I had always assumed fruit tarts were hard to make because they look so fancy, until I tried making one and learned that, actually, they’re about as simple as a homemade dessert can get.
The ratio of effort to fanciness here is definitely favorable.
Apple tarts are easier to make than apple pies and – dare I say it – possibly more delicious.
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t say more delicious. Just delicious in a different way.
Apple pie has that trademark blend of cinnamon and allspice and maybe some clove or nutmeg. Apple tart is just apple and sugar.
The absence of all of these additional spices, I think, gives apple tarts a sort of light and refreshing feel.
Or maybe it’s just easier to convince yourself that your dessert is basically a fruit because the apples are so much more visible in an apple tart than they are in an apple pie.
Either way, I love making this simple apple tart this time of year. It feels fancy enough for special occasions, simple enough for less-fancy evenings, light enough to accompany a heavy holiday meal, and any leftovers make an ideal breakfast.
I have a tart pan with a removable bottom that I always, always use for this recipe! Those fluted sides are what my tart dreams are made of.
If you don’t have a tart pan, you can definitely use a regular pie pan, although I wouldn’t recommend attempting to take the tart out of the pan once it’s baked.
OR, for a really laid-back and rustic-feeling dessert, you can make your tart galette-style on a sheet pan, folding perimeter crust around the arranged apples in the middle.
Let me tell you as somewhat of a perfectionist who has often arranged and rearranged and even sliced an extra apple so I could get the perfect size slice for my design – there’s no need to overthink your apple arrangement. It’s hard to make a tart look bad. And even if you were to blindfold yourself and dump a bunch of slices in the pan and muddle them around a bit, you would still end up with a tart that tastes like apple-y, buttery perfection.
What I’m telling you is, there’s no bad way to make this apple tart.
As the final step, you brush sieved apricot preserves mixed with rum (or water!) on your apples and baked pastry to give it that golden-glossy look. This step is one you can skip if you just want to dig in or don’t have apricot preserves or are trying to cut back on sugar (I kid!), but it definitely makes a big difference in the presentation department.
French Apple Tart
Sugary apples baked in a flaky, buttery crust. It's simple enough for your every day, and fancy enough for special occasions!
- 1 All-Purpose Pie Crust (recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 large apples)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
- 1/4 cup apricot jam, sieved
- 1 tablespoon rum or water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out pie dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to tart pan, pressing into edges of the pan. Trim excess. Place in freezer while preparing apples.
Peel apples and slice in half through the core. Remove stems and cores with a melon baller. Slice apples into 1/4-inch slices.
Arrange apple slices in an overlapping pattern in prepared pastry. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter pieces. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until apples and pastry begin to brown. Remove and allow to cool at least 1 hour.
In a small bowl, melt together the sieved apricot jam and the rum or water. Use a pastry brush to brush mixture over the tart.
Serve tart warmed or at room temperature, and refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Adapted from Ina Garten.
All-Purpose Pie Crust:
Yields: 2 (9-inch) pie crusts.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped and chilled
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup water, with ice added
Put flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 10-12 times, until butter is in pea-size pieces. Turn on food processor and pour in the water, keeping any ice from being added. Turn off food processor promptly once all water has been added.
Turn mixture out onto a clean work surface. Some areas may be wetter than others. Work together with hands to a uniform consistency. Divide dough in even halves. Form each half into a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to using.
If not using the second pie crust, place plastic-wrapped dough in a freezer bag and freeze for later use. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight prior to use.