Autumn is my favourite time of year. It always reminds me of starting Medical School and exciting new beginnings. From a baking perspective, I think it’s my favourite season for ingredients. It just feels a bit easier to come up with fresh seasonal things. Fruit like apples, pears and plums work well in all sorts of comforting baked deliciousness. A good apple tart is the best example of a great Autumn dessert.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips. Work this until you have a fine breadcrumb texture. Alternatively pulse the flour and butter together in a food processor.
- Add the salt and egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of the water. Either mix by hand or pulse again in the food processor, until the pastry comes together. You may need a little extra water to create a smooth mix.
- Tip the mix out onto a work surface and knead briefly until you have a smooth ball of pastry. Cover in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar and flour. Add a splash of the milk to allow you to create a smooth paste.
- Warm the remaining milk in a small pan with the vanilla. Just before the milk comes to the boil, pour it - whisking all the time – into the egg, flour and sugar mix.
- Pass this mix through a sieve back into the milk pan and return to the heat. Warm gently, stirring all the time. The mixture will start to thicken. I alternate between using a spatula and a whisk to give a smooth texture. Keep cooking the creme patissiere until you have a thick curd-like consistency.
- Tip the mix into a clean bowl and cover the surface directly with cling film. This stops a skin forming. Place in the fridge until cool.
- Butter and lightly dust with flour your tart ring or flan case.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and give it a brief knead to warm it up. If the pastry is too cold it will crack as you roll it out. Roll out to a thickness of 2-3mm and line your tart case. Trim off any excess pastry.
- Fill the bottom of the case with the creme patissiere.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan.
- Peel and core the apples and cut in half from top to bottom. Slice the halved apples into 2-3mm thick slices. Arrange these overlapping on top of the creme patissiere.
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Check the tart regularly as it bakes. You may need to cover the top of it with some foil. If the apples are sliced thinly they have a tendency to burn around the edges. Because the pastry isn’t blind baked first, it can be tricky to balance the cooking of the apples with making sure the pastry is cooked through.
- Once cooled, brush with a little melted apricot jam or neutral glaze (lots of recipes online) to give the tart a shiny finish.
200g Plain Flour
100g Cold Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
1 Egg Yolk
1-2 Tablespoons of Cold Water
400mls Whole Milk
4 Egg Yolks
100g Caster Sugar
45g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extra
3-4 Eating Apples. Something tart works best, e.g. Granny Smith
28cm Tart Ring or Flan Case
Tim’s Top Tip
Instead of filling with creme patissiere first you can use some stewed apples. Using the same or a contrasting apple. Cook down some chunks of peeled and cored apple with a small amount of water and brown sugar to taste. Spread this on the base underneath the apple slices.
I like to add a tablespoon of dark rum to creme patissiere. In this tart, it adds an extra caramel adult taste to the tart.
A really good apple tart is one of the harder patisserie skills. To get them right you probably need a commercial deck oven. Those ovens cook the bases of these tarts in a way that is hard to replicate at home. Some recipes suggest baking at a much higher temperature for only 20-30 minutes, baking the tart on a pizza stone.
It is the law and you must serve this with creme fraiche. No custard here folks.