Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to mention a blog that a friend of mine recently started under the name Marie Bonet. On her blog, she shares short stories, musings, and recipes that she has created. I encourage you to check out her blog!
Last weekend we had an outdoor BBQ with a couple that we hadn’t seen since the pandemic started. Of course, I offered to bring a dessert! Since the weather was cool and rainy during the week leading up to the get-together, I was in the mood to make a fall dessert. My mind went immediately to apples as the main flavour.
What to make?
I have made a lot of cakes recently so I decided to go in the direction of a pie. While I do have make a good traditional apple pie recipe, I wanted to make something a bit more unique. I have a recipe for French Apple Tart that I made a few years ago. While it’s very pretty with the apple flower on top, I found the flavour a bit boring. It’s basically sauteed apples on top of a layer of an applesauce type filling in a pat-in-the-pan crust.
I used that as my starting point and started brainstorming how to give this pretty tart a more exciting flavour. At first I considered adding some spices to the applesauce or the apples on top, but that didn’t seem like what I wanted yet. I also considered drizzling some salted caramel sauce over top, but I thought that might ruin the look of the flower.
As I was thumbing through my cookbooks, I saw a recipe for a classic mixed fruit tart that had a layer of pastry cream underneath the fruit. That got the wheels turning in my brain! What about a salted caramel pastry cream? That seemed like a great starting point!
Planning the Flavour
Since the pat-in-the-pan crust uses melted butter, I decided to go a step further and use brown butter. I liked the brown butter cake very much when I made the Apple Pie Layer Cake and I thought brown butter would work well in the crust for this tart as well. I just lightly browned the butter this time, because I knew the rest of the flavours would be fairly delicate, and I didn’t want to overwhelm them.
I made my salted caramel pastry cream by making a dry caramel (no water added) with the sugar that was in the pastry cream recipe and adding a 1/2 tsp of salt along with the rest of the ingredients. When I tasted it, I got a delicate caramel flavour. I was worried that wouldn’t be enough flavour boost, so I quickly made a batch of salted caramel and to add as another layer.
The final assembled tart had a lovely cookie-like barely brown butter crust, a layer of salted caramel, a layer of salted caramel pastry cream and the apple flower layer. I brushed the top apple layer with some melted apricot jam and put it under the broiler for colour.
I couldn’t get a slice where you could see the caramel layer very well for a picture, but you could definitely taste it!
The Taste Test
This tart went over very well. The crust had a slight salty and nutty flavour and I was glad that I had put in the extra layer of caramel. The caramel flavour was present but not overwhelming and it paired nicely with the slightly firm and not too sweet apples on top! Although it had 4 different components, none of them was especially difficult or time consuming to make. Overall we thought this was a perfect fall dessert. I’m adding this to my list of standard desserts to make!
Salted Caramel Apple Tart with a Brown Butter CrustThis pretty tart is based on the classic French apple tart. The flavours are taken up a notch with barely brown butter in the pat-in-pan crust, a layer of salted caramel, and a layer of salted caramel pastry cream underneath a decorative layer of apples. A celebration of fall flavours! A firm apple like Granny Smith is a must for this tart.
For the Crust
- For the Salted Caramel Pastry Cream
- For the Salted Caramel
- For the Apples
For the Salted Caramel Pastry Cream
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch. Set aside. If using a vanilla bean, cut the bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds from one half with the back of a knife. Wrap up the other half to use another time.
- Heat cream in the microwave for about 1 minute until warm.
- Heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved and turns an amber colour. Because this is a "dry" caramel, this happens quite quickly, so watch that you don't burn the caramel!
- Slowly pour in the cream and whisk constantly until all of the caramel has dissolved. The caramel will bubble up when you add the cream, so be careful! If you are using a vanilla bean, add the seeds and scraped bean pod now. Continue to heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.
- Slowly whisk one cup of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, to temper them. Then slowly whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining cream. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 30 seconds.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter, salt, and vanilla extract, if using. Remove the vanilla bean, if using, and pour the mixture into a bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the top of the mixture and chill in the fridge for 3 hours to set. For the Brown Butter Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180 C. Place a 9-inch/23cm round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet.
- Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter starts to foam, stir with a spoon and watch the colour of the butter solids. When they have turned a light golden brown, remove from heat and transfer the butter to a bowl to cool for 5 minutes. Be careful not to cook the butter too long or the flavour of the crust will overwhelm the flavour of the filling.
- Once the butter has cooled a bit, stir together with the flour, sugar, and salt. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of your tart pan. Bake the crust for 30 - 35 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden and firm to the touch. Let cool completely. For the Apples
- Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into quarters and then cut each quarter into 4 slices.
- Heat butter over medium heat in a 12-inch skillet until melted. Add apples and 1 tbsp water and stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples begin to become translucent and are pliable, about 3-5 minutes.
- Transfer the apples to a pie plate or baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Chill in the fridge until cool. For the Salted Caramel
- In a medium saucepan, heat sugar, water, and salt over medium heat. Do not stir! Instead, gently shake the pan every so often until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns an amber caramel, about 5 - 10 minutes.
- Off heat, carefully whisk in cream, then butter and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. When the mixture has thickened and cooled slightly, pour the caramel over the bottom of the crust. It helps to pour it over the entire surface of the crust, rather than the centre, and then spread as needed to fill any gaps as the caramel hardens quickly. Chill in the fridge until ready to assemble the rest of the tart. For Assembly
- Place an oven rack in the top position and turn the oven on to broil.
- Spoon or pipe the pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the tart.
- Starting from the outside of the tart, lay the apples in overlapping concentric circles, gradually layering toward the centre of the tart until the entire surface is covered.
- Heat apricot jam in a small bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds until runny. Use a pastry brush to brush the jam over the top of the apples.
- Place the tart on a baking sheet and broil, turning frequently until the apples begin to caramelize on top. Be careful not to burn the crust!
- Chill the tart in the fridge until ready to serve.