Here is a rustic European hybrid of tarts and pies reminiscent of the galettes found all over France. Its charm lies in its imperfections.
This tart relies on one simple dough that's rolled into a rough free-form round. The fruit is piled in the middle, and the edges are folded up around it. This method eliminates much of what can be daunting about making tarts and pies: the time-consuming task of crimping dough into a tart tin or pie plate. This is the quickest method I know to create a great fruit pie-tart, about 20 minutes once the pastry is made. (Make up batches of the pastry and freeze for when you are pinched for time.)
Apple tarts lend themselves to exotic flavorings beyond the classic American cinnamon-scented pies of my childhood. My favorite is rosemary, which gives an unexpectedly lovely herbal flavor to the tart.
1 recipe Foolproof Flaky Butter Pastry (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons All-purpose flour, for thickening the juices, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds apples, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Stayman, Macoun, or Winesap
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners sugar
Foolproof Flaky Butter Pastry:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder, preferably non-aluminum
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch bits
3 tablespoons regular or reduced-fat sour cream
Foolproof Flaky Butter Pastry
Makes 8 ounces (enough for one 9- to 10-inch tart)
This is an easy-to-make crust that is flaky and tender and tastes like butter. The butter is pared down to what I consider to be the minimum amount possible. The flour/butter mixture is chilled midway through the process so that, when the dough is rolled, the hard butter forms flat sheets, increasing the flakiness of the dough. Some of the usual butter is replaced with sour cream, which has less fat and fewer calories but adds to the tenderness and richness of the crust. A pinch of baking powder adds a degree of lightening.
To make the dough in a food processor:
1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and process to mix. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Put the work bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.
2. Add the sour cream to the flour mixture and process until the dough comes together in the bowl. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it several times on a lightly floured surface. Form it into a 1-inch-thick disc, wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
To make the dough by hand:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter, and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until it resembles a very coarse meal. Alternatively, using a pinching motion, mix the butter into the flour with your fingers, then rub the butter and flour between the palms of both hands to blend it until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
2. Add the sour cream and blend it in with the pastry cutter or a fork. Knead and squeeze the dough 7 or 8 times to incorporate any loose bits. Gather the dough together into a rough ball (it will be a coarse mass), flatten it into a 1-inch-thick disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling.
3. The dough can be refrigerated, well wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (I like to make a double or triple recipe and freeze part of the dough.) Defrost in the refrigerator for several hours before using.
Rustic Rosemary-Apple Tart
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rough circle about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve. Peel and core the apples. Slice them into 1/4 inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.) Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and the rosemary.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered. Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together. Shave the butter over the fruit.
5. Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples tender, and the juices syrupy, covering the tart halfway through the cooking time if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.
6. Just before serving, sift the confectioners sugar evenly over the crust.
7. You can bake the tart up to 3 hours before serving.
Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001). Copyright 2001 by Sally Schneider.
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