Baking is fun. I mean, it’s annoying as hell, but most baking projects are not difficult and take a fairly reasonable amount of time to make. Honestly, I think the difficult of baking, at least at a basic level, is totally overblown.
Okay so this apple tart is easy (trust me). There are two basic parts: the crust, and the apples. Neither are difficult, but it will take, all told, around an hour and a half to make.
For the crust, you’ll need:
about 2 cups of flour (I toss the flour in the canister a few times, then dip in the measuring cup and level it off with the flat edge of a knife to get an even amount)
1 stick, or ¼ pound of butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
around 1/3 cup of ice liquid (water, vodka, calvados, limoncello, etc.)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
For the apples, you’ll need:
3 or so crisp, tart apples (granny smith are alright but I prefer braeburn or pink lady)
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/8” chunks
the barest squeeze of lemon
¼ cup of apricot jam
2 tablespoons calvados, rum, or even vodka
Place a metal or glass mixing bowl in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. While that’s chilling, cut the butter into small, ½ inch cubes. Place the butter in the freezer as well. Mix and salt and sugar into the flour and freeze that, too. You want everything as cold as possible without being impossibly frozen.
With a food processor, handheld pastry cutter, or even your fingertips (run them under cold water for 60 seconds to get them cold first) “cut in” the butter into the flour. By hand, you want to use your fingers to mash the flour into the butter, but not melt or smear it. If the butter or your hands get warm, put everything back into the freezer and chill your hands again. Get the lumps of butter and flour to around the size of peas. Gently, a few tablespoons at a time, add the ice cold liquid and mix until it barely comes together into a ball. Be paranoid about overmixing, so right before it feels like it will come together dump the moistened flour mixture onto the country and knead it gently until it comes together. If it’s too dry to cohere, add a few drops of water at a time but again be paranoid about adding too much. Once it’s together in a sphere, press into a flattened disk and wrap it tightly in plastic cling film and let it rest in the bottom of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (it can rest that way for up to 3 days).
While the dough rests, prepare the apples. Peel and core the apples, then slice into wedges around ¼ to ½ inch thick. Pour into a bowl and toss with the lemon just to keep them from turning brown.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured countertop. Rub some flour along a rolling pin, then thwack the dough several times to loosen it up. Cut the dough in half, wrap one half and reserve for later (it freezes REALLY well & lasts about 4 months). With the other half of the dough, roll it out into a square around 10” by 14”, the crust should be around ¼ inch thick.
Wrap the dough gently around the rolling pin and move to a half sheet tray lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Unroll the pastry so it lays flat. Lay the apple slices artistically on the dough – can be straight lines, diagonal patterns, anything you like to be creative with it. Leave a ½ inch border of crust around the outside. Just before baking, dot the top of the apples evenly with the small pieces of butter, then sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Bake for between 20 and 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the apples are beginning to brown, then remove to a cooling rack. While it cools, gently warm the jam and the alcohol in a small sauce pan until everything melts and turns runny. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of the apples and the crust border. Allow to cool and dry before serving.