(Pretend this is a list of the ingredients you need to make pastry) OR a packet of ready-made pastry
1.2 kilos of apples
140g Apricot jam
1 beaten egg
OK, let’s cut to the chase. There are three main parts to making a successful French-looking apple tart; the neatly-sliced and beautifully-arranged apples; the smear of apple compote underneath the apples; and the pastry underneath that.
I can’t make pastry. Well, I can but only on the understanding that it’s brick-like appearance, texture and taste will be called ‘pastry’ for the purposes of this entertainment. So, in fact, I don’t make pastry. I buy it.
There, I said it. You can now buy very excellent pastry made with butter and all that other good stuff for less than a euro a go, ready rolled-out and shaped to fit into a standard tart dish. If you wish to make pastry and like doing so, you already know how to do that better than I do so I leave ‘making your own pastry’ as an exercise for the reader. OK? OK.
So, apples. Peel and core them. Cut half into small chunks and stew them in a little water for 15-30 minutes, until they’re just mushy. The small amount of water you add is to stop them burning on the bottom of your saucepan – you don’t need a lot, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the juice from half the lemon and the sugar.
While this is cooking, blind bake the pastry in your tart case – push the pastry into the corners and side of the case, trim off the top, fill with your choice of cheap dried beans/expensive ceramic baking beads and cook for 20 minutes or so. Allow it to cool a little then brush with the beaten egg and pop it back into the hot oven for five minutes or so.
While the pastry’s baking and the apples are stewing, cut the other half of the apples into 2-3 millimeter slices. Easy enough? Ha! OK, I’ve done it a LOT so I can do it in about three minutes with a gigantic chaffy-looking knife. You? Maybe not.
So, get out that expensive mandoline you bought and use that to slice your apple instead. Once you’ve peeled and cored the apple, cut it in half vertically and then just slice it on the mandoline to an appropriate thickness. And then cut the slices in half vertically and put them into a bowl of water with half the lemon whose juice you’ve squeezed into the water – this will stop them going brown and ugly.
So with your compote and pastry cooked and apple sliced, start the assembly. Spread the compote onto the base and then arrange the apple slices attractively on top. Start on the outside and place them in slightly overlapping, concentric circles until you get to the middle. You may have too many/too few slices – just re-arrange as necessary. You’ll also have a few small slices from the edge of your apple – use these to fill in little gaps. The goal is to make it look as regular as possible.
Finally, warm the apricot jam and brush it over the top of the apple slices – this will stop them going brown and give the whole thing a nice, professional shine.
And, above all, when you serve it moan about how long you spent making this bloody pastry no I don’t buy it only wimps and fools buy pastry pastry is easy you should try it. OK?