This Apple Tart is a much ‘lighter’ and much later dish than the classic English apple pie recipes which go back to the time of Chaucer. The Apple Tart recipe given uses a puff pastry base, with an apple compote, and fresh apple slices, instead of a thicker short-crust pastry of a traditional apple pie and its heavier filling. The are also other differences between a ‘pie’ and a ‘tart’. Traditionally a pie is enclosed and a tart is open (called having an open face) – although this distinction can and is blurred in British and Irish cooking.
Mrs. Beeton Recipes 1861
COMPOTE OF APPLES.
1515. INGREDIENTS – 6 ripe apples, 1 lemon, 1/2 lb. of lump sugar, 1/2 pint of water.
Mode.—Select the apples of a moderate size, peel them, cut them in halves, remove the cores, and rub each piece over with a little lemon. Put the sugar and water together into a lined saucepan, and let them boil until forming a thickish syrup, when lay in the apples with the rind of the lemon cut thin, and the juice of the same. Let the apples simmer till tender; then take them out very carefully, drain them on a sieve, and reduce the syrup by boiling it quickly for a few minutes. When both are cold, arrange the apples neatly on a glass dish, pour over the syrup, and garnish with strips of green angelica or candied citron. Smaller apples may be dressed in the same manner: they should not be divided in half, but peeled and the cores pushed out with a vegetable-cutter.
VERY GOOD PUFF-PASTE.
1205. INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 1 lb. of butter, and not quite 1/2 pint of water.
Mode.—Carefully weigh the flour and butter, and have the exact proportion; squeeze the butter well, to extract the water from it, and afterwards wring it in a clean cloth, that no moisture may remain. Sift the flour; see that it is perfectly dry, and proceed in the following manner to make the paste, using a very clean paste-board and rolling-pin:—Supposing the quantity to be 1 lb. of flour, work the whole into a smooth paste, with not quite 1/2 pint of water, using a knife to mix it with: the proportion of this latter ingredient must be regulated by the discretion of the cook; if too much be added, the paste, when baked, will be tough. Roll it out until it is of an equal thickness of about an inch; break 4 oz. of the butter into small pieces; place these on the paste, sift over it a little flour, fold it over, roll out again, and put another 4 oz. of butter. Repeat the rolling and buttering until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, or equal quantities of flour and butter have been used. Do not omit, every time the paste is rolled out, to dredge a little flour over that and the rolling-pin, to prevent both from sticking. Handle the paste as lightly as possible, and do not press heavily upon it with the rolling-pin. The next thing to be considered is the oven, as the baking of pastry requires particular attention. Do not put it into the oven until it is sufficiently hot to raise the paste; for the best-prepared paste, if not properly baked, will be good for nothing. Brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff-paste, it is as well to try this method.
Note.—Many things are suggested for the flavouring of apple pie; some say 2 or 3 tablespoonfuls of beer, others the same quantity of sherry, which very much improve the taste; whilst the old-fashioned addition of a few cloves is, by many persons, preferred to anything else, as also a few slices of quince … A very fine-flavoured marmalade may be prepared from quinces, and a small portion of quince in apple pie much improves its flavour.
Apple Tart Recipe
Makes 4 small tarts
- 250g puff pasty (good quality shop bought is fine, for hand-made see Mrs. Beeton’s recipe above)
- 16 Cox’s apples
- 6 tbsp of apple compote (good quality shop bought or see recipe based on Mrs. Beeton’s below)
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 vanilla pods
- 250g unsalted butter
- 2 beaten egg whites
- icing sugar to dust
- 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
- 2 tbsp of sweet sherry
Apple Compote ingredients:
- 750g Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 150g caster sugar
- 300ml of water
- 1 lemon, half the juice and all the zest
- 1 tbsp of quince jam / marmalade (shop bought or home-made)
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
First you will need to roll out the puff pastry. Be careful when doing this, as it has a high fat content, which makes it difficult to work with if too warm. If you buy frozen puff pastry, it is best to defrost it overnight in the fridge the day before using. If you want to make your own puff pastry then use Mrs. Beeton’s ingredients and method from above in her original recipe (we still use her puff pastry recipe when making our own). Roll out the puff pastry approximately 4mm thick and using a 12cm cutter or by cutting around a plate, cut out 4 circles of the same size to fit a tart tin. Place each pastry circle into the bottom of a shallow tart or flan tin, gently pushing the pastry into the shape of the tin and leave to rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.
Using a peeler, peel the apples and cut in half from top to bottom. Remove the core fully and then slice the apples thinly.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and, using a fork, prick the surface.
For The Apple Compote:
In a saucepan add the apples, sugar, water and the lemon juice of half a lemon and all the lemon zest. Turn the heat up and cook out the apple to a compote, (breaking them down into a pulp) turn the heat back down and stir from time to time for approximately 30 minutes on a moderate heat. If the texture is too runny then leave to reduce until you have a thick texture.
When cool place all the apple compote into a blender, add in the quince jam or marmalade and blend to a fine pulp and pass through a medium sieve (push it through to catch any lumps remaining) into a jar to keep in the fridge or use.
Complete the Apple Tart dish:
Place some apple compote into the middle of the pastry circles, spreading it out towards the edge and then (placing on top of the compote) fan the apple slices around the tart base in a neat fashion, each one over-lapping the previous one by a few millimeters, then finish it by placing some apple slices in the middle of the tart. Evenly sprinkle over a small pinch of ground cloves.
For the vanilla butter, simply scrape the seeds from two vanilla pods into a small bowl, add the sweet sherry and then mix it with the 150g of softened unsalted butter until very soft and creamed. Using a pastry brush lightly butter the apples on the tart with this mixture and then sprinkle lightly over the apple tarts with some of the sugar.
Place the apple tarts into the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove and brush all over the top with the vanilla butter, then the beaten egg whites and sprinkle with a little more sugar and place back into the oven for a further 8-10 minutes. Remove the apple tarts from the oven, brush with a little vanilla butter for a final time and leave to rest for 10 minutes. When cool dust with a little icing sugar.
Serve the Apple Tart warm or cold with clotted cream.