My wife and I were invited to a dinner party recently, and I offered to provide dessert. I have never been much of a baker, but over the past few years I have become more adventurous and branched out to experiment with cookies, cakes and this tart. I like it because, though straight-forward to make, it isn’t overly sweet and makes an elegant appearance on the table. I use a recipe that comes from Laura Calder’s cooking show, French Food at Home.
I really like this recipe, firstly, because it takes just over an hour to make from start to finish and secondly, because simply following the steps to complete it make it easy to succeed consistently. The only change that I make to the recipe is deciding if I am going to sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top.
The first step is preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Then it is time to make the crust. I do that by creaming 1/2 cup of butter (I use salted KerryGold) with 1/3 cup of sugar. To that I add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and finally a cup of all purpose flour. I know it is mixed enough when the texture of the mixture begins to look like a pile of crumbled, wet sand.
I then dump this mixture into a tart pan (the recipe calls for a spring-form pan, but I don’t have one, so I use what I have). Once I have smoothed the mixture out to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, I put the pan into the oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. The crust will probably not have turned golden when the timer’s alarm goes off, but it can go quickly from golden to brown, so it is important to watch the last couple minutes of baking attentively.
While the crust is baking, it is time to prepare the filling and the apples for the top. I combine 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. While these ingredients mix together, I peel and cut into slices three Granny Smith apples (I like the crisp tartness of the Granny Smith apples so the tart doesn’t end up being too sweet). I toss the apple slices with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of slivered almonds.
Once the crust has come out of the oven and allowed to cool for a couple of minutes, I pour the filling into the crust and make sure it is spread evenly throughout the pan. I then separate the apple slices from the slivered almonds, arranging the apple slices on top of the filling, setting each one deliberately to allow them to sink slightly into the filling while the tart bakes. The final touch is sprinkling the slivered almonds that have been lightly coated with the same cinnamon and sugar as the apple slices.
At this point, the tart goes into the 400 degree oven. I set the timer for 35 minutes, again so I can observe the final few minutes of baking to make sure the edges of the crust do not go from a nice brown that tastes nutty to black that is burnt. Once the tart comes out of the oven, it just needs to cool until it is time to eat.
For serving, I like to dollop a spoonful of creme fraiche over each slice. Other options could include vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but I like the creamy, tangy and slightly sour flavor of creme fraiche to balance the subtle sweetness that the candied apple slices contribute to the dessert.
On the occasion of this particular dinner party, the best reaction to the tart was one of the diners asking where the second tart was, because one piece was not going not going to be enough.