the saturday post | ina's apple tart

Bastille Day 2011 happened to fall on the same day as my office book club, so I couldn't let the French holiday pass without baking something appropriate to celebrate. But the night I baked this, I wasn't in blog mode. My camera was in another room and the sun was setting, but when I pulled the sheet pan out of the oven I had to change course. It was too beautiful not to tell you about.

When I read through the recipe and noticed Ina's note about cutting away the edges of the pastry, I nearly rolled my eyes. It sounded fussy to me. I'm more of a rustic-tart kind of girl, and love the imperfection of rolled up edges, but I just decided to follow the recipe as written, and lo and behold, Ina was right. The tart is perfectly elegant, and the straight edges that I thought would feel too prim and proper actually were the best part, all golden brown, crisp and full of sweet flavor.

I know you'll love this tart. I'm certain it will go in my recipe arsenal and I'll make it for countless dinner parties and events. Think of it as your little black dress of dessert recipes. It never goes out of style.

Makes 15 pieces

Don't go out and buy puff pastry thinking it will make things easier. This pastry dough comes together with very little effort and since it has to chill for a bit, can also be made hours or even a day ahead. I like to dice my butter ahead of time and leave it in a small bowl in the refrigerator. This way it will remain as cold as possible while it's being incorporated with the flour. The recipe called for 4 apples, but even with the same pastry measurements I only needed 2.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Ina Garten

For the pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

For the apples
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed

For the pastry, place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few seconds to combine. Add the chilled butter pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits, the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat. Roll the dough to a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. Using a ruler and a small pairing knife, trim the edges. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and prepare the apples.

Cut the apples in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the center row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is golden at the edges and the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. Remove the tart and warm the apricot jam with a tablespoon of water. Brush the apples and pastry with the jam and allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.