Apple Tart

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This is the plainest—and best—apple tart. It is good at room temperature, better if slightly warm. If possible, bake the tart during dinner, then let it cool a bit before serving.

My friend Ernestine, raised in rural Idaho, had a recipe for what she called Mormon pie dough. She used it for fruit pies and for a memorable sauerkraut and pork sausage pie. The original recipe begins, “First stir up an egg …,” and it calls for using all lard. For desserts, I prefer to use all butter; for a savory pie, I use lard. Either way, the pastry has wonderful flakiness and is easy to handle.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) cold butter, in thin slices
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten, plus enough ice water to make ½ cup
  • 8 medium crisp apples, about 3 pounds
  • 1 cup sugar for the glaze, plus extra for sprinkling on the apples
  • 1 cup water

Method

Put the flour, butter, and salt in a bowl. With your fingers, work the butter into the flour until it looks mealy, with some large flecks of butter remaining. Pour the egg–ice water mixture into the bowl and quickly knead the dough for only a minute or two, until it comes together. It will be soft, a little sticky, and, though gathered together, a little rough looking.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Divide the pastry in half (there will be enough for 2 tarts; you can freeze one half for later). Roll out the pastry to a rectangle, approximately 11 by 16 inches, using a 15½-by-10½-inch baking sheet as a template.

Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and let it relax, then trim the edges to fit the pan with a little going slightly up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Peel the apples and cut into quarters. Remove the cores and use to make a glaze as follows: Combine the 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water with the cores. Stir at first to dissolve sugar, then simmer to a thick syrup. Strain and reserve. (Or use honey or good apricot jam, thinned, for a glaze.) Slice the apples as thin as possible. Arrange the apple slices over the pastry in 5 rows, overlapping them like cards in solitaire. At this point the tart can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. (It’s okay if the apples darken.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle the sugar generously over the apples and bake until they are beautifully browned and the pastry is crisp, about 45 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Just before serving, reheat the glaze. Slide the tart from the pan onto a cutting board. Paint the apples with the warmed glaze. Slice into small rectangles to serve.

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