I know I have kept building this up since my mother’s ratatouille and wrote a couple of other things in between. Part of me is thrilled to share my grandma’s apple tart with you and part of me wants to keep it inside just a little longer. It’s unlike me not to share so these past few days I kept wondering why it was so dang hard to write this very simple, very humble yet delicious recipe. A simple pate sucree topped with a vanilla bean apple compote and thin slices of apples. A sprinkling of sugar.
You can guess that it is just not about the tart. It’s the mamie behind it and telling "her" in a few paragraphs in a blog can’t possibly explain why this recipe means so much to us and why we absolutely love to make it. I am willing to try though, because I know that my grandmother is very much like yours. Comforting, simple and sometimes complex.
What can I say that could possibly do justice to my grandmother’s heart and personality? She was married to my grandfather for 71 years (love their wedding picture). This year they would have celebrated 75 years of marriage and I get all choked up when I
think know what my grandfather truly wants nowadays. I know he wishes to see her again soon. It never saddens me when I hear him say that. I smile instead. I want to make him her apple tart so that he can smell the wonderful aromas of vanilla beans and apple "compoting" together. So that he can hear the swishing of her apron as I roll the dough for the crust. So that he can pass beside me as I am slicing the apples and say "listen to your grandmother. She knows when they are too thick".
Following her thought that a recipe is a canvas for the baker to give a recipe his or hers personality, she never wrote the ingredients or recipe down. To anyone who asked her about it she would simply jot down "pate sucree – compote de pommes – tranches de pommes". Basically, if you use what you know you like, you can’t go wrong even if it changes every time you make it. I did just that. I added some almonds to the dough for a little earthy flavor. I combined vanilla and cardamom for the cooked apple and I sprinkled the sliced apple with some sugar rubbed with lemon zest. To me that was Mamie. A little bite, a little spice, a good bit of delicious and a touch of pizzaz.
Apple Tartelettes Recipe:
Makes four 4- inch tartlets
2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (56.5gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out four 6- inch rounds and fit them inside four 4- inch tartlet molds, patting the dough in with your fingertips if it breaks on you as you transfer the rounds. Gather the scraps and set aside.
Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake the shells for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
1/2 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon (2gr) ground cardamom
2 tablespoons sugar
4 medium apples (your preference. I went with Fuji)
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup (60 to 80ml) water
On a flat surface, cut the vanilla bean in half lenghtwise without cutting all the way through and scrape the seeds from the pods with a pairing knife. Place them in a large saucepan along with the cardamom and sugar. Set aside.
Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Add them to the vanilla and sugar mixture along with the water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down, cover and let the apples stew for 30 to 45 minutes. Check every 20 minutes to and add water to the mixture if the liquid evaporates faster than the apples can cook. I tend to cook mine just unti soft so that they keep a bit of texture under the tooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Divide the mixture evenly among the tart shells.
2 tablespoons (15gr) granulated sugar
zest of half a lemon
2-3 medium apples
In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and lemon zest so that the citrus natural oils can flavor the sugar.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples (the thinner the prettier. Decoratively arrange the slices over the compote and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.
Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top appples are golden brown.