Happy Sunday, everyone! Since we made the Salty Nut Tart a few weeks back with our fellow Dessert People, our next bake from the Pies and Tarts chapter of the book was Claire’s Apple Tart. The base of this tart was another Foundational Recipe (the Rough Puff Pastry), which means we were able to check off recipes 23 and 24. Almost a quarter of the way through!
Hello to all and happy belated Father’s Day! (And happy belated posting because yesterday a lot of babies wanted to be born). This week we made Claire’s Apple Tart with…wait for it…Rough Puff Pastry! Now, as a long-time fan of Great British Bake-Off but not a super experienced baker, I would hear the term “rough puff” said multiple times a season and watch with wonderment at the creations. Julia and I were both so excited to make our first rough puff and really start to step into the light of “real” bakers like the ones we love to watch on TV. With that excitement came some doubt, some questioning, some cheering, and a whole lot of butter.
At the core (pun intended) of this recipe, there isn’t a lot to it. You make a pastry, make a compote, slice some apples and bake. Time management is a good thing to have on your side when deciding when you’re going to do this bake because the rough puff pastry does need to be chilled a couple times before it’s ready to be shaped. The first component is to make the rough puff. This was actually easier than I thought, which was a comforting surprise. You start by freezing 1.5 sticks of butter and the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt), and then refrigerating the other 1.5 sticks of butter cut into thin slices. Once the butter from the freezer is firm, you grate it into the dry ingredients and toss together. Then you add the sliced butter for the fridge and slowly add ice water until the dough comes together. As Claire states in the recipe, this dough is meant to look and feel quite dryer than your average pie dough so I really had to restrain myself from adding more water. You then place the clumps of dough in plastic wrap, mold into a square and refrigerate for 2 hours. After that, you do the folds.
(Duh, duh, duuuuuuuh). Full honesty, this was the part I messed up. You take the chilled dough out of the fridge, let it warm up a touch, hit it with the rolling pin and then roll it out into a long rectangle, and then do the letter fold. You then rotate the dough 90 degrees and do it again. Once you’ve done that you cut the folded dough in half and should be able to see thin lines of dough throughout. After my first go, I did not. I mistakenly rolled it out too thin the first time and I think I folded it the wrong way the second? Either way, wasn’t pretty. So I let the dough chill for a bit longer and did it all over again, and this time, I had thin lines. They weren’t super distinguishable but they were there so I decided to go for it.
This recipe only calls for half of the rough puff recipe, so I put half in the fridge to chill for my apple tart and the other half in the freezer for later. While the dough was chilling, I made the compote. This was so enjoyable because it just smelt so damn good. You put brown sugar, salt, and butter in the pot on the stove, and once it thickens add some chopped Pink Lady apples. Once these apples start to caramelize, you add some apple cider and let the mixture reduce while stirring and mashing up the apples. Eventually, you start to get what looks like a chunky applesauce, that looks and smells and tastes so delicious. Tears were wept for this applesauce it was so good. Once the applesauce compote is ready, you let it chill in the fridge with the dough.
The next step is to thinly slice the apples for the top of the tart. Claire describes a very easy method in which you cut the apple in four segments around the core, which is maybe the simplest way I have been taught to core an apple (#claireforthewin). You end up with TONS of apple slices and trust, I don’t think you need this much. I sliced the remaining three apples which was dictated in the recipe, but I think you could safety get away with only using two and probably still have some left over. By the time my apples were sliced, my dough had chilled long enough. You roll it out into a roughly 13 by 9 inch rectangle, place it on a baking sheet, and then perforate holes all around the dough, leaving a one inch border all the way around. Along the border, you brush with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Inside the border, you place your cold apple sauce (mine was not cold enough and I think melted some butter in the pastry so please be more patient than me). And then on top of that, you fan out your apple slices, and brush those with some melted butter and apple cider. At this stage, the tart already looks so beautiful and each component visually compliments each other so well.
Then you bake! I was very nervous and watched like a hawk this round after burning my galette, and I found that after 40 minutes my tart was done and nicely golden brown on the outside. In retrospect, I do think I under-baked a tad but it still looked great and I could see LAYERS in the pastry! Nothing has ever brought me more joy. Except for when I tasted it. Friends, this tart was unreal. The pastry was so flaky and buttery. The compote was not too sweet or too tart, and the apples on top just really completed the whole thing. I don’t know if I can even truly describe how good this dessert tasted; you really just have to make it and experience it. I must say too, it was nice to be introduced to our first pastry dough in an otherwise fairly simple recipe, so mad ups to Claire for that. This tart was everything and I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy it someday. Definitely a 5 star from me!
Apple desserts must be one of the most comforting things in the world! Friday happened to be a super grey, rainy day here in North Bay so even though apples don’t necessarily scream summer, it felt like the perfect time to make this recipe. The photo of this tart in the book is so beautiful, and Claire’s description of her time in culinary school in Paris going to cafes and buying fancy apple pastries (I love bougey Claire) totally set the vibe to take on this bake. I had never made Rough Puff before, and have heard that homemade puff pastry is something most people opt out of, just because it’s so much work and the frozen versions you can buy are just as good, so I was a little nervous but also very excited to take it on!
The pastry itself took 3-4 hours start to finish. Everything starts off SUPER cold—flour, sugar, salt, and half the butter sit in the freezer for about 20 minutes while the other half of the butter is sliced thinly and refrigerated. The frozen butter is grated into the dry ingredients first, and then the slices are tossed in; the two textures of butter help to create extra flakiness in the dough. The buttery dough comes together slowly with some ice water; I was surprised at how dry the dough still felt and was worried I’d done something wrong, but I resisted the urge to add too much water and just wrapped the pieces of dough together tightly in plastic like Claire suggests. Once it’s all wrapped up and pressed into a square shape, it sits in the fridge for 2 hours. Once the cooled dough is unwrapped and rolled out, you can see how the butter sets and brings the shaggy dough together into something smooth and really easy to work with.
The pastry then goes through a series of “turn and folds”—roll the dough out into a long rectangle, do an envelope fold, turn it 90 degrees, roll it out again into a long rectangle, do another envelope fold, then re-wrap the square and let it set in the fridge for another hour. After this final set, which helps the gluten relax so your dough doesn’t spring back too much, the square is cut in half and is ready to use; Claire’s recipe makes enough dough for two tarts; if I was going to go through all the work of making this pastry, I figured I may as well make the full batch, and now I have one sheet frozen and ready to use for a future bake!
Cutting the block of pastry in half was such a fun moment because that’s the first time you get to see how well your turn and folds worked out. Pulling the two pieces apart and seeing all of those thin, tiny little layers built into the dough is so cool and SO satisfying. It’s amazing what you can get just by combining butter and flour together and folding it a bunch of times. As our other sister said to me when I was explaining this process: “Who figured out how to do all this stuff?” I googled it and his name was Claude Gelée; apparently he made the first laminated dough in 1645 and it was a total accident—in case anyone was curious 😉 Thanks, Claude!
I used all the fridge setting time with the pastry to prep the other components of the tart. The compote layer comes together with chunks of apple (I used Pink Lady like Claire recommends, but you could easily use any apple), brown sugar, butter, vanilla, some salt, and then—once the chunks have softened a bit—some apple cider. The mixture comes to a boil, the apple is broken down with a potato masher, and then gets cooked down until there is no moisture left. This takes a while, but what you’re left with is a really caramelized, super golden applesauce. I would make just this on its own again. My house smelled amazingggg.
When the pastry is ready to go, it’s rolled into a rectangle, the edges are trimmed and then brushed with egg wash and some sugar, and then the middle of the tart is covered with a layer of the compote. Thin slices of apple are arranged on top and brushed with melted butter and apple cider, and then the whole tart bakes for about 40 minutes. I’ve learned to really watch my oven and usually opt for the lower end of suggested cooking time in the book with these pastries (total opposite of the loaves and single layer cakes, where everything needed longer).
I took the little trimmed off edges and put those in the oven too as a tester/snack, and let me tell you, never as there been a more thrilling moment then when I pulled those little pieces out and saw how they’d puffed up and created the most amazing, flaky layers. Fast forward 40 minutes after that, and pulling out the beautiful tart and seeing the amazing results on that puff pastry was so, so rewarding. I could not believe I had made this thing!
THIS. TART. WAS. SO. GOOD. I felt like I was sitting in one of those little cafes in Paris being bougey with my girl Claire. Very few things that I’ve made in the past have made me feel as proud as this one has. The pastry was so buttery and incredibly flaky, the compote was so rich in flavour, and the layer of glazed apple broke up the richness and added a nice, fresher crunch. I would eat this tart every day for the rest of my life. 5 stars!!
Next week, we’re making another summer favourite: Caramelized Honey Pumpkin Pie 😉