As I wrote last night, I've been cranking out tarts lately. And this particular decorative pastry wins the prestigious Tart Triple Crown: seasonal, eye-catching, and delicious.
It's also fairly simple to make, provided that you're not one of the many people out there harboring an irrational fear of pie dough. If you are one of those people, calm down, take a deep breath: I got you covered.
Pie dough isn't so tough once you know the trick: keep everything cold. The butter, the shortening, the water -- all of it has to be chilled. When you work with cold ingredients and keep everything in a constant state of refrigeration, you'll get a pie dough that is flaky, tender, and delicious. It requires time, so plan ahead.
Once you nail it, you'll be able to make a tart like this, which is itself tart from the Granny Smith apples and lemon juice that go into the filling, and quite handsome owing to the top layer of blackened apple slices.
Recipe (from Baking With Julia) after the jump.
2 3/4 cups flour, plus 2 tbsp
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
5 1/2 oz vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the chilled butter and shortening. Pulse until the fats are cut and incorporated and the mixture starts to resemble moist corn meal. Remove to a large bowl.
Adding about a tablespoon of water at a time, mix with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together into moist clumps and curds. It should stick when pressed together, but not be overly tacky. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a rounded disc and wrap tightly with plastic. (You should be able to see small chunks of butter in the dough). Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes.
Forming the tart shell
Roll out one disc of pie dough into a 12-inch round. I've found that the easiest way to do this is to lay down a sheet of parchment paper, place the dough in the center, cover with a sheet of plastic, and then start rolling. When the dough has been rolled out, flip it so the plastic is on the bottom and peel off the parchment. Then lift up the dough with the plastic underneath and flip it onto a fluted tart pan. Peel off the plastic and carefully press the dough to the shape of the pan. Trim off any excess. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400. Remove tart pan from refrigerator and prick the bottom of the dough lightly with a fork several times. Line the dough with parchment or foil and weigh down with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and set the tart shell aside to cool completely.
6 Granny Smith apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp lemon juice (or less)
Lower the oven to 375.
Peel and core the apples. Cut each apple in half, and cut each half into 12 slices. Place the apple slices in a large bowl with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and bread crumbs. Toss to combine. Add the lemon juice to taste.
Spread the apple slices on a foil-lined jelly roll pan and place in oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples start to give up their juices and soften. Remove from the oven and return the slices to the large bowl. Roughly mash the apples with a wooden spoon until they form a thick paste, being sure to leave some lumps for texture. Set aside.
Assembling the tart
3 Granny Smith apples
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp sugar
Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into quarters lengthwise, and cut each quarter into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices in a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
When the tart shell has cooled completely, spoon the filling into the shell, filling it almost to the top, leaving about 1/4-inch of space. Make sure the filling is spread flat and evenly.
Starting at the outer edge, lay a circle of overlapping apple slices all the way around the tart. Stick as close to the edge as possible, as the apples will shrink slightly in the oven. When the outer circle is complete, lay the inner circle, which should just slightly overlap the inner edge of the outer circle. When all is said and done, the entire filling should be covered with apple slices.
After the apple slices have been laid down, brush them lightly with the melted butter, and then dust everything with the sugar. Place the assembled tart in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tips of the apple slices start to blacken. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.