Caramel apple tarts

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Yippee - it’s officially fall! The recent autumnal equinox dawned bright, crisp and clear with morning temps in the mid-40s, perfect for walking, baking or pretty much anything one might feel like doing. My time of year!

Apples are everywhere - farmers markets, grocery stores, orchards and farm stands - and one can choose the pick-your-own thing or simply buy your favorite of the many varieties available here in west Michigan.

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Having a go-to simple apple tart in one’s repertoire is a beautiful thing. As is my practice, I periodically assess my freezer stock of various doughs and decide when it’s time to use something up. This time it was one of the pâte sucrée doughs that I like to use for rustic galettes.

The approach is very straight forward, not unlike the Provençal tomato tart I just wrote about, although this time there’s no blind baking involved. Gotta like that.

First line the tart rings. In this case I’m making four 100 mm/4 inch diameter tarts, just enough to share with a few folks for dessert. Once lined, I sprinkle a mixture of equal parts sugar/flour (almond flour or fine bread crumbs work too) on the bottom to protect against sogginess from juicy fruit. With apples it’s not as much of an issue as it might be for juicier fruits like berries or stone fruits, but it’s a good practice nonetheless.

If I happen to have some diced/sautéed apples on hand, I put a smattering of those into the tart shell too.

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For the remaining apple filling I thinly slice a few medium apples and toss them with some vanilla sugar (1/2 to 1 tablespoon per cup of apples, or to taste). You can switch to brown sugar if you prefer that bit of toffee like essence. I generally keep the apples as the centerpiece of flavor and forego adding cinnamon or other spices, but those are popular options with many apple tart/pie bakers. You decide.

I’ve used a number of different apples over the years and love the combination of Jonagold/Fuji or Granny Smith/Macintosh. During my internship in Paris back in 2007 Chef Pascal Pinaud used Golden Delicious for his apple tarts, and they were mighty fine too. Isn’t it fun to experiment?

NOTE: a pound is about 3-4 medium or 2-3 large apples and should yield 3-4 cups. That worked well here with a handful of slices left over. I go for the more the merrier, especially since I like to pile ‘em on.

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I drizzle a little melted butter over the apples then pop the tray into the freezer while I heat the oven to 400ºF. Start the bake on the lower rack for 10-15 minutes, then move up to the middle rack, turn down to 375ºF and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Some of the apple slice tips start turning brown and I’ll begin to see some juiciness and bubbling developing along with the lovely aroma of baking apples and nicely browning crust. At this point I’ll often turn down to 350ºF and give them another 10-15 minutes. In a nutshell I typically plan a 35-40 minute total bake time for these tarts.

Once out of the oven I drizzle my homemade caramel sauce over and give them 3-4 minutes more in the oven to set the caramel.

Looking good.

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Served with vanilla ice cream (Steve believes everything is better that way), these were a tasty end to the meal. Très délicieuse!

Here’s to many more autumn baking adventures!!

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