Apple tart begins with pâté sucrée, a sweet pastry dough. It is filled with sautéed apples and finished with an almond nougat topping for a delicious, elegant dessert.
Every great pie or tart begins with a great crust. And this apple tart is no exception. It starts with a deliciously, sweet and buttery dough and is filled with cooked apples that are soft on the outside yet firm and juicy on the inside. Almond nougat is baked right on top to complete this tart. It's a dessert that makes for a lovely presentation.
I typically make pâté sucrée the night before I bake it. Refrigerating the dough overnight allows the gluten to relax and makes it easier to roll out the dough. Before blind-baking your crust, it's important to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour uncovered in its baking dish. Doing this will help the buttery crust keeps its shape. Additionally, blind-baking the pâté sucrée with some form of pie weights will also help keep its shape.
What you need to make the apple tart
Digital scale (or measuring cups and spoons)
3 small mixing bowls
2 silicone spatulas
9-inch tart pan or ring
2 medium mixing bowls
Large sauté pan
Butter. Always use unsalted butter. Make sure it is at room temperature.
Salt. Add a bit of salt is to your dough as a flavor enhancer.
Powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is used in the pâté sucrée dough because it melts and combines quickly compared to granulated sugar. As a result, you don't have to mix the dough as long, which will help avoid adding too many air bubbles into the pâté sucrée.
Almond flour. This flour will add flavor to the pâté sucrée dough and goes well with the almond nougat topping.
Vanilla. Always use pure vanilla extract compared to imitation. It will give you the best flavor.
Eggs. Whole eggs act as a binding ingredient in the pâté sucrée dough, and egg whites bind the nougat topping.
Cake flour. This flour has the least amount of protein of all the wheat flours and, therefore, will produce the least amount of gluten. The cake flour will create a tender tart shell.
Apples. Fuji and Braeburn are excellent apple choices for baking. They are both juicy and crisp, all the while maintaining their structure when baked.
Lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice will prevent your apples from turning brown while you prepare the filling.
Turbinado sugar. Also known as sugar in the raw, turbinado sugar is used in the apple filling. It's the perfect balance between granulated sugar and brown sugar.
Almonds. Sliced almonds are the nut of choice for the nougat topping in this recipe. It provides a nice, even topping layer compared to other nuts.
Cinnamon. Just a pinch adds a lovely flavor to the nougat topping. It the perfect flavor pairing to the apple filling.
What is pâté sucrée?
Pâté sucrée is a rich, sweetened, short pastry dough. When referring to 'short,' this means the fat in the dough (the butter) shortens the gluten strands by preventing them from fully developing as they would in a baked good such as bread. Consequently, this creates a tender and crumbly crust. Pâté sucrée dough is primarily used for fruit tarts or cream-filled tarts.
How to make pâté sucrée
- Cream the butter. Begin by creaming the softened butter and salt on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Do not whip the mixture, or else too much air will be incorporated.
- Incorporate ingredients. Add the powdered sugar and turn the mixer to low speed and mix until just combined. Add the almond flour and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed until incorporated.
- Remaining ingredients. Gradually add the egg and about one-quarter of the flour to the mixture while on low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and slowly add the remaining flour. Mix just until the dough comes together and is soft, but not sticky.
- Refrigerate. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Shape dough. Divide into two pieces and save one piece for later use. Using a rolling pin, roll the other piece of dough into a 1/4-inch thick circle. Carefully line a 9-inch tart pan or ring. If using a tart pan, lower the dough into the pan and gently fit to the sides of the pan without stretching the dough. Gently perforate the bottom of the tart with a fork.
- Refrigerate. Place the tart shell in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Bake. Line your tart shell with a piece of parchment paper and pie weights, dried beans, or rice (to blind-bake). Place in a 325°F/163°C preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the filling and continue to bake for an additional 15-18 minutes or until it is an even light golden brown.
How to use a tart ring
Tart rings produce pretty tart shells. The straight edges are a beautiful presentation and typical in French pastries. To use a tart ring, roll you dough between two pieces of parchment paper to a 1/4-inch circle that is slightly bigger than your tart ring. If the dough becomes too soft while you are rolling it out, place it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it. Place the tart ring over your dough and use a sharp knife to cut a circle from the inner side of your ring. Remove the extra dough and transfer the circle on the parchment paper to a baking sheet pan. Fit the tart ring around the circle.
Chill the remaining dough. Roll the dough to a 1/4-inch rectangle that is long and approximate 3 inches wide. Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife and a ruler, cut strips of dough as wide as the height of your tart ring. Rechill your dough one more time in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Carefully fit the stirps of dough to the sides of your tart ring and lightly seal any seams. Finally, slightly press down to attach to the bottom pâté sucrée layer.
Tips and takeaways
- When making your pâté sucrée dough, do not whip the butter and salt together. Whipping the mixture incorporates too much air into the dough. Too much air will cause the pâté sucrée to puff up in the oven. Additionally, it will create a porous dough which absorbs the fruit's liquid and will result in a soggy dough.
- It is essential to "dock" your pastry dough. Professional bakers will use a dough docker but a fork work equally as well. Docking dough allows the steam to escape evenly during baking so that your shell does not puff up in the oven.
- Sautéing the apples for too long will cause them to lose too much of their juices. Make sure you only sauté them until they are soft on the outside but still slightly firm on the inside. Using a hot sauté pan gives a nice sear to the apples so that they retain enough of their juices.
- If you do not like almonds, you can replace the nougat topping with a streusel topping (you can use the recipe from my apple pie bars).