Although its June, it feels far from it weather-wise. Usually if I was thinking of a dessert for Sunday lunch at this time of the year, I would be thinking more along the lines of strawberries and cream or a pavlova. Instead I found myself flicking through the hot puddings and tarts section of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. The French apple tart caught my eye – in this household fruit desserts always take precedence over chocolate ones and although it sounded more effort than some of her recipes, it seemed perfect for a Sunday when I have more time and a husband around to wrestle the jBug. A quick look at the recipe suggested this might take about 45 minutes to prepare plus baking time so off I went.
First you make the pastry. This was straightforward to do even by hand and within 5 minutes it was safely chilling in the fridge.
Next you make the puree apple filling. You cut up unpeeled Bramley apples into small chunks (mine were about 2cm long) and place in a pan where you have melted some butter. Then you add a little water and cook gently until they are soft and mushy. Mary says this step will take about 10-15 minutes. Well 45 minutes later my apples were finally ready! My chunks were obviously far bigger than Mary’s. By now I was beginning to get a bit stressed as my husband had taken the JBug to soft play so the time to get on with this tart uninterrupted was disappearing fast. The mushy apples are then rubbed through a sieve into a clean pan. Grated lemon rind, apricot jam and some caster sugar are added, you turn the heat up to high and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly so that the filling thickens. After 10 minutes the filling was still as thin as ever and I was starting to despair but finally at nearly 15 it was ready. I put filling aside to cool.
While the filling was cooling, I rolled out the pastry to line the tart. This was difficult to get an even thickness so I did the best I could (clearly my rolling pastry skills need more practice). I placed it in the tart tin, put the baking parchment on top and added the baking beans. It then went in the oven. I forgot to prick the base which I vaguely remember doing in the past but as the recipe didn’t say to, I omitted it. After 10 minutes the pastry still looked very undercooked so back in the oven for a further 5. I then removed the baking beans and parchment and returned it to the oven for 5 more minutes. When I took it out again, the bottom still look doughy and damp so back in it went for a further 5 (5 more than the recipe says).
Once the pastry is done, you add the puree apple filling plus some sliced apples to decorate the top. Then you brush lemon juice over them and sprinkle on some caster sugar before putting it back in the oven for 25 minutes. Again the pastry still looked rather pale and under done so it had another 10 minutes in the oven. I took it out and left it to cool. It didn’t look anything like as lovely as the picture in the book! The pastry around the sides of the tin had really shrunk so instead of being at the top of the tin, it was pretty much half way down. The apples hadn’t really browned either.
Well they always say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The pastry was overcooked and tough in places but flaky and light in others. The pureed apple filling was quite sweet but the sliced apples on top complemented this well. We each ate our slice and then the toddler asked for a second so I think its fair to say he certainly enjoyed it!!! I did enjoy it but I’m not completely convinced it was worth the amount of effort it took.
The biggest downside to cooking this was the time it took – it took me a full 2 1/2 hours from start to finish!!! Once I’m more familiar with it, I’m sure I could reduce this time and next time I would make the pureed apple filling in advance, perhaps the night before as I’m sure it would keep in the fridge overnight and which would help speed things up the next day.