Seeing Double: tarte tatin and tarte aux pommes

So which one is better? It’s a showdown between tarts and things are about to get ugly (or really really delicious).

Apples

tarte tatin apples

A tarte tatin consists of caramelized apples cut into larger chunks on top of a flaky crust. It’s made in a pan and it’s the rustic (and better tasting in my opinion) cousin of apple pie. On the other hand, tarte aux pommes is the neat polished sibling that comes out of the oven the way it went in – exactly how you meticulously arranged the painstakingly thin slices. It’s got a nicely even crust unlike the somewhat unruly one of the tarte tatin.

tarte aux pommes

Even though both are really good alternatives to traditional apple pie, each brings something unique. I used the same crust for both, which was essentially just pie crust, and I used the same type of apples. The apples I used weren’t the best, but it still turned out wonderfully. Both tarts involve cooking the apples prior to baking. This helps release the juices in the apple first, to avoid soaking the crust while baking. You can roll out the crusts beforehand and keep them in the freezer to save time. If you were, say, having a dinner party, I would suggest making the tarte aux pommes.

The tarte tatin has a somewhat nerve wracking step of flipping the tart over onto a plate. Take care not to send the tart flying (which I’m sure you won’t). Just secretly rearrange the apples back in place while no one is looking and you’ll be all set. On the other hand, rest assured there won’t be any acrobatics involved with tarte aux pommes.

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Serve both warm, and you absolutely must serve with vanilla ice cream or some crème fraîche. It’s a crime to not do so.

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But back to the original issue – which tart will be crowned. In terms of taste, I think I might have to go with the tarte tatin. Caramelizing the apples gives it a wonderful flavor and texture, and having the crust on top while baking gives it maximum flakiness. The tarte aux pommes crust on the bottom isn’t as flaky and even though I enjoy the texture of the differently cooked apples, it didn’t strike me as much as the caramelized apples. Having said all that though, I still strongly encourage you to try both. They use pretty much the same ingredients, and everybody may have their own preferences as to which they prefer.

shell

Crust

Makes two 9″ pie crusts (enough for one pie and two tarts)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), cubed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons cold water (more if needed)

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and sugar.

2. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or a fork. Sometimes using your hands to rub the butter into the flour helps as well. Continue until there are no more large chunks butter left.

3. Sprinkle the cold water onto the butter/flour mixture and mix. If the dough is not wet enough to ball up, keep adding water one tablespoon at a time. Only add just enough water.

4. Pat the dough into two balls. Do not knead. Cover in seran wrap, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before using

 

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Tarte Tatin

Makes one 9″ tart

1 pie crust (see recipe above)

6 medium sized apples

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup white sugar

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of vanilla powder

juice from half a lemon

Preheat oven to 400F

1/ Roll out the dough into a 10″ circle. Keep this inside the refrigerator until use.

2/ Peel, core and cut the apples into 1/8 wedges. This is what I did, but if you’d prefer larger chunks, you can keep them in 1/4 wedges. Toss these with lemon juice to prevent browning.

3/ In a 9″ oven safe pan, add the butter and sugar over medium heat. Add the apples.

4/ Cook the apples until the color turns caramel, the apples are soft, and all the extra juice thickens up. This can take up to 20 min.

5/ Arrange the apples so that the round side is facing down and lie the crust on top of the apples. Tuck the dough into the sides of the pan. Poke a few holes on top with a fork.

6/ Bake for 25 min, or until the crust is golden brown.

7/ Let the pan sit for 5 min, to let it cool. Place a large on top the pan, and using oven mitts, flip the pan upside down. Slowly remove the pan. If there are any apples astray, push them back into place.

8/ Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche

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Tarte aux pommes

makes one 9″ tart

1 pie crust

6 medium sized apples

1/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar

dash of cinnamon

dash of vanilla

1-2 tablespoons rum + 1 teaspoon rum

2 tablespoons butter

juice of half a lemon

1 scoop of apricot jelly

Preheat oven to 400F

1/ Roll out pie crust into a 9″ tart pan. Refrigerate until use.

2/ Peel, core, and cut up four of the apples into chunks and 2 of the apples into thin slices. Toss the apple slices with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and lemon juice.

3/ In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the apple chunks with 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, 1-2 tablespoons rum (optional), and butter. Cook until juice is reduced and apples are tender. This may take 20 min.

4/ Spread the apple chunks into the prepared tart shell. Neatly place the apple slices on top in circles. Bake for 30 min, until the apples are slightly burnt on top.

5/ Mix the apricot with the rum (which, if you’d rather, you could replace with some water), and brush on top of the apples.

6/ Serve warm with vanilla ice cream

 

Pierre Herme’s Lemon Tart

Recently, I was browsing through the cookbook section of my local library and found Desserts by Pierre Herme tucked into an obscure corner. Now, I’m a huge fan of Mr. Herme. When I went to visit one of his shops in Paris, everything looked ah-mazing and way too pretty to eat (just kidding, I ate it without hesitation). So, you can imagine my delight when I happened upon this gem.

The first recipe that really caught my eye was the Lemon Tart. I’d seen lemon tarts in his store and had marveled at the sight. The recipe was straightforward: fill a pre-baked tart shell (pate sucre) with a lemon cream, glaze, and serve. The fact that this recipe is so easy is really quite a danger to waistlines around the world. You’ll see what I mean once you try it.

The book claims that this lemon cream is “sublime” and “stunning” and the results were no less than described. The cream itself is absolutely phenomenal. It’s silky smooth, while still giving a lemon punch. I could probably just eat spoons of it by itself, but when I think about the amount of butter that went into it, I set the spoon right back down. So, in an effort to eliminate some of that guilt that accompanies each bite, I decreased the butter. By almost half. In my opinion, the taste did not suffer whatsoever. My guilt, however, did subside dramatically so I indulged. A lot.

Sweet Tart Dough (Pate Sucree)

Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme

2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup lightly packed ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean pulp

2 large eggs, room temperate, lightly beaten

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Makes three 10 1/4 inch tarts or four 8 3/4 inch tarts.

1. If using a mixer, place butter in the bowl and beat on low until creamy with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, almonds, salt, vanilla, and eggs and continue mixing on low to blend. Scrape down the sides if needed. Don’t worry if the dough looks curdled, just don’t overwork it to ensure a crumbly texture when finished.

2. Add the flour in three or four additions just until a soft, moist dough is formed – a few seconds. Don’t overdo this step and I actually didn’t add in all my flour, as I thought it already reached the desired consistency so make adjustments accordingly. Divide ball into three or four pieces. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Leave the dough in the fridge for at least four hours before using (and up to two days). The dough can also be frozen at this stage for up to a month.

3. When rolling it out, lightly flour a surface and continue making sure surface and dough are amply floured throughout the process. Once the dough is large enough to cover the tart pan, roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it on top of the tart pan to transfer it over. Fit the dough on the sides and bottom. Run the rolling pin across the top to cut off the extras. If the dough cracks or splits, use the extra dough to patch it up. Don’t stretch the dough to fit the pan because it will just shrink back when it’s baking. Prick the dough using a fork (unless it will be filled with a runny filling) and chill for 30 minutes in fridge or freezer.

4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Fit parchment paper or aluminum foil on top and fill with dried beans or rice to prevent bubbling. Bake for 18-20 minutes for a partially baked crust. Remove the foil/beans and bake for another 5-7 minutes until golden.

Lemon Cream 

Also adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme

1 cup sugar

Zest of three lemons (finely chopped)

4 large eggs

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened (I probably only added 1 1/2 sticks)

1. Rub the sugar and the lemon zest together in a large bowl so that the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, and then the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl onto a double broiler. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until the cream thickens and reaches 180 F. Once the whisk starts to leave tracks in the cream, it should be close to being done. This process can take up to 10 minutes.

3. Strain the cream into a blender and let it cool until 140 F, about 10 minutes.

4. Set the blender on high and beat the cream while adding the butter, 5 pieces at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, continue beating the cream for a couple more minutes, just to make sure the creamy will turn out extra fluffy and light.

Once both the tart shell and the lemon cream has cooled completely, fill the shell with the lemon cream (around 1 1/2 cups). Use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Heat jelly until it liquefies and pour the glaze evenly on the tart. Serve immediately. I did not have any jelly on hand so I omitted this last step.