Every year, the husband and I pack the car with dog in tow and make our annual apple pilgrimage to Julian, CA. Our usual stop is at Volcan Valley Apple Orchard (formerly Raven Hill), where you can pick apples for $10 a bag (each bag holds about 5-6 lbs). I must mention that due to the serious drought we’ve experienced this year in California, several apple orchards will not be open this season so I highly recommend viewing our Guide to Apple Picking in Julian to see the full list of open orchards.
As much as I enjoy eating apple pie (crumble top from MOM’s is my personal favorite), I also look forward to making homemade French Apple Tart. The fool proof recipe I use again and again is from Barefoot Contessa’s, “Back To Basics” cookbook. This classic recipe is easy, simple, and delicious! Over the years I’ve tweaked a couple of things and I encourage you to do the same. For example, the recipe calls for Granny Smith apples but I use whatever I end up picking at the orchards which is usually Gala or Jonathan’s. They’re small but they are just as crisp, tart, and sweet as their larger equivalents. One last note before we begin – the pastry dough must be chilled for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator (I chill mine overnight), so be sure to plan accordingly.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
½ cup ice water
7 small Gala/Jonathan’s apples OR 4 Granny Smith apples
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, small-diced
½ cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam (see note)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier OR Calvados, rum, or water
For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the full ½ cup sugar and dot with the butter.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Grand Marnier in the microwave and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Enjoy it with a scoop of vanilla ice scream or by itself. Let us know your experience with this recipe by leaving a comment below!