Pate Brisee and the Apple Tart

First up is Pate Brisee (French for Broken Dough) and an apple tart:


The version in my text calls for 250 g cake flour, ½ tsp salt, 125 g butter, and 65 ml of very cold water or one egg. 

I opted to do this entirely by hand, so the first step was to mix the flour, salt, and sugar, then cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter.


Before cutting

And after

I probably worked more of the butter into the flour mixture than called for as the texture was more mealy than flakey.  There are supposed to be numerous bits of butter the size of lentils or split peas.

I poured the egg/water mix into the bowl and mixed it just until the flour absorbed it all.  I needed a bit more water to fully wet the flour mix.  I also took care to work it as little as possible.  Once it came together I pressed it into a disk, wrapped it, and stashed it back in the fridge overnight.  The wait is supposed to let the gluten relax, but is mostly to allow the flour to fully hydrate.


Then next day I took half the disk and rolled it out.


I used this newfangled pie crust bag that zips closed.  It’s supposed to make the job easier and less messy.  It worked for me for the most part.  The shape of the bag guides the size of the disk and, unlike rolling it out on the table, you can peel the plastic from the dough without tearing.


It also makes it easy to transfer to the tart pan.  It turned out that the dough batch wasn’t quite large enough to make two tarts without thinning the crust more than I would have liked. 


The first apple tart in the book specifies 170 g of Golden Delicious apples, 75 g sugar, and one vanilla bean for the Apple Compote filling.  The dough was enough for two 9 inch tarts, so I doubled the filling.   Rather than sticking with Golden Delicious I used a mix of Granny Smith, Pink Ladies, Jazz, and Braeburn apples for a more complex flavor.


You’ve probably seen whole vanilla beans in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.  They are frequently sold one or two to a bottle for an outrageous price.  I’ve seen one bean go for as much as $10!  To make matters worse, these beans are frequently dried out by the time you use them.  Thankfully there is another source that has top quality beans for a fraction of the supermarket price.  You can buy half a pound of plump Tahitian vanilla beans for $15.50 or half a pound of Planifolia vanilla beans for $32 from “Vanilla, Saffron Imports” on the web.  Try them out if you want to do a lot of baking without spending a fortune.

The apples get peeled, cored, and diced and the bean gets sliced.  Everything goes in the pot with 100 ml of water over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the apples are translucent and moisture has evaporated.


The compote goes in the tart after cooling and another two apples are peeled, sliced, cored, and arranged in a spiral for the topping.


That goes in the oven at 350F for about an hour, then it is glazed with Apricot jam that has been melted with water and strained.


You can see that the crust was a bit thin and cracked in a couple places.  As mentioned earlier it came out tender but more mealy than flakey.  I would also use a bit more compote next time as the specified amount left it looking a bit empty.  The tart was also a bit tart in flavor, probably due to my using a mix of apples rather than the Golden Delicious called for.  Still, it turned out fairly well for a first try.


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