apple tarts

go directly to the recipe

Did I mention that the apple tarts that my sister made for our recent Thanksgiving dinner were fantastic? (Hmmmm, did my brother-in-law take a photo of those too?) She had made Tartelettes aux Pommes Lionel Poilâne from one of Patricia Wells’ cookbooks and after I begged, she kindly sent us a copy of the recipe so we could make some apple tarts ourselves.

Last week I phoned her for a clarification about the recipe and said I was making tarts that day. This morning I received this e-mail:

At 10:42 PM 10/16/2005 -0400, my sister wrote:
> How did the apple tarts turn out? I’ve
> been waiting and waiting for a report.

Egad!! She’s right. I have been remiss. I have to report about our apple tart making adventure.

As soon as our pumpkin pie was finished, we raced to the vegetable and fruit market to buy some apples. We got 5 apples of various kinds. (My sister used a combination of Royal Gala and Granny Smith.) I’m not sure what we ended up getting but think we chose Gala, Golden Delicious, Jona Gold and possibly an Empire. And we made some tarts.

My sister had basically followed the Poilâne recipe to the letter except she used a milk wash instead of the egg wash called for. She also added some lemon zest to the apples – I believe she said she likes to add lemon zest to everything. We decided to leave that out entirely, not because we didn’t think it was a good idea but simply because we didn’t have any lemons. We also omitted the sprinkling of brown sugar at the end. And we strayed just a little further by using unbleached all-purpose flour, even though there is a specific note to use bleached:

all purpose flour (do not use unbleached)

I can’t even begin to imagine why it would be so necessary to avoid using unbleached flour! We used unbleached because that is all we have. I never buy bleached all-purpose flour if I can help it.

And so, we made six tarts. The apple filling is made basically the same way that fried apples are made. The only difference is that we did not add any ginger or cinnamon. The pastry was quite different from any pastry I’ve made before and did require some faith to continue without adding more water. It was SO crumbly!! And it seemed SO odd to pour the crumbly mixture onto waxed paper and hope that it would miraculously turn into pastry in the fridge. But (oh me of little faith) it did. And beautiful pastry it was too. In baking the tarts, I got nervous about burning and as a result, undercooked them a little. After they had cooled completely, we turned the oven on and baked them for 15 minutes more. This did not seem to harm them in any way. In fact, I wonder if they shouldn’t always be twice baked… (just kidding!) And at last, we could have our tarts and eat them too!

On the first night, we gilded the lily and each had one tart at room temperature with whipped cream (still some heavy cream left over from our pumpkin pie fest) Brilliant!! The next night we diverged. I had mine heated and unadorned and T had his at room temperature with the last of the whipped cream. Brilliant again! In fact, I thought unadorned was almost more brilliant. The taste of the apples really shone.

And last night we ate the last two tarts. Both of us heated them up. I ate mine unadorned again and T had his with thinly sliced cheddar. Which seems like a very good idea. Next time I’ll have to try that.

Oh wait. In order to have a next time, we’ll have to get more apples! Guess what suddenly appeared on today’s grocery list!

Here’s what we did:

Six Apple Tarts
(based on Tartelettes aux Pommes Lionel Poilâne in one of the Patricia Wells’ cookbooks)


  • 1¼ to 1½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ c unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1⅛ tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp ice water


  • 5 apples (Gala, Golden Delicious, Jona Gold…)
  • ¼ c unsalted butter
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten (or milk)
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar


  1. For the pastry: About an hour before you want to make the tarts, put 1¼ cup of flour, the butter, sugar and salt into a food processor.
  2. Whir for a short time until it looks like coarse crumbs. (takes no time at all)
  3. Add the ice water and pulse until the pastry begins to
    hold together (about 8 pulses).
  4. Pour the crumbs into a pile on some waxed paper. Put another piece of waxed paper over top and press the pile into a disc. (Wells says If the dough
    seems too sticky, sprinkle it with additional flour, incorporating 1
    tablespoon at a time.
    I did not have that problem at all!)
  5. Wrap the disc in the waxed paper and chill for at least 1 hour.
  6. Just before preparing the filling: Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a 6 inch (15 cm) circle. Put the circles of dough onto a parchment covered baking sheet and chill til ready to fill with apple mixture.
  7. For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425F
  8. Over medium-high heat, begin to melt butter in a large frying pan.
  9. Peel and core the apples and slice into wedges.
  10. Add the apples to the hot butter (not smoking), and sauté, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until some juice begins to release from the apples.
  11. Sprinkle on the sugar, and continue cooking, stirring every so often, until the apples are lightly golden. Some will have broken down. No problem.
  12. Take the pastry discs out of the refrigerator.
  13. Spoon apples into the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough over to create a decent sized border (about an inch) Brush the border with the
    beaten egg (or milk).
  14. Bake at 425F on the middle shelf of the oven until golden – about 20 minutes.
I did mention that these are the best apple tarts I’ve ever had, didn’t I? Well, actually, I have had an equally good apple tart once before. It was some years ago, one evening in late September in France. We were bicycling in the Dordogne/Perigord/Limousin regions and stopped at the lovely Hostellerie du Fin Chapon in Excideuil. We dined like kings, sitting under a canopy of vines and stars on the terrace. Two outstanding things from that wonderful dinner were both pastries.

I have just consulted my voluminous diary from that trip… We started the evening with aperitif of cardinals (cassis and red wine). And then the dinner was served, starting with garlic soup, followed by the most amazing pear and blue cheese tart. (You neeeeeed to have that tart!) This was followed by entrecote with bearnaise sauce, grilled tomatoes, frites and mushrooms. The wine was Chateau de Tiregand 1994. We then had a wonderful hot apple tart that until last week I never thought I’d have anything like again unless I went back to Excideuil. And after dinner, we sat on the terrace and admired the late evening as we sipped, for the first time, eau de vie Poire William.

4 responses to “apple tarts

  1. your sister

    Good to know that unbleached flour is fine. I didn’t really think about that admonishment at the time, but when you asked me, it did seem somewhat bizarre.

    Hmm, pears. I bet those tarts would be great with pears. I don’t know about the blue cheese though (blue cheese: urgh). Was the tart with the blue cheese very blue-cheesy or did it just give a different dimension to the sweet dessert?

  2. ejm Post author

    The pear and blue cheese tart was a savoury dish served as an appetizer. There was very little sugar added. But I would serve it for dessert in place of a cheese and fruit course.

    I suspect that it would also be good with parmesan cheese (although I can’ t imagine anything better than pears and blue cheese)

  3. Moira

    Our Thanksgiving is coming up, and some type of pumpkin pie is always for dessert. Your post has made me think that I might have to do these as well, though- especially as I think we’re going to have Jeanne and Johanna coming up from London! As always, thanks for posting Elizabeth! It’s nice to be reading your blog again…it feels like forever.

  4. ejm Post author

    Thanks for commenting, Moira! It’s always nice to know that someone is reading my blatherings. We never did have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner and are thinking about making it for US Thanksgiving. But we usually don’t have room for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. (Although it is great to have the next day with leftovers!)

    My favourite Thanksgiving dessert is a multifruit crisp – cherries, peaches, cranberries, pears – with a little creme fraiche.

Because of unwelcome attempts from non-humans, responses to this post must now be closed.