French Apple Tart with Pastry Cream - Tarte Aux Pommes

French apple tart
William Shaw/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
  • 2 hrs
  • Prep: 70 mins,
  • Cook: 50 mins
  • Yield: One 9" tart
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A variety of French fruit tarts are popular in Morocco, but given a choice, I'll always choose Tarte aux Pommes over other offerings. Thinly sliced apples are tossed with sugar and a little bit of cinnamon, and then attractively layered in a sweet pastry shell lined with pastry cream (creme patissiere). Baking caramelizes the apples, while an apricot glaze adds sheen and a bit of tartness to the finished dessert.

Although the flavors are similar, this is not as quick to throw together as American style apple pie. Not only will you need to give a little more care to how you slice and arrange the apples, but you'll need to plan ahead to make both the pastry cream and pastry dough well in advance of assembling the tart. 

The sugar quantity in the pastry recipe below reflects the fact that I'm not fond of overly sweet shortcrusts; if you'd prefer a sweeter pastry dough, follow the Pate Sucree Recipe instead. 

Note that prep and cooking times below do not reflect two hours or more chilling time for the pastry dough.

Also try French Strawberry Tart and French Pear Tart.

What You'll Need

  • For the Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch 
  • vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring)
  • For the Pastry Shell
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ice water
  • For the Apple Layer
  • 5 apples, preferably firm and tart 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • For the Glaze
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or water

How to Make It

Make the Pastry Dough

1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter.

2. Work in the egg yolk until the mixture looks like fine meal, then use a fork to stir in ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough can be gathered together and pressed into ball.

3. Shape and flatten the dough into a smooth disc shape, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

 

Make the Pastry Cream

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch until smooth; set aside. 

2. In a saucepan, heat the milk with vanilla bean almost to boiling. Remove the vanilla bean, then slowly and gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture.

3. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan and heat to a boil, whisking or stirring constantly while the mixture thickens and reaches a boil. Continue cooking for another half minute while stirring, then remove from the heat.

4. Lay a piece of plastic film on the surface of the pastry cream and allow it to cool completely before using or chilling.  

Assemble and Bake the Tart

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

2. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Place the slices in a bowl and toss gently with the sugar and cinnamon. If the apples start to brown, you can toss in a tablespoon of lemon juice.

3. Roll out the pastry and fit into a 9-inch tart pan, trimming the excess dough. 

4. Spread the pastry cream across the bottom of the pastry shell.

5. Arrange the apple slices in a pattern over the pastry cream and dot the apples with tiny bits of butter.

6. Wrap strips of aluminum foil around the edges of the tart pan to protect the crust from burning. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until the apples and crust are nicely colored. Remove the tart to a rack to cool.

7. While the tart is still warm, heat the apricot jam with the lemon juice until boiling. Strain and then use a pastry brush to apply the apricot glaze over the apples. 

8. Refrigerate the tart when it has cooled completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature.