I recently got a copy of Bake! by Nick Malgieri, and I was excited to see that the book offers quite a few tart recipes. I have always had trouble with pies, but I will happily make tarts all day long. In fact, the book has three chapters on tarts using different types of crusts: sweet pastry dough, flaky pastry dough, and cookie dough. I decided to try the recipe for "Lattice-Topped Apple Tart" for my first foray into the book.
This tart is in the flaky pastry dough chapter. I made the dough in the food processor from flour, salt, baking powder, cold butter, and eggs. After chilling, the dough was pretty easy to handle and roll out. Conveniently, the dough recipe makes enough for two crusts, so I only needed one batch to have enough dough for both the bottom crust and the lattice.
The filling for this tart is diced apples tossed with a mixture of sugar, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. You sprinkle a little bit of the reserved sugar mixture onto the bottom crust, pour in the apples, and then dot them with butter before putting on the lattice. The cookbook says that Northern Spies are the best apples to use for the filling, but I have never seen them available in this area. Fortunately, the recipe also suggests a readily available substitute -- equal parts Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. As the recipe directed, I cut the Granny Smith apples smaller since they are firmer and would otherwise take longer to soften.
The recipe advises you to put a sheet of foil on the bottom of the oven to catch drips when the filling comes to a simmer close to the end of the baking time. Instead, I put my tart pan directly on a sheet pan (I usually do this anyway, since it makes the tart part easier to handle and eliminates the possibility of accidentally knocking out the removable bottom when picking up the pan). At the end of the baking time, the crust was golden and the filling was gently bubbling; some of the liquid had run out onto the sheet pan, but my tart pretty much looked exactly like the one pictured in the cookbook, so I was feeling pretty confident. I noticed that when the liquid on the sheet pan cooled, it was completely hard, like caramel. After the tart had cooled, I tried to lift out the pan bottom, but I couldn't get it to budge -- it was completely stuck. I have made countless tarts in the past, and I have never once encountered this problem before. Even more distressing, I had made this tart for my friends Jim and Colleen, and so I had to drop it off at their house and sheepishly explain that the tart was stuck and I had no idea if they would be able to get slices of it out of the pan.
So I didn't actually get to see the tart when it was cut and served, but I am informed that the sticking problem was limited to the outside perimeter of the tart. Presumably when the filling bubbled over, the liquid fell into the gap between the crust and the pan and then hardened as it cooled, gluing the crust to the pan in the process. I was assured that the tart filling was delicious and the crust properly cooked through. Jim and Colleen had the great misfortune of being forced to sample several unsuccessful pies over the summer (see here, here, and here), and Jim -- who is not afraid to be honest with me when it comes to baked goods -- reported that this tart was far superior to all of them.
I am looking forward to making this tart again so that I can taste if for myself! In the meantime, unless someone informs me otherwise, I'm considering this recipe a success. Although, just to be on the safe side, I'll make sure that I don't plan to serve this tart at some formal occasion where it would pose a problem if I find it stuck to the pan again!
Recipe: "Lattice-Topped Apple Tart" from Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking, by Nick Malgieri.