Last weekend was the last hurrah for local apples at the farmers market. Bill and Vicky Thomas had brought everything they had left. I had gone to the market especially to stock up on apples but I couldn’t resist buying some of their apple cider as well. Inspired by my hoard of braeburns and winesaps and by a Rowley Leigh recipe clipped from the FT that my mother brought me I decided to make an apple tart. It is not the sort of baking that I do on a regular basis but well worth the effort and it turned out perfectly.
The recipe was a russet tart with pinenuts with a layer on almond cream under the apples. I substituted slivered almonds for the pinenuts and ground my own almonds which meant that the cream texture wasn’t quite as smooth as intended. I didn’t have russet apples, but as Rowley Leigh pointed out, any good dessert apple can be substituted. This is a recipe that you have to start early in the day because the pastry needs to be refrigerated between steps. Although it looked fairly involved each stage was straightforward and the instructions were clear. A couple of tips I would add: I found that I needed plenty of flour to roll out the pastry without it sticking. It is best to bake it on top of a cookie sheet because the the base gets pretty greasy. Before I scattered the almonds over the top I brushed the apple halves with a little butter because I was worried that they were drying out.
I loved the way the cream bubbled up to surround the apples and the fact that the apples were tender but kept their shape. The tart was very moist but with a good amount of crunch from the crisp pastry. Usually when I eat a pie I leave most of the pastry, but in this case the sweet and buttery pastry was irresistible. The best part was the edges were the almond cream had caramelized on top. My guinea pigs said that the tart was really light which certainly belies the amount of butter it contained. I think some of that came from the hint of lemon, provided by rolling the apple halves in diluted lemon juice.