Apple Tart/Pie for Thanksgiving

BAKE Apple TartPhoto credit:  Quentin Bacon

Apple pie is never missing from my Thanksgiving table whether I'm at home or invited to enjoy the holiday with friends.  When I started working on BAKE I knew it was going to be published in the UK, so American pie pans were banished from the book since they're not easily available across the pond.  After I recast this traditional apple pie in a removable bottom tart pan I realized that there's none of that destroying the first slice while trying to pry it out of the pie pan, plus it's so much easier to cut into even wedges.  If you absolutely insist on using a pie pan, a 9-inch glass one will also work perfectly with the recipe.  Another suggestion:  if you want a crumb topping on the pie instead of the lattice top in the recipe, look for Sour Cream Apple Pie in the recipe archive here; that recipe has a perfect crumb topping you can use.  Happy Thanksgiving!

LATTICE-TOPPED APPLE TART

I like to use a little flour to thicken the juices of an apple filling such as this one – it’s easy to do (just mix the flour with the sugar) and, unless you use too much, it provides just the slight thickening needed so the juices in the baked pie aren’t watery. Dicing the apples makes them bake through more quickly than cutting them into wedges, plus it makes the filling less bulky when placed in the bottom crust, creating only a small gap between the filling and top crust after the tart is baked.

See the Note at the end of the recipe for apple varieties.

Makes one 10-inch (25-cm) double-crusted tart, about 10 servings

1 batch Flaky Pastry Dough, below

APPLE FILLING

3 pounds (1350 grams) tart apples, peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1/2-inch (1.25-cm) dice, see Note below

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick/1 ounce/30 grams) cold unsalted butter

FINISHING

2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F (190˚C). Slide a sheet of aluminum foil onto the bottom of the oven to catch drips when the filling comes to a simmer close to the end of the baking time.
  2. Roll half the dough on a floured surface and fit it into the pan.  Trim excess dough at the rim of the pan leaving about 1/4-inch extra dough there.  Roll the remaining dough to a 10-inch square and slide it onto a cookie sheet.
  3. Put the apples in a large bowl and mix the sugars, flour and cinnamon in a small one. Scatter 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture onto the bottom of the tart crust. Scatter the rest over the apples and use a large rubber spatula, repeatedly digging upward from the bottom of the bowl to mix.
  4. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and redistribute the apple pieces so that the top of the filling is level rather than domed. Dot the filling with shreds of the butter.
  5. Use some water and a brush to moisten the extra dough at the edge of the pan. Use a pizza wheel or serrated pastry wheel to cut the square of dough into ten 1-inch (2.5-cm) wide strips. Place 5 of the strips parallel and equidistant from each other on the filling, letting the ends of the strips touch the moistened area of the bottom crust. Place the next 5 strips at either a 45- or 90-degree angle to the first strips.
  6. Use moistened fingers to press the ends of the strips gently against the overhanging edge of the bottom crust. Use the back of a knife to trim the overhanging dough even with the rim of the pan. 
  7. To finish, gently brush a little water on the strips of dough and scatter on the sugar.  If you're substituting a crumb topping omit the water and sugar in this step.
  8. Bake the tart until the crust is well colored and baked through and the filling is gently bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes.
  9. Cool the tart on a rack and unmold it. Slide it from the pan bottom to a platter to serve.

SERVING: Cut wedges of the tart and serve each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

STORAGE: Keep the tart at room temperature on the day it’s baked. For longer storage, continue to keep it at room temperature, but cover loosely with plastic wrap.

NOTE: The best apples for an apple filling are Northern Spies, available in the Northeast and Northern Midwest United States and in southern Canada. Failing those, a combination of equal parts Golden Delicious and Granny Smith works well, but cut the Granny Smith apples into slightly smaller dice since they’re so firm — otherwise they’ll take too long to soften.

 

FLAKY PASTRY DOUGH

Flaky dough makes a wonderful container for many sweet and savory fillings. Its fragile texture after baking is more than equaled by its subtle buttery flavor, which always enhances but never competes with delicate fillings.

Makes about 18 ounces (500 grams) dough, enough for two 10-inch (25-cm) tart crusts or one double crust tart

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks/6 ounces/175 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 pieces

2 large eggs

  1. To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Cut each piece of butter into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and add the pieces to the bowl.
  3. Using both hands, palms upward, reach under the dry ingredients to the bottom of the bowl and lift them up through the contents of the bowl several to distribute the pieces of butter evenly.
  4. Use your fingertips to pinch the pieces of butter into smaller pieces, alternating that with rubbing the mixture between the palms of your hands, as well as occasionally repeating step 3.
  5. Continue rubbing in the butter until the largest pieces are no more than 1/4 inch (60 mm) across, but the whole mixture is still cool and powdery.
  6. Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up and mix them throughout the flour and butter mixture. Use your left hand to move the bowl back and forth on the work surface while you are stirring up form the bottom with the fork until the dough is almost completely mixed.
  7. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and gently press it into a consistent mass. Continue with step 12.
  8. To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder in the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  9. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until the butter appears in small pieces as in step 5, above.
  10. Add the eggs and pulse again just until the dough almost forms a ball – pulsing too much at this point will incorporate the butter smoothly and cut down on flakiness.
  11. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently press the dough into a coherent mass.
  12.  Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm or as long as 3 days.