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November 08, 2007

Apples Blooming in Autumn


Remember Pâtisserie Philippe's gorgeous apple tart from my last post? If you didn't get a good look at it, here is an outtake from my photo shoot:


Isn't it just beautiful? The perfect, wafer-fine crust, the carefully layered slices of apple fanning and furling into a blooming rose in the center; this is a dessert designed to elicit oohs of appreciation upon sight, and sighs of delight upon tasting. The filling for this tart is completely made of apple, and a glorious tribute to the fruit it is. I was amazed how a crisp buttery crust topped with smooth, rich applesauce and fork-tender, just-sweet apple slices could taste as satisfying delicious as the most complex of pastries - proof that nobody does desserts that are simultaneously simple yet elegant like the French.


After consuming about half of Philippe's tart, I was determined to try and make my own version. To my happy surprise, Dorie Greenspan came to the rescue again with her version of Normandy Apple Tart in her Baking book. Upon reading the recipe, I discovered it really was as simple as making a tart crust, filling it with applesauce, and covering it with apple slices.

Of course, the devil's always in the details, which is why Philippe's is so flawless and mine is merely an eager aspirant. It's not easy to get tart dough so thin and flaky, or the applesauce so smooth and velvety, or all the apple slices so thinly sliced and artfully arranged. But this recipe is one where you won't mind trying again and again to get it just perfect. A couple of tips: use the best, most flavorful apples you can find, since this tart is all about highlighting them - you shouldn't be burying the taste beneath butter and sugar. You can use store-bought applesauce if you like, but I agree with Dorie that it's so much better when you make it yourself - take advantage now before apples are gone from the farmers' markets! Finally, if you're nervous about slicing your apples evenly, a mandolin works wonders.


A slice of this apple tart, still warm from the oven and topped with a bit of crème fraîche, makes me think of fading afternoon light shining through the few copper and russet leaves clinging to the trees, fuzzy woolen scarves tucked into snuggly warm sweaters, and the cool, crisp smell of autumn in the air. If you have the chance to try Philippe's apple tart, please do. If you don't, maybe you'll try making it yourself, and you can feel just like a French pastry chef in your own kitchen.

Normandy Apple Tart

adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

makes one 9-inch tart

Pâte Sablée

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

9 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces

1 egg yolk


2 pounds baking apples, such as Empire, Cortland, McIntosh, or Pippin

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1-4 tablespoons sugar to taste


2 medium-sized, firm apples, such as Golden Delicious or Granny Smith

1 egg for egg wash

1/3 cup apple jelly for glaze

For the applesauce: Peel and core the apples, and cut into smallish chunks. Place into a 3 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Add in the water and brown sugar, and stir to combine.

Cover the saucepan and cook the apples over the medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure none of the apples scorch.

If the water seems to be boiling away too quickly, you can add in a little more. Over about 20-30 minutes, the apples should start reducing and softening in the bubbling water. Don't leave the pan unattended for too long or the water could boil over or the apples burn.

When the apples are soft enough to be mashed with a spoon, remove the pan from heat. Scrape the apples into a food processor and blend quickly to turn into applesauce - don't process too long or you'll liquefy the apples. The applesauce should still be thick.

Taste and add sugar to taste - traditionally this applesauce is not meant to be very sweet, but you can add at your discretion.

Pour the applesauce into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and refrigerate until it is no longer warm before using. You can keep the applesauce in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

For the tart shell: Put the flour, confectioner's sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to turn from dry to clumpy. Do not let the dough form one giant ball or it will be be overworked - just keep checking after every pulse and when the dough pieces looks like they will stick when you press them together, stop.

Butter a 9-in tart tin with removable bottom. Turn the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. You probably will not need all the dough - save the extra for patching the shell after you bake it. Do not press the dough too hard or it will become tough - just enough for it to form to the tin.

Freeze the tart shell for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To partially bake the tart shell, take a piece of foil and butter the shiny side, then press the buttered side tightly to the shell. You do not need pie weights. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. Let cool on a rack until room temperature.

For the tart: When you are ready to finish the tart, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill the tart shell with the applesauce almost to the top of the crust and smooth the top. Place the tart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

Peel and core the two apples. Cut each apple in half and then again lengthwise. Cut each apple quarter into about 7 slices - they will be quite thin.

Arrange the apple slices over the top of the applesauce in a pleasing pattern. I found that the apple slices shrink a bit while baking so be sure the edges overlap the tart crust and each other enough.

Make a egg wash by beating the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the apple slices.

Bake the tart in the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes. The applesauce will puff up a little bit and the apples slices will turn golden and slightly burnt at the edges. When the apple slices are soft enough to be pierced by the tip of knife, you can take out the tart.

Remove the tart and let cool on a wire rack. If you'd like to glaze the top of the tart, mix the apple jelly with a teaspoon of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Brush the glaze lightly over the top of the tart.

The tart should be served as soon as possible to prevent it from getting soggy.

Pâtisserie Philippe

655 Townsend Street

San Francisco, CA 94103


[email protected]

Open M-F 8-6, Sat 8-5

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I look at this beautiful tart and I must have had a lot of patience to line all of the slices up so perfectly!

when you open your bakery, please let me know, I'll be the first in line :)

So beautiful. I love how you decorated the tart with the apple slices. You mush have golden hands :)

OMG Anita .. this is absolutely stunning. Wow !!!! perfect finishing , love the use of mandolin as i can never slice then evenly.This looks superb ... i just cant shut up about it. Maybe once slice of this would make me :P

This is so pretty. The funny thing is I made small apple tarts yesterday too. Great minds think alike. Perfect!

Beautiful. Beautiful!

!!!! That is stunning looking. I would never have the patience for slicing apples that thin. Guess I need to break down and get a mandolin.

Stunning job you did.

You did a great job, Anita! It's perfect - what detail! When I visit San Francisco again, we need to do make a trek up to Pattisserie Philippe.

The paper thin apple slices create such a beautiful effect, Anita!

I just made this for Halloween! My arrangement of apples was not nearly as elegant!

The tart looks absolutely heavenly! Fortunately we should have enough apples at home to last until spring, but it's impossible to achieve as neat a topping as this one - every apple is a bit...hmmm...different:)
Thank you!

Shoooooeyy. Paper thin apples!

This looks absolutely beautiful and delicious! Strangely enough, even with all the people who love that cookbook, it's been sitting on my shelf for ages and I've yet to make anything from it.

Reading your post made me want to eat this gorgeous fall tart? Will you come over and bake it for me? Oh, well, it's worth asking:) In all seriousness, though, this is something I'd love to try, but I've been wanting to get in the kitchen and bake the Dutch apple pie I've been craving...decisions.

That is one fine looking tart, Anita. How the applesauce settle after cooking? What's the consistency like?

Beaitiful, beautiful tart...and you're inspiring me to get to Dorie's recipe soon :)

What a stunning tart. I've wanted to make one for ages. I never realised it was full of puree. Well done.

Perfection incarnated! That tarts looks gorgeous!



Your tart is gorgeous! I have been looking at this recipe for I must try it! Maybe for Thanksgiving??

Just gorgeous! It looks like an edible work of art!

mmm...stunning! and congratulations on all your recent professional success!

your photos are gorgeous! and congratulations on all you have going's all so very exciting! i'm sure your apple tart was just as yummy!

Hi Anita. Your work is always gorgeous. I used to work with Phillipe, so I'm not surprised by his utter perfection. Glad to hear he's doing well. I need to stop by his place.

Wow, that is one of the most beautiful tarts I have ever seen and I am sure that it is not just the good photography. Yum, I wish I could just reach in the computer and grab a piece. Perfect season for baking apples. Thanks for the inspiration.

Now that is a work of art Anita.

This is a most perfect tart! I love tarts....and this is definitely one to bookmark. Thanks!

Absolutely stunning photos. The tart looks perfect.

Wow, it really is beautiful! And delicious, judging from your wonderful description!

Congrats on DMBLGIT to you too!! I have made this tart many times and it is always a hit. I love how thin your apples are!
Good job on Philippe's brochure, you did a terrific job!

Looks divine Anita!
I ate too much chocolate at CHARLE's stand at the NY Choco show all BECAUSE OF YOU!

Beautiful! Don't you just love that Dorie's recipes range from down-home biscuits and muffins to works of art like this??

Mmm...that recipe sounds delicious! I've never heard of using applesauce in a tart.

Maybe you'll be more satisfied with the apple design if you fan the slices in the other direction, with the curved part overlaying the cut edge.

How beautiful - those apple thins are so delicate!

Thank you! I had a lot of apples to practice with!

Thank you! You'll be the first to know:)

Thank you! Sometimes I just get the obsessive-compulsive urge:)

Thank you! Actually, using a mandolin makes it pretty painless:)

Great minds think alike indeed! I love your tarts too!

Thank you so much!

Thank you! Using the mandolin definitely makes things easier!

Definitely when you return we'll do a pastry tour of SF!

Thank you! It was a really fun exercise!

Thanks! I think yours is lovely too, and the great thing is the tart tastes so good no matter what!

Thank you! I had to sort of order my apple slice by size too - they are all different like you said!

Thanks so much!

Thanks! I feel like I should bake more from it too - everytime I open it I find something great!

I'd love to do a baking session with you sometime - and I always need people to help finish what I make!

Thank you! The applesauce is a nice thick consistency - not solid firm and not runny. Pretty much like a good applesauce!

Thank you! It's a great recipe, however you decorate it!

Yes, I didn't realize it either - but it's really delicious!

Oh,thanks! That's so sweet!

Hope you get to try it - it's great!

Thank you! I had fun making it!

Thank you for all the kind words - I appreciate it!

Thank you! It really was a fun challenge for me!

Thanks and great to hear from you! Philippe does make the most amazing stuff!

Thank you! It was an inspirational recipe to work with!

Thank you! I had fun making it!

Thank you! It's a great recipe, hope you enjoy it!

Thank you! I'm glad it came out so well!

Thank you! It was delicious - a great recipe in every way!

Thank you! I'm imagining how gorgeous your tarts must be - I admit it was quite fun to make!

I am sure you did not need my encouragement to eat tons of Charles' Chocolates - they are yummy!

I am always amazed at Dorie's range - I can always find something I want to make!

Thank you! I was thinking of using even more apples for the topping next time to make it look even fuller.

Thank you! The joys of having a mandolin!

I love your blog and all your recipes, which leads me to a question that has baffled me for a long time. I have tried many pate sablee recipes and when they are baked, the butter melts out of them and I have a tart pan that is sitting in a buttery mess. What could be my problem? I follow the recipe to the letter and my oven is calibrated correctly. What could I be doing wrong? Thank you so much!

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