The perfect ... French apple tart
Unlike that other great French apple tart, the tatin, which must be served hot from the oven, this patisserie classic can be made well in advance: ideal for impressing guests, or just allowing you to drink a little too much over Sunday lunch and still enjoy dessert. Just like all the best showstopper dishes, it is surprisingly easy to execute.
Not that you need to tell anyone that. Peel and core two-fifths of the apples, sweat them down gently, then puree to make the base of the filling I’m wary of getting too prescriptive here, because, as Bruno Loubet notes in his book Mange Tout, we grow a huge and fabulous array of apples in this country, very few of which ever make it into shops, so I echo his plea “to try different British varieties … and support the great British apple”. Go for wellflavoured and fairly dry eating varieties – you don’t even need to peel them for the topping, unless you’re either French or particularly fussy, and I wouldn’t cut them quite as thinly as most recipes recommend, otherwise they’ll dry out in the oven.
Loubet and Breton baker Richard Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick, then use to line a deep tart tin, prick all over with a fork and refrigerate Bertinet use puff pastry, Pierre Koffmann and the Master Chefs of France use rich, sweet pâte sucrée, while Michel Roux calls for something he calls “flan pastry”, which contains slightly less butter than a classic shortcrust, and adds water rather than milk for a crisper finish. The puff versions are the least popular with my testers: deemed to be too dry with this rather dry fruit, while the enriched shortcrusts are tricky to work with. Roux’s sturdy pastry feels like the practical choice.
The most interesting variation between recipes occurs between these two layers. For Roux, it’s a sharp and very buttery apple puree;