I often think that a simple fruit desert is my very favorite, and this rustic apple tart is high on that list. I'm not sure that this photograph really does it justice, however, since the whole point is that it's homemade, this certainly looks the part. Oh, if you could just smell it, you'd know that this is a scrumptuous treat that will end any meal on a splendidly high note. Perhaps part of the reason I like it so much, is the anticipation. I have to plan to make it, for at least a couple of days, because it is made with creme fraiche, for which I am way too cheap to pay the exorbitant asking price in the local gourmet market. You see, not normally known to economize when it comes to ingredients, I made the mistake of discovering just how easy creme fraiche is to make, and therefore can't bring myself to buy it anymore. Instead, when I get the wild hare to make this tart, I buy some preferably whole milk buttermilk and some whipping cream. When I get home, I put a couple of tablespoons of the buttermilk into a glass bowl with a couple of cups of cream in it, stir it gently and pop it into my oven set to "proof". Like alchemy, 24 hours later I have a great big bowl of creme frache, which, let me just say, is a pretty magical and empowering thing to know you can do.
But I digress. This tart is well worth the wait, plus, you'll have lots of extra creme fraiche at the end of it to dollop all over the place. And you know what's wrong with that? Nothing.
Tarte aux Pommes a la Creme
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water
Place 1 cup of flour, the butter, sugar and salt in a food processor. Process just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together, about 6 to 8 times. Do not let it form a ball. Transfer the pastry to waxed paper; flatten the dough into a disk. Wrap the pastry in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a 10 1/2-inch loose bottomed tart pan. With your fingertips, carefully press the pastry into the pan and up the side, trying not to stretch it. Trim the overhang, leaving about a 1-inch edge. Tuck this overhand inside the pan, pressing gently against the side to create a sturdy, double-sided shell. If you build the pastry a bit highter than the height of the pan, you will have less problem with shrinkage. Prick the bottom of the shell. Chill for at least 20 minutes .
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell loosely with heavy-duty foil, pressing well into the edges so the pastry doesn't shrink while baking. Fill with baking weights making sure you get all the way into the edges, to prevent shrinkage.
Bake just until the pastry begins to brown around the edges and seems firm enough to stand up by itself, about 20 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and continue baking until lightly browned all over, about 10 miore minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before filling.
To make the tart:
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup creme fraiche
5 tablespoons sugar
4 apples, like Granny Smith or Pink Lady (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Preheat oven to 375 unless it is still on from making the crust, in which case, just keep it on.
Place the egg yolks in a big bowl and beat with a fork. Add thecreme fraiche and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Mix until well blended and set aside.
Peel and core the apples, cut them in half. Cut each half into quartes. Starting just inside the edge of hte pastry shell, neatly layer the apple slices--slightly overlapping them--in 2 or 3 concentric circles, working toward the center. Pour the cream mixture over the apples. Sprinkle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake the tart in the center of the cream filling is set and the apples are very brown, even slightly blackened at the edges, about 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
--Adapted from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells