One French Word: gascon, a French recipe: Pastis gascon
This is the most spectacular apple tart you ever saw. Simple enough once you have practised a little; you will astonish everyone, even yourself. And there are apples galore this autumn thanks to our lovely summer.
But you must use filo pastry, nothing else (unless you are clever enough to make the real pastry they make, or used to make, in Gascony) to make this wonderful dessert.
I can’t remember where I found the recipe – I have been making it for years, but certainly didn’t invent it. All you need is filo pastry, butter, apples, sugar and ideally armagnac, since that comes from Gascony. I use calvados, apple alcohol from Normandy, because it enhances the apple flavour of the whole. Don’t skimp on the alcohol (but don’t drown the pastry either). The spirits will evaporate in the cooking, so even for children will no longer be noticeable, but the flavour will remain.
The French language bit:
gascon (m.), gasconne (f.), adjective = from Gascony (add an s to either in the plural, but never pronounce that s)
Gascon can also denote an inhabitant of Gascony, or someone who originated there, and also the language of the area. Gascony is actually an ancient region, the boundaries of which often changed. It occupies the farthest south-west corner of France, roughly from Bordeaux to Toulouse and everything south of there to the Pyrenees. It conjures up musketeers and bon vivants (people who eat and live well). It is a land of robust wines, armagnac, ducks and geese, and rugbymen.
Pastis means pie in Gascon (same as the Cornish pasty I should imagine).
Ingredients for 4 to 6 people in a 25cm tart dish
- 1 packet of filo pastry (Filo pastry is extremely fragile, it dries out really fast and is impossible to work with then as it starts to break up. If you have any left, re-wrap it quickly and freeze it.)
- About 4-6 apples (I used golden delicious and a few a friend gave me, merci Christine). They must not “melt” in the cooking.
- Sugar (about a small tsp per layer)
- About 75gr melted butter (du beurre fondu)
- Some armagnac or calvados (about a tsp per layer)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- Melt the butter.
- Peel, core and quarter the apples.
- Brush the tart dish with melted butter.
- Open the pack of filo pastry and put two sheets into the bottom of the dish, at angles to each other (see photos). Brush with melted butter (even the pastry that overlaps the dish and is hanging outside). Work fast, so that the filo does not dry out.
- Finely slice apples over the layer of pastry, to a depth of about 1/4″ (about one and a half apples). The finer the slices the further the apple goes and the quicker it cooks. Sprinkle with a little sugar, and about a tsp alcohol.
- Start again, put two sheets of filo at right angles, brush liberally with melted butter, slice apples, sprinkle with sugar and alcohol.
- And again (this is the third layer of pastry),brush with butter, add apples, sugar, alcohol.
- Brush all the pastry hanging outside the dish with butter. Gather it up artistically, over the last layer of apple, and if you have any pastry left over, use one sheet to make a sort of “rose” in the middle. Brush again with melted butter to make sure the underside of the extraneous pastry and the central rose are covered.
- Pop it into the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, watching it closely. It should be golden all over, no uncooked, unbrowned patches of filo.
- This tart should be served warm, but is also fine cold. But don’t put it in the fridge, it will go soggy and the butter will congeal. Don’t serve cream or ice cream for the same reason (soggy).
Now tell me honestly, even though some of my photos are not brilliant, have you ever seen such an extraordinary apple tart?