What’s better than an apple tart? A French apple tart! Today, Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini shows us how to bake this classic, elegant dessert…

French Apple Tart
by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini

I would argue that the most elegant kind of apple tart made in France is the tarte fine, a tart that is assembled on a thin disk of puff pastry, topped with a layer of thinly sliced apples. The keyword here is thin, as this format produces a unique sensation when you eat each bite, all crackly crust and soft apples.

A tarte fine has no raised borders, so it can be baked on any baking sheet—no tart pan required!—and because it’s such a simple tart to make, it frees you up to try your hand at puff pastry, or at least a simplified version that’s much easier. It is both an understated and completely wowing dessert that every baker should have in their repertoire, French or no.

Recipe: French Apple Tart

What you’ll need:

3 tbsp high-quality unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp blond unrefined cane sugar
1 easy puff pastry (recipe below; or you can substitute a sheet of store-bought, all-butter puff pastry, about 9 oz, thawed if frozen)
3 small apples (about 1 pound) peeled, cored, and thinly sliced into circles
1 pinch fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the parchment paper with half the melted butter to form a 25-cm (10-inch) disk shape. Sprinkle that zone with half the sugar.

Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface until you can cut out a 10-inch circle using an upturned cake pan or plate as a template.

Transfer the pastry circle cautiously to the prepared sheet, placing it exactly on top of the buttered and sugared area. Arrange the apple slices in an overlapping pattern on top of the pastry, starting from the outside and leaving a 1.5-cm (1/2-inch) margin. Brush the margin and the apples with the remaining butter, and sprinkle with a touch of salt.

Insert into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the apple slices feel soft when pierced with the tip of a knife.

Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and place under the broiler for 2 minutes, watching closely, until the sugar is caramelized.

Let cool and serve, slightly warm or at room temperature.

Easy Puff Pastry

4.4 oz all-purpose flour
5 oz (1 1/4 sticks) high-quality unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 cup ice-cold water or milk

Place flour, butter and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour, stopping when the mixture looks crumbly but even, with the average piece of butter about the size of a pea. Turn out onto a clean (preferably cool) work surface, and form a well in the center.

Pour ice-cold water into the well and gradually work it into the flour mixture—I like to use a bench scraper, but a wooden spoon will do fine. Knead lightly just enough that the dough comes together into a ball (do not overwork it) and shape into a rough square. There will still be chunks of butter visible in the dough.

Lightly flour your work surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 10 inches in length. Add more flour as needed underneath to prevent sticking. Dust the top of the dough with a pastry brush to remove excess flour, and fold the dough in three so the top and bottom overlap, dusting it again after the first fold (the idea is to avoid trapping in too much flour every time the dough is folded).

Turn the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the two previous steps of rolling and folding. Turn it again, then roll and fold. Turn it again, then roll and fold. You’ll have done this four times in total (feel free to do it a couple more times if you’re having too much fun to stop). Your rectangles will get neater and neater every time.

After the last fold, tap the top and sides of the dough with the rolling pin to give it an even, squarish shape. Put on a plate, cover, and refrigerate at least an hour before using.

Thank you so much, Clotilde!

P.S. More recipes, including French vinaigrette and a delicious apple crisp.

(Photos and recipe courtesy of Clotilde Dusoulier. Thanks to Caroline Donofrio for helping with this series)