I didn’t bake anything last week. Jon and I had a sneaky weekend in the Cotswolds to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. We lay in, had pints at lunch time, went for walks on paths that were definitely un-suitable for buggies, and drank much more champagne than was good for us.
This week, I asked him to choose something for me to cook. He went with the French apple tart from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. It’s not something I would have chosen, mainly because it looks pretty delicate, and I always struggle with that. I wanted to make something that I was confident would turn out well this week because I’ve had a couple of disappointments in the baking department recently. Jon was pretty quick to tell me that wasn’t the point. I should be making the things that I wouldn’t usually make. He was right, given that that’s the reason I’m writing the blog. French apple tart it was then.
There were three stages to making the tart; pastry, a filling made of sweetened cooking apples, and a topping of eating apples with an apricot glaze. I started with the pastry.
The recipe uses a 20cm deep flan tin. I have an 18cm tin and, for some reason, two 24cm tins. I decided to go with the 18cm tin. Matthew could make something with any left-overs. The pastry for the tart used 175g plain flour and 75g butter rubbed to breadcrumb stage then mixed to a dough with an egg yolk and some water. According the recipe, water may not be necessary to form a dough. In my case it was. I used three and a half tablespoons. Once I’d made the dough, I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.
While the pastry was chilling, I made the filling. There were a lot of apples in this tart. This would still be the case if my flan tin was the right size. I cored and chopped 900g Bramley apples and softened them in a pan with 50g melted butter (I was also supposed to put a couple of tablespoons of water in the pan, but I forgot). The recipe says that the apples should be cooked for 10-15 minutes until soft and mushy. Perhaps it was because I’d forgotten the water, but I had to cook the apples for a further 12 minutes until they reached the soft and mushy stage. I pushed the apple mixture through a sieve into a clean pan, added apricot jam, caster sugar and grated lemon rind. The next step was to cook the mixture over a high heat for between 10-15 minutes until all of the excess liquid had evaporated and the apple mixture was thick.
I wasn’t sure about this step. My mixture didn’t seem to have that much excess liquid (probably because I’d forgotten the water) but it did seem as though it would be a bit sloppy as a tart filling. I gave it the full 15 minutes but the consistency didn’t really seem to change that much. If I made this again, I’d cook it for a few minutes more, just to thicken things up a bit.
While the filling cooled, I rolled out my pastry and lined the flan tin. As I suspected, there was plenty left over for small apple tarts, and Matthew showed his Grandma the right way to use a rolling-pin and pastry cutter.
The next step for my tart was to bake the case. Apparently, my oven has a setting which heats the bottom of the oven so there is no need for blind baking. Since finding that setting would involve reading the oven instructions, I just followed the recipe and baked the tart case filled with baking beans at 180° fan for 15 minutes. I took the beans out and gave it another 5 minutes to cook the bottom.
The recipe doesn’t say whether the tart case needs to cool down before the filling is added. I decided to prepare the eating apples for the top of the tart before I filled it, so the case did have a few minutes to cool. The topping is made from very thin slices of eating apple brushed with lemon juice and sprinkled with icing sugar. I cut up my apples, filled the tart and arranged the apples slices in a circle on the top.
The tart then went back into the oven for 25 minutes. When I took it out, the pastry and apples were just starting to brown. I finished the tart by warming some apricot jam and brushing it over the top of the top. The recipe says that the jam should be sieved but, since my sieve was already in the dishwasher after being clogged up with Bramley apple peel, I skipped this step. Here is the finished French apple tart.
Even though the filling was a bit sloppy, it was sharp and tangy and very, very appley. Eating it did actually remind me of being on holiday in France. For a moment, I was sitting on the terrace of a villa in Provence eating apple tart with a big dollop of cream, sipping very hot, sweet coffee, thinking about the worthy literary novel I’d start to read after I’d finished the latest edition of Hello!