For me, a French apple tart is hands down one of the most comforting desserts out there! Softened apples that pack a punch of flavors and a sweet creamy filling are encased in buttery and flaky pastry. It’s a sure win! No wonder why apple tarts are a firm family’s favorite in France when fall comes around. Nothing beats the smell of an apple tart cooling down on the counter, especially after you’ve sprinkled cinnamon on top.
This French apple tart is a true and tested family recipe. It was one of the few desserts my mum would make for my sister and me. She would also bake Alsatian Christmas cookies in December, beignets for Shrove Tuesday, and her classic marble cake if there was a bake sale at school. She hates baking/cooking because, according to her, ‘It takes too much time and then everything gets eaten in 10 min’. So it was always a delightful surprise on some weekends to run down the stairs and to smell this apple tart baking in the oven.
TIPS FOR SHORTCRUST PASTRY
There are two things to keep in mind with shortcrust pastry (pie dough). One, don’t overwork it otherwise you’ll get a tough tart crust after baking. Gently gather the ingredients together and don’t knead the dough.
Two, cold is best! If the pastry is too warm, the butter will combine into the flour too much when the dough is being made or rolled and you won’t get pockets of butter. It’s a shame because when these pieces of butter melt while baking, steam will be released, ensuring a light and flaky tart crust. So it’s important to chill the pastry after you’ve done it and after you’ve rolled it, even it means having to wait for a while. It’ll be worth it! Plus, while the pastry chills the gluten will have time to relax, meaning the tart dough will be easier to roll. It also reduces the risk of shrinkage in the oven, so you’ll get a prettier French apple tart!
BAKE THE TART CRUST FIRST
➝ Do I have to partially bake the tart crust or can I skip it? It’s crucial to partially bake the crust before adding the apples and cream. If the dough hasn’t time to bake before the wet ingredients are added, it will not be able to fully cook and the crust will be soggy. Apples will release juice so the pastry needs to have set and be crisp before placing fruits on top of the pastry. If you notice that the edge of your French apple tart is browning too much, you can make a ring out of aluminum foil to prevent the crust from browning more. Here’s a video if needed.
USE APPLES THAT KEEP THEIR SHAPES
I prefer to make this French apple tart with tart Granny Smith apples because they keep their shapes after baking and they don’t release too much juice. Yes, Granny Smith apples are sour but it’s a great flavor combination with the sweet vanilla-infused creamy filling and the lasting notes of cinnamon.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can pair the Granny Smith with sweeter apples that also keep their shape (like a Gala or Braeburn) and add a bit more sugar to the filling. Whether you use Granny Smith, a combination of apples, or just sweeter apples, follow the recipe’s direction and you’ll have a delicious French apple tart in no time (well in 2 hours)!
You could swap the apples for a different type of fruit altogether. This tart is also commonly made with pears, damsons, blueberries, or rhubarb in north-eastern France.
A DESSERT FROM ALSACE (and LORRAINE)
I call this a French apple tart but, to be more precise, it’s an Alsatian French tart. Alsace is a region in north-eastern France bordering Germany and Switzerland and that’s where my mum’s family is from. Well, they are 1 village away from being Alsatian, and technically they are from Lorraine. But people in France would classify this tart as Alsatian and not from Lorraine, so I’ll go with Alsatian.
Anyway, it’s quite disorienting to visit Alsace because the region is very different from the rest of France. Culturally, they’re not quite French, but they’re not quite German either. The region is famous for its numerous castles, Gothic cathedrals, white wines, centuries-old half-timbered houses and beautiful Christmas markets. Alsatian food that is just as mesmerizing! Between choucroute (sauerfraut), tarte flambée (flammekueche), kougelhopf, fresh bretzels, and so on and so forth, there is something for everyone. There is also a special space in my heart for the Vosges mountains and the pine forests that separate Alsace and Lorraine.
My mum unfortunately never had the baking bug but all of her sisters did. When I was visiting my aunts’ in the summer, you could be sure they would have fresh slices of Kougelhopf (a yeast-based cakes stuffed with raisins) for breakfast and boxes stuffed with cookies for tea. And on every weekend they would bake a tart topped with whichever fruits were in season (a serving of whipped cream on the side was mandatory). For someone who only had desserts maybe once a month as a kid, this was magical.
Are you looking for other French desserts? Here are some of my favorites:
- My mum’s chocolate marble cake (Marbré)
- Orange truffles (Truffes)
- White chocolate madeleines
- Crumbly chocolate cookies (Sablés)
(apparently I’m really into chocolate)Print
A French apple tart is hands down one of the most comforting fall desserts. Softened apples that pack a punch, a sweet creamy filling topped with cinnamon, a buttery flaky tart crust, nothing beats it!
For the tart dough:
- 185g all-purpose flour (1 ¼ cup)
- 90g cold butter, cubed (3 oz)
- 1 egg yolk
- 80ml cold water (⅓ cup), you might need to use slightly more or less
For the French apple tart filling:
- 5 granny smith apples
- 70g caster sugar (⅓ cup)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 180ml milk (¾ cup)
- 60ml heavy cream (¼ cup)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon, or more according to taste
To make the tart crust:
- Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub it in lightly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. It might take up to 6 min to get this result.
- Add the egg yolk and ¾ of the water and stir. Add the rest of the water and more if needed to gather the flour eventually left in the mixing bowl.
- When the dough mostly sticks together gently press it into a smooth ball and flatten it slightly into a disk. Wrap the pastry with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 min. Butter a 26cm (10 ¼ in) tart pan.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a round slightly bigger than the pan. If the dough becomes soft and sticky as you roll, add a bit more flour under the pastry and on the rolling pin.
- Fold the dough in half and then fold it one more time. Pick it up and brush off any excess flour. Line the pan with the rolled pastry and ease the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Leave a little excess pastry hanging over the edge.
- Fold the excess pastry over into the pan to make double-thick walls. Press the pastry along the seam and fluted sides of the pan with your index fingers side by side.
- If the sides are uneven, use a small sharp knife to trim away the sides of the pastry to even them. Gather the trimmings into a small, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. You might need it to patch up the tart crust later on.
- Place the pan in the freezer for 40 min. Getting your pastry really cold will stop it from shrinking while baking.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Cover the pan entirely with baking parchment (I had to use 2 sheets) and fill the pan with baking beans or uncooked rice/lentils.
- Bake blind for 15 min, then remove the weights and parchment paper. Patch any cracks or holes in the tart crust with the reserved dough. Return the tart crust to the oven for 5 min.
To make the French apple tart filling:
- While the tart crust bakes you can get on with your filling! Peel and quarter the apples. To do that, simply cut them from top to bottom and then cut each half lengthwise. Core them.
- Score the top of the quartered apples several times lengthwise but don’t cut all the way through. Arrange the apples scored side up, slightly overlapping each other, in two concentric outer and inner circles.
- Bake for 15 min and in the meantime prepare the cream filling. Beat the sugar and egg together for 1 min, until light and fluffy. Then stir in the extract, salt, milk and cream. Beat until fully incorporated and pour into a jug.
- After the 15 minutes have passed, open up the oven door, pull out the rack part-way and pour the cream all over the fruits. Continue baking for 25 to 30 min. The edges of the tart crust and the apples should be golden brown. The cream should have risen around the fruits and be brown in places.
- Serve the tart at room temperature with ground cinnamon on top.
French apple tart is best the day it’s made, but it will keep wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The tart’s bottom will get soggier over time because of the juice from the apples.
I love it cold but you can reheat it before serving in an oven preheated at 160°C (320°F) until warmed through, about 10 min.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 433
- Fat: 19g
Keywords: apple tart, fall desserts, french desserts, french tart, apple desserts