As easy as (apple) pie

Apple pie is the beginning of all fruit-based pies. American songs and movies are full of it. So here, in partial salute to apple pie, we have an apple tart, a tart being a pie without a lid. The pastry is a cinch and the caramelised sugar a new skill
just waiting to be mastered.

To make an apple tart for six members of your kaffeeklatsch, you will need:

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 125g butter
  • 250g white flour
  • ¼ cup castor sugar
  • Yolk of an egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ tablespoons of iced water

For the tart:

  • 6-8 Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 60g butter
  • 25ml (one tot) brandy

But why only Granny Smiths, I hear you ask? Because you need a sharp, slightly acidic apple taste. Begin with the shortcrust pastry since this needs a cooling-off period in the fridge. You can use a standard kitchen mixer like a Kenwood Chef for this process but advanced time and motion studies prove that in this case a blender or food processor is the faster option.

Add the butter, flour and salt to the blender and rev it to the red line until the contents form pellets of dough. Lower the revs, pour in the iced water and the single egg yolk and keep the machine running until a single solid ball of dough results. Tip out the dough ball, wrap it in clingwrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Now for some transformational kitchen alchemy. Using only heat we are going to change white sugar into caramelised sugar. For the life of me, I can never tell in advance if the caramelisation process is going to work. Sometimes it’s perfect, other times under seemingly identical conditions, it turns into brown slime burnt at the edges. This is what you do: in a small, heavy-based saucepan, pour in half a cup of white sugar and a tablespoon of water.

Bring up the heat to medium, stirring continuously. When the mixture turns brown, remove from the heat and dunk the base of
the pan in cold water to halt the process. Reserve for later. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Core and peel the apples, then cut them into thin sections. Fry the apple in half the butter and castor sugar for 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Grease the baking pan with a little butter, then pour in the caramelised sugar. Into this place the cooked apple sections in concentric layers starting on the outside moving in. Melt the remainder of the butter and mix it with the brandy. Pour this fragrant mixture over the layers of cooked apple in the baking pan.

Now for the pastry. Roll this out to a thickness of 7mm and place a layer over the contents of the baking pan. Press it round the edges. Stick this into the pre-warmed oven and bake for 25 minutes or so. When done to your liking, remove it from the oven and carefully turn it out, pastry side down, onto a serving dish. A spoonful of freshly whipped cream and freshly brewed single cultivar dark roast coffee produces the mid-morning break of your dreams.

Contact David Basckin at [email protected]. Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.