This is an adaptation of a Jacques Pepin recipe. It’s a dessert that his mother used to bake almost everyday at her restaurant, Le Pelican in Lyon, France. It doesn’t come any more iron clad as that for recipes for me. The lady who raised my favorite chef used to make this? I’m all in.
This is very simple recipe and produces a delicate dessert. It’s not overly sweet, its got a very nice flaky crust, and it’s elegant in its simplicity. Quite French then.
This recipe calls for apples, rather sliced up apples. You can use whatever kind of apples you like, baking apples are the best. In that vein Granny Smith, Braeburn and/or Pink Lady are all good choices. I used a combination of Granny Smith and Braeburn apples.
As we were cutting the apples we had the square portion with the cores leftover for the trash. I relayed a story to my other half about my grandfather that I think of every time I cut up an apple and toss away the core. My grandfather was a child of the depression. That informed everything about his life afterward. He was a hard worker, saved money all his life, and never spent frivolously.
One of things I remember growing up was that my grandfather would decimate an apple when he ate it. He’d eat everything down to the core. There would be nothing left, and I mean nothing – just a stick. He told me when he was growing up that after someone was done eating an apple often he or someone else would call “corsies.” That meant that after someone else was done eating the apple, that person would get the core to chew on and get whatever apple was left on it. All I ever think of was how much the depression must have really sucked. If that was the only way you got fresh fruit, what a miserable time it must have been. I know that’s not a stretch to make that statement, but it’s one of those things that really brings home how bad times must really have been for most people.
There’s even a bit of hard times in the recipes origination itself. Mme. Pepin used to scour the countryside in postwar France on her bike, scavenging farm to farm to get scraps of food she could bring home and make some sort of meal for her child. Even though I’ve known working 100 hour weeks for months at a time, a life that hard I’ve never known.
So to make this delightful recipe, the first thing you need to do is make the dough for the crust. In a bowl mix 1 and 1/4 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in the 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening (room temperature) and mix by hand. When you’re done you should have a vaguely sandy mix. Mix in the 1/4 cup of milk (heated to lukewarm) and you’ll have a dry-ish dough.
Using a sheet of plastic wrap to help you, fit the dough into a 9-inch quiche pan or tart pan with a removable bottom. I don’t have a quiche pan anymore after we moved. I do have a spring-form cake pan (the type with the sides that come off.) With your fingers, press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you think the dough will be too dry to accomplish that there’s a fantastic trick I use all the time. A tablespoon or two of vodka added to dough will moisten it just like water. However vodka will evaporate in the oven quite quickly and leave the recipe in its original state. Reason enough to have some Kettle One in the freezer.
The next part is the simple filling. The original recipe calls for apples peeled, cored and quartered, and it calls for 6 medium-sized apples. I decided they looked huge quartered so I sliced them again. This left me with a huge leftover supply of apples. So three apples should do it. I arranged them in a circular fashion around the outside and then filled in the middle. You can arrange your apples however you like. Once you’ve settled on a design sprinkle the apples with the 3 tablespoons of sugar. The 2 tablespoons of butter gets chopped up into small bits and dropped evenly over the top of apples.
Now it’s into the oven. A preheated oven set to 400 degrees F should do nicely. Bake for about an hour. Once done the apples should be lightly browned on the top. The shell will be nicely browned. After that hour or so you can remove this and set it aside to cool. I took apart the spring form part of my pan to allow it cool more quickly. After a few minutes I couldn’t help myself and cut a giant slice out for myself. And another…
This recipe holds a special place for me. It’s quite rustic, it’s delicious, and it brings back memories for me of my childhood, as I’m sure it does for Jacques Pepin. For a 9 inch tart you’ll need the following:
- 1 and 1/4 cups AP Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 6 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
- 1/4 Cup Milk (Lukewarm)
- 3 – 4 Medium Sized Apples (Peeled, Cored, and Quartered or Sliced)
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Butter