Rustic French Apple Tart

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Rustic French Apple Tart

Like an apple pie without the pan, this French apple tart consists of a thin layer of cinnamon-scented apples atop a buttery, flaky crust.

rustic french apple tart

When we think of French desserts, we usually imagine fancy pâtisseries with pyramids of pastel-colored macarons and glossy fruit tarts. But when the French bake at home, they keep it simple. One of my favorite food writers, Dorie Greenspan, wrote of her time living in France: “No matter how chic the hostess, her homemade dessert invariably looked as rustic as if it had come from a farmhouse grand-mère.” The recipes are often centuries old and passed down through the generations. In fact, the recipes are so tried and true, she writes, “many French women make them without recipes, or au pif.” This free-form French apple tart is something a French cook might throw together au pif. Like an apple pie without the pan, it consists of a thin layer of cinnamon-scented apples atop a buttery, flaky crust.

I know the mere mention of a homemade pastry crust is enough to send some people running for the hills but, rest assured, this tart dough is virtually foolproof and easy to roll to out — and it comes together in a food processor in under a minute. Plus, the beauty of a free-form tart is that you don’t have to fuss over crimping the dough into a pie plate; you simply fold it casually over the fruit. The charm of this dessert lies in its imperfections.

What you’ll need to make a french apple tart

Before we get to the recipe, a word of advice: you might be tempted to load up the tart with extra apples but, trust me, less is more with this type of dessert. The apples release quite a bit of juice, which can leak from the tart and make a mess of the crust and your oven.

Also, be sure to use apples suitable for baking — think Fuji, Granny Smith, Jonagolds, Jonathans, Golden Delicious, Gala, Honey Crisp, etc. — otherwise, they’ll turn into applesauce.

How to make a french apple tart

how to make rustic apple tart

Begin by making the pastry: In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse briefly to combine, then add the pieces of cold butter.

how to make rustic apple tart

Process just until the butter is the size of peas, about 5 seconds.

how to make rustic apple tart

Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process just until moistened and very crumbly, about 5 seconds.

how to make rustic apple tart

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.

how to make rustic apple tart

Knead a few times, just until it comes together into a cohesive ball.

how to make rustic apple tart

Pat the dough into a disk.

how to make rustic apple tart

Flour your work surface again and dust the dough with flour, as well. Using a rolling pin, roll into a circle 8 to 10 inches in diameter, turning and adding more flour as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling (you’ll roll the dough out further on the parchment paper so go ahead and clean your work surface).

how to make rustic apple tart

To make the filling: Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/8-inch-thick slices (you should have about 4 cups) and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, melted butter, and salt.

how to make rustic apple tart

Toss to combine.

how to make rustic apple tart

Take the dough from the fridge and slide the parchment paper onto the countertop. Roll the dough, directly on the parchment paper, into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. It’s fine if the edges are a little ragged.

how to make rustic apple tart

Place the parchment and dough back on the baking sheet – the pastry should curve up the lip of the pan.

how to make rustic apple tart

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour evenly over the pastry.

how to make rustic apple tart

Arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles to within 3 inches of the edge. Don’t worry about making it look perfect! It doesn’t make much difference in the end and you don’t want the dough to get too warm.

how to make rustic apple tart

Fold the edges of the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion, working your way around and creating pleats as you go. Patch up any tears by pinching a bit of dough from the edge.

how to make rustic apple tart

Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough evenly with the beaten egg.

how to make rustic apple tart

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the turbinado sugar over the top crust and 1 tablespoon over the fruit. Then chill the assembled tart in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.

how to make rustic apple tart

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden and cooked through. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool. While the tart cools, make the optional glaze: mix the apricot jam with 1-1/2 teaspoons water in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave until bubbling, about 20 seconds. Then, using a pastry brush, brush the apples with the apricot syrup.

Use two large spatulas to transfer the tart to a serving plate or cutting board. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. The tart is best served on the day it is made, but leftovers will keep, loosely covered on the countertop, for a few days.

rustic french apple tart

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Rustic French Apple Tart

Like an apple pie without the pan, this French apple tart consists of a thin layer of cinnamon-scented apples atop a buttery, flaky crust.

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes, plus 20 minutes to chill

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup very cold water

For the Filling

  • 1-3/4 lbs baking apples (3 large)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For Assembling & Baking

  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jelly or jam, optional for glaze

Instructions

  1. Make the crust: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the cold butter and process just until the butter is the size of peas, about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture and process just until moistened and very crumbly, about 5 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times, just until it comes together into a cohesive ball. Pat the dough into a disk. Flour your work surface again and dust the dough with flour, as well. Using a rolling pin, roll into a circle 8 to 10 inches in diameter, turning and adding more flour as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling (you’ll roll the dough out further on the parchment paper so go ahead and clean your work surface).
  2. Make the Filling: Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/8-inch-thick slices (you should have about 4 cups) and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, melted butter, and salt; toss to combine.
  3. Take the dough from the fridge and slide the parchment paper onto the countertop. Roll the dough, directly on the parchment paper, into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. It’s fine if the edges are a little ragged. Place the parchment and dough back on the baking sheet – the pastry should curve up the lip of the pan.
  4. Assemble the tart: Sprinkle the flour evenly over the pastry. Arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles to within 3 inches of the edge. Don’t worry about making it look perfect! It doesn’t make much difference in the end and you don’t want the dough to get too warm. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion, working your way around and creating pleats as you go. Patch up any tears by pinching a bit of dough from the edge.
  5. Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough evenly with the beaten egg. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the turbinado sugar over the top crust and 1 tablespoon over the fruit. Chill the assembled tart in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the center position.
  7. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden and cooked through. (It’s okay if some of the juices leak from the tart onto the pan. The juices will burn on the pan but the tart should be fine -- just scrape any burnt bits away from the tart once it’s baked.) Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool.
  8. While the tart cools, make the optional glaze. In a small bowl, mix the apricot jam with 1-1/2 teaspoons water. Heat in the microwave until bubbling, about 20 seconds. Using a pastry brush, brush the apples with the apricot syrup.
  9. Use two large spatulas to transfer the tart to a serving plate or cutting board. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. The tart is best served on the day it is made, but leftovers will keep, loosely covered on the countertop, for a few days.
  10. Make Ahead: The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or until pliable before rolling.
  11. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The assembled tart may be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the tart is frozen, then wrap tightly. (Wait until right before baking the tart to brush the beaten egg and sprinkle the sugar onto the crust.) Bake directly from the freezer. (It may take a few extra minutes to bake from frozen.)

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 392
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated fat: 13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49 g
  • Sugar: 26 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sodium: 195 mg
  • Cholesterol: 73 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This is one of my favorite go-to desserts. I have also have sliced in apricots between the apple slices and sprinkled blueberries across the top of the sliced fruit. The crust is perfect, I always get rave reviews from my guests and the presentation is beautiful.

    • — Pam on June 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can this be made ahead and frozen? Ive made this before and love it!

    • — Sheryl B on June 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Sheryl, Glad you like it! If you want to make it ahead, I’d just assemble but not bake it. You can see specific freezing instructions at the bottom of the recipe.

      • — Jenn on June 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Tried this recipe yesterday for my family and it was a hit! The apples were perfectly soft and sweet while the pastry was to die for! I was very happy with this recipe, wow. Can’t say enough about this pastry, so simple, so flaky, just perfection! This Apple tart will be going in my list of favorite recipes for sure 🙂 thank you for sharing Jenn!

    • — Mel on June 2, 2021
    • Reply

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