The French Apple Tart from Baking With Julia is a beauty with its spiraling topping of apple slices overlaid on a roasted applesauce filling. It made a lovely presentation for a dinner party. Baking it was pretty straightforward if a little fussy and time-consuming, what with pre-baking the pie shell, roasting sliced apples for the filling, and arranging more apple slices for the decorative topping. A restrained amount of sugar and just a hint of cinnamon allowed the apple flavor to shine. The recipe is on pages 379-381 of Baking with Julia, and can also be found on the blog Laws of the Kitchen.
With a few exceptions, I followed the recipe closely. The flaky pie dough crust called for both butter and shortening. Since I don’t use shortening, I substituted all butter (about 4 ounces for a single crust.) Shortening is supposed to provide the flakiness, but I find that by leaving the butter in largish pieces, I get a flaky crust, and that was true in this case. The dough is chilled, then rolled out and fitted into the tart pan, chilled again, and pre-baked filled with dried beans. I used a 10-inch diameter tart pan, rather than the 9-inch size specified, and it worked out fine, both with the thickness of the crust and the amount of filling.
After the tart shell is pre-baked at 400°, sliced apples are tossed with sugar, flour, and cinnamon, and roasted at 375°. I think some time could be saved by baking and roasting simultaneously at either temperature. I forgot to add the bread crumbs called for in the roasted apple mixture. Roughly mashed, the roasted apples become a chunky apple compote, thick enough that the bread crumbs were not missed.
Assembling the tart was the fun and fussy part: chunky applesauce spread in pre-baked crust, apple slices arranged on top, a brushing with melted butter and sprinkling of Turbinado sugar, then into the oven for the final baking. I ran the tart under the broiler for a minute or so at the end of baking to char the edges of the apples. The butter and sugar created a beautiful glaze. And it’s not just pretty either…it’s deliciously apple-y with contrasting textures of crispy crust, smooth compote, and tart topping.