Here’s my Normandy apple tarts recipe as promised. I had been wanting to make these for ages after returning from my trip to Normandy where apples pastries and desserts existed in all forms. Well, if you have a bountiful of apples, why not make pastry.
There were so many apple desserts that I enjoyed, in particular, the chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers) and tarte aux pommes a la Normande. I thought I’ll have my go at least one of the two. I wasn’t about to make a puff pastry in the insane weather in Singapore, so the tarte aux pommes was a natural choice.
While some recipes opt for a frangipane filling instead of a custard, the ones that I had in Normandy were filled with custard so that was what I chose to use. Since the custard and apples are sweet enough, a buttery and flaky shortcrust pastry would be a perfect base to complement the two.
You can taste the calvados running through the tart – subtle but definitely has its presence felt. You don’t have to use aged calvados for this – the purists would probably have something to say about that. Also, if you don’t have calvados, don’t fret. These tarts would still taste amazing with the replacement of brandy or even rum.
Bake the custard until they are just set. You would be able to tell when you pull them out – don’t wait for them to boil and bubble.
Lastly, serve them immediately after they are cooled or better yet, when they are still slightly warm. Give them a light dusting of icing sugar and you have yourself a lovely pick me up.
Recipe: Normandy apple tarts (Tarte aux pommes a la Normande)
Makes about 8-10 tarlets (8cm” tart rings or similar)
These tarts don’t look like much but they taste really delicious. They showcase the best of apples through lacing the apples with calvados, an apple brandy and baking the apples till they are soft and caramelised on the edges. The buttery and flaky pastry just works perfectly with the apples and soft-set custard.
For the shortcrust pastry (the shortcrust recipe makes twice the amount you need for this recipe. You can freeze the remaining for other use for up t o a month):
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
150g unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, room temp
1-2 tsp iced cold water
For the apple filling:
3-4apples* (I use a mixture of royal gala apples and granny smiths)
juice from half a lemon
1 tsp calvados** (apple brandy)
3-4 tsp granulated sugar
15g butter, room temperature
a few tsp of ground almonds/almond meal, optional
For the custard:
1 large egg
85g double cream
40g granulated sugar
1 tsp calvados
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a few additional tsp of granulated sugar for dusting over the apples
icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar, optional
vanilla ice cream, optional
*Apples: Use apples that would hold their shape while baking. I like to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples. For other good varieties to use, refer to this article “Best apples for baking – the Kitchn” that I found very useful.
*Calvados is an apple brandy made in Normandy. If you don’t have it, you can replace it with brandy. Or even rum.
1. Prepare the pastry: Whisk together dry ingredients. Add in cubed butter. Using your finger-tips, rub butter into the the dry ingredients. Alternatively, you can use a food processor and pulse it (a couple of seconds each time), until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add in the egg and add in as much iced cold water as you need – Stop adding as soon as the dough comes together. It should be smooth and well combined. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Flatten the dough into a flat disc and cling wrap them. Refrigerate the dough for at least half an hour. You can do this step a day before. You can save the other half of the dough in the freezer for other use.
3. Roll out the dough to about 3mm thickness, cut them into circles using a large cookie cutter that is bigger than your tart molds. Tuck the dough neatly into the tart molds and trim off excess with a knife. Allow the tart bases to rest in the fridge while you work on the other components.
4. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (440 deg F) as well as your oven tray.
5. Prepare the apple filling: Core the apples and slice them thinly. I like to leave the skins of the apple on as they give a nice visual effect especially if you are using a mixture of red and green apples. Combine them with the lemon juice first to prevent oxidation. Then add in the granulated sugar, calvados.
6. Prick the tart bases with a fork and add in a spoonful of ground almonds to the tart base before lining the apples neatly in the tart. Dot the apples with the butter. You don’t have to be too precise but try to add the butters in pinches evenly around the tarts. Place the tarts onto the hot oven tray and into the oven and bake them for 10 minutes at 220 deg Celsius (440 deg F). Lower the oven temperature to 200 deg Celsius (400 deg F) and bake for another 20 minutes. The pastry should be well baked (golden-brown, no soggy bottoms!) and the apples should be soft, cooked and have caramelised edges.
7. For the custard: Whisk together the egg, cream, sugar and calvados until well-incorporated. Pour into a jug. When the pastry is nice and golden-brown, pour the custard into each of the tarts. Be careful not to overfill. Dust a additional few tsps of granulated sugar over the apples and put the tarts back into the oven. I also added a few rum soaked raisins at this stage since I had them. Bake for an additional 10- 12 minutes or until the custard is set.
8. Allow the tarts to cool slightly for about 10 to 15 minutes removing them from the molds. Serve immediately when still slightly warm. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and perhaps a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
*These tarts are best served immediately or on the day it is made. The custard will soften the flaky tart shells if you keep them for too long.