As a cook, it is difficult to pick a favorite season but the fall market in Beaune is certainly a favorite. Fall is a beautiful time to visit France in general as the majority of the crowds have returned home and things are getting somewhat back to normal. It gives you the opportunity to really have a chance to experience France as the French do, without all the tourists.
Every Saturday I stroll by my little brocante on the way to the market. Most Saturdays I am "good" and enjoy the thrill of the hunt and do not splurge unless I find something I simply can't live without. Several months ago I came upon a beautiful soup tureen that I, regrettably, talked myself out of. I've been disappointed ever since. To make matters worse, I see it every day perched on a neighbor's windowsill as I take Lily for her morning walk. As luck would have it, just this last Saturday, another one appeared and dare I say, I think it is even more lovely than the first one. I have a thing for anything food related and my particular love is white ironstone. I think it will pair nicely with an upcoming butternut squash soup I've been dreaming about.
With the chill in the air and the lovely heirloom apples in Monsieur Talmot's stall, I was inspired to preheat the oven and bake some classic French pastry. In France, you will find an apple tart in every window of every pâtisserie, but I prefer to spend the afternoon baking to welcome in the new season. The classic apple tart in France is most often made with a purée of apples topped with sliced apples in a decorative fashion and it is usually coated with an apricot glaze. For this tart, the purée is flavored with just a hint of vanilla and the top of the tart is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar so it comes out lightly caramelized but not too sweet. It's the perfect dessert to celebrate fall. Served with sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream flavored with just a touch of Calvados, it just might be a slice of heaven.
serves 6 to 8
1 9-inch partially baked tart shell, pâte sucrée recipe follows
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced into even 1/8 inch slices
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
for the apple purée
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 375o.
To make the apple purée, put the diced apples, vanilla pod, sugar and butter in a saucepan with 3 to 4 tablespoons of water. Cook gently, stirring often until soft, adding more water if necessary, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean, then discard the pod. Transfer the mixture to a food mill or food processor and purée until smooth. Spread the purée evenly in the partially baked tart shell. Carefully arrange the apple slices in a neat circle around the edge, they should be tightly overlapping but not squished together. Depending on the size of your tart pan and the apples, you can repeat to create an inner circle or just fill in the center in a decorative pattern. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle over the sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven until just browned and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes enough for 2 tarts
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
A pinch of sea salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Whisk the cream and the eggs together in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks, and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Bring the dough together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into disks, and wrap one of them to freeze and use later.
If the dough is soft, put it into the refrigerator for a few minutes prior to rolling. Place it on a lightly floured work surface, and sprinkle with a little bit of flour. Roll it into a 1/4-inch-thick circle, flouring as needed. Started at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over the 9-inch tart pan. Gently press the dough into the pan, being careful not to stretch it as this will cause it to shrink when baking. To remove the excess dough, work your way around the edge pinching off the excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour before baking.
to blind bake the tart shell
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Prick the bottom with a fork and line the shell with parchment paper. Fill the lined tart with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 15 minutes until the edges are set and lightly browned. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper and dried beans.