and stew the stewing apples. You don’t really need very much for this recipe, but stewed apple is always good to eat later with cream, and it also freezes well. Don’t be tempted to use tinned apple purée whatever you do! Put a couple of tbs water in the bottom of the pan, add the pieces of apple. No sugar is needed. Put the lid on the saucepan and either shake or stir from time to time.
- Split open your vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and black pulp, and add it to your compôte (stewed apple) towards the end of the cooking time.
- Stewed apple takes no time at all to do, so keep an eye on it or it will burn and stick to the pan. Leave to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- Roll out your puff pastry to form roughly a 35cm square (doesn’t matter if it is smaller, the portions will not be as big, that’s all). Roll up a couple of centimetres or fold inwards to form a ridge all round the edge to prevent the stewed apple from escaping later on. Place it on a baking tray. Prick all over with a fork.
- Quarter, peel and core the Golden Delicious. In that order. Make a neat V when coring, this will make more attractive slices. As you go, put the apple quarters into a large bowl of cold water with a little lemon juice which will prevent them from discolouring.
- Spread a thin layer of compôte onto the puff pastry square, inside the boundary line. Thin – about 3mm thick.
- Remove the apple quarters from the water and dry. Slice finely, really finely, about 2mm, and place the slices horizontally along one edge of the tart, overlapping. Continue slicing and overlapping the slices until you reach the opposite edge. It makes a sort of fish-scaley pattern.
- Pop the tart in the oven for about 15 minutes. Now a word about your oven: if you have the possibility of a setting which heats the underside of your tart at the same time as cooking the rest, use that. The problem with puff pastry with a filling on top is that often, the bottom doesn’t get cooked enough and the top burns. Try to use a baking tray with holes in it, so that the heat is better distributed from underneath. Fan ovens are better for this too. Anyway, keep your eye on your tart all the time, without opening the oven too often if possible. It doesn’t matter if the edges of the apple start to turn deep brown, or if the top edges of the pastry do too, the trick is to get it just so that the top is not too burnt and the bottom is cooked through.
- Take the tart out of the oven and immediately, but immediately, sprinkle with a layer of icing sugar. You can do this by putting a tbs or two into a sieve and shaking it over your tart, or rubbing the sugar through the sieve with a spoon. The sugar will melt if the tart is hot enough, and will glaze it. Another more complicated method of glazing is to dilute a little apricot jam with a drop of water so that it is of a consistency that allows you to brush it over the top of your tart with a pastry brush. While the tart is still very hot. This is called “abricoter” in French. To apricot!
- Leave to cool and cut into half one way, then into thirds the other way : 6 portions! In France we serve apple tart as is, no vanilla ice cream.