Apple Crunch Tart

One of the things I keep vowing to do is to read more books. It’s hard when I’m at home, where there are many other things beckoning for my attention. But when I go on vacation, I bring a few books along and find a good chair to park myself in as much as possible. It helps that internet is either non-existent, or the connection to it is poor, out in the countryside, where some of my friends don’t even have WiFi at home. It drives me nuts for the first few hours, then I ease into it and relax knowing that the rest of the world can wait, while I envelope myself in a good read.

I find myself drawn to memoirs, especially culinary ones as I can relate to the characters. Some are beautifully expressed and written, such as Toast by Nigel Slater, 32 Yolks by Eric Ripert, Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi, and The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin, which I just finished.

Memoirs are tough to write. (Trust me.) It’s a challenge to open yourself up completely and while most chefs have had some difficulties in their life, back in 2003, when Jacques Pépin wrote The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, it wasn’t the norm to be so frank, especially from someone as universally beloved as he is. Recent culinary histories have cast food icons in a different, and sometimes less-flattering light than we may know them, so it’s interesting when someone writes their own story, which allows them to acknowledge both the good and the bad, and the ups and downs, in their own words.

In his memoir, Jacques Pépin doesn’t shy away from his difficulties. Cruel chefs, a near-fatal car accident, his close friend Craig Claiborne’s downfall in the aftermath of a painful memoir about his childhood abuse which was poorly received by the public, launching a restaurant that closed after six months (it was successful but his wife, Gloria, had had enough…), and more. Jacques arrived in America in 1959 speaking no English and went on to nearly getting his PhD from Columbia University and writing dozens of cookbooks, several of which are considered seminal books on cooking, especially those that focus on French techniques, which he is the master of.

He isn’t well-known in France and Romain didn’t know who he was when he met him a few years ago at an event in New York, but they hit it off. Coming from France, Jacques talks in his book about how people were strict about how food could be prepared (and what time it was served), and he appreciated that Americans didn’t have so many rules when it came to cooking and eating. All that mattered in America, he says in his book, was that something tasted good, and that “people were willing to try items that lay outside their normal range of tastes.” Back home, “unless a dish wasn’t prepared exactly ‘right,’ people would know and complain.” If you added something like carrots to bœuf bourguignon (which he notes “are great” in it), people would call for the guillotine. That was before online shaming, so at least he dodged a few bullets there.

Jacques was also ahead of his time as he wrote back in 2003, about how Black people have been noticeably absent from the four-decade “culinary revolution” that took place in America. He recalls walking into a kitchen in New York and finding himself being the only person who wasn’t Black, and the crew eyed the guy with the funny accent with suspicion. But as soon as the rush of work started, he dove right in alongside them and was accepted, and as a fully-trained French chef, he was impressed by how hard and how well they worked. He also began frequenting butcher shops in Harlem which were the only places in Manhattan where he could find some of the lesser-used cuts of meat that he was used to eating in France. He noted that American cuisine was “poorer for” not acknowledging, accepting, and including, the contributions of Black cooks into our culinary legacy as much as they should be for their contribution to it.

Jacques says he is no longer a “French” chef since he has lived in America for so long, and has adopted a more American freestyle of cooking, but still relies on French techniques. If you’ve ever seen Jacques Pépin cook anything on television or in person, you know he can do almost anything. (But if you think it’s easy to lose your native accent, he’s been in the U.S. for nearly sixty years and still speaks English with a very present French accent.) If I had to choose, the two-volume The Art of Cooking are arguably his best. When he came to work with us at Chez Panisse shortly after they were published, we were already fans and he toggled back and forth between the regular kitchen and the pastry department.

I still remember the fruit salad he made, using the recipe (above) that I found I’d written down in my old recipe book, and we watched, fascinated, as he carved an ornate basket out of a whole watermelon to serve it in. It’s wasn’t very Chez Panisse, but we loved it.

He also made a lovely, well-decorated chocolate cake to serve in the café for dinner one night. He was so proud of that cake, which was absolutely gorgeous…but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we needed six more cakes to get through an evening’s service. (Of course, that one cake sold out immediately.) And he made Apple Crunch tarts from The Art of Cooking. My history may be off, but in the late 80s, few knew what a fruit galette was. There were no viral posts or Tik Toks montages of galettes bubbling away with irregular sugary edges folded up and over the fruit. Once people realized they were easier than pie, it’s easy to understand why they took off in popularity.

Back then, the dough he showed us how to make for the Apple Crunch tarts was super simple. Eventually, the top layer came off and we started making galettes. And that was that.

I decided to revisit the Apple Crunch tart, a marriage of French and American cuisine; flaky dough filled with apples, which reminds one of Apple Pie, with a bit of French flair from the freeform crust. Jacques noted in The Apprentice that he “actually feels ill when he sees food being wasted” and in that spirit, I picked up some pommes à cuire, or “cooking apples” at the market, that are sold for a better price due to a few dents and dings. They might ruin a photo but I find them attractive and that’s what apples actually look like.

At Chez Panisse we peeled a lot of apples. An intern once arrived for a tryout and in the middle of peeling their first case, they said, “This is boring.” Peeling apples might not be the most exciting thing bakers do, but it’s part of the job and in the fall and winter, we peeled a lot of apples.

In the pastry department, one day we had a tasting of various apples from local farms, with a variety of apples laid out in front of us. Before we tasted any of them, my co-worker Linda picked up the biggest one, a huge apple that was the size of a softball, and said, “I don’t know how these taste, but I like them the best.” So feel free to bake with any apple (of any size) that you like, although for pies and tarts, it’s best to use one that won’t turn to mush when baked.

In France, people often use a mix of apples since each apple has a different flavor and it’s nice to combine them. You will notice there’s not a speck of cinnamon in this tart, which is Jacques’s French side showing, since people feel cinnamon detracts from the pure flavors of the apples. If you want to add a pinch, go ahead, but like Jacques, I like to keep the filling on the French side, and keep the focus on the apples.

Apple Crunch Tart

Adapted from The Art of Cooking by Jacques Pépin
The French, it's not automatic to add vanilla or cinnamon to apple desserts. Those are considered things that detract from the apple flavor, whereas in America, they are added as an adjunct to the apple flavor. So if you want to add a small pour of vanilla extract and/or a dusting of cinnamon to them, you are welcome to. I told Romain that I was pretty sure that at Chez Panisse we used to soak some dried currants in brandy for a day or so, then add them to the apple filling, but he didn't like the idea. Next time he's not looking, I may give that a go.
Be sure to note that in step 5, you either chill or freeze the tart before baking. I don't know if that's entirely necessary but Jacques did it before making a more decorative design in the top than I did. So you can possibly omit that step, although I did it out of habit.
I do like to sprinkle the top with granulated brown sugar, called "cassonade" in France. The English equivalents are turbinado and demerara sugars. It gives the top crust an especially pleasant crunch but you can use regular granulated sugar, or skip the sugar on top if you'd like.
Course Dessert

For the dough

  • 2 cups (280g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (6oz, 170g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) ice water, plus a tablespoon or two more, if necessary

For the apple filling and assembling the tart

  • 1 3/4-2 pounds (800-900g) apples, peeled, cored, and cut in 1/4-inch (.5cm) slices
  • 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar, (use the lesser amount if the apples you are using are sweet)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (36g) unsalted butter, finely cubed
  • 1 egg yolk, mixed with a teaspoon of milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated brown sugar, see headnote (optional)
  • To make the crust, mix the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (You can also make this by hand in a mixing bowl using a pastry blender or your hands, or make it in a food processor.) Add the chilled butter and mix until the butter pieces are the size of blueberries. Don't overmix; it should be quite lumpy. Add the ice water and stir until the dough comes together. I find, even if using a stand mixer, that I use the mixer only to mix the water partially in, then do the rest by hand with gentle folding in the mixing bowl, so as not to overwork the dough.
  • Divide the dough in two, shape both pieces into disks, and wrap and chill them for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to two days ahead.)
  • To assemble the tart, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Toss the apple slices with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl.
  • Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it's a 14-inch (36cm) circle. Place the round of dough on the prepared baking sheet. (I fold it in half and work quickly to transfer it then unfold it on the baking sheet, but when I made this with Jacques, he rolled his dough around the rolling pin first, before moving it, and unrolling it on the prepared baking sheet.) Place the apples in an even layer over the dough leaving a 2-inch (5cm) exposed border. Distribute the diced butter bits over the apples. Fold the outside edges of the dough up and over to tuck in the apples.
  • Roll the other disk of dough to the same size as the first. Brush the bottom crust that's folded over the apples liberally with water then place the second round of dough over the apples and bottom crust, tucking the edges underneath the bottom of the tart. Place the tart on the baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Mix the egg yolk with the water or milk in a small bowl and brush it over the top of the tart. Sprinkle the granulated brown sugar evenly over the top, cut four slits in the top and bake until the top is well-browned and crunchy. When done, thick apple juices should be bubbling up in the slit holes, indicating they are cooked. The tart should take about 30 to 35 minutes to bake, depending on the apples and your oven. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool a few minutes, then slide onto a wire rack.

Notes

Serving: Server the tart warm or at room temperature on its own, with a bit crème fraîche, or a scoop of ice cream.

Apple Crunch Tart

109 comments

  • January 27, 2021 9:47am

    So nicely written David. I think I have been in love with Jacques Pepin since….well, since forever. I have most of his books and found his memoir on the new books shelf of my local San Francisco library, I’m guessing in 2003. His TV series with Julia Child was pretty great, with her the grande dame and him the young upstart. Their on-camera rapport was especially fun to watch. And now his is the grand old man. Ah well. Thanks for this David, really nice Reply

    • January 27, 2021 11:04am
      David Lebovitz

      He really is the best of both worlds and cultures. He makes cooking look easy, including things that might be intimidating like making sausage or cutting up a chicken. But he’s a great teacher and his technique books really are great. Reply

  • joan
    January 27, 2021 9:47am

    That was a really nice story. Thank you for sharing. I’ll never look at another Pepin recipe in the same way again and that’s a good thing. Reply

  • Shannon
    January 27, 2021 10:10am

    Sure enjoyed this, David. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories and explaining how different cultures and different chefs give us such a rich history of foods. Reply

  • Sharon
    January 27, 2021 10:34am

    Yes to different sorts of apples! The best Tarte Tatin I ever made was with 8 different apples fresh from the orchard. Thanks for the stories. I am really enjoying Jacques’ little videos on Facebook. He makes it look so easy. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 11:03am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes a mix of apples is always nice. Some apples are tart and acidic while others are warm and more full-flavored. It’s great to pair apples with…more apples! Reply

  • January 27, 2021 10:55am

    So many coincidences. Of late I’m glued to Jacques Pépin’s youtube channel and a few days ago I watched Pepin make Fromage Fort a few days after you demonstrated it on Instagram. He is watching you. The apple tarte looks wonderful.
    https://youtu.be/0zq5wv8kG58z Reply

    • January 27, 2021 11:05am
      David Lebovitz

      His videos are great. His Fromage Fort video was funny when he tossed a bit of American cheese (the kind that comes in single-wrapped slices) in the mix. Reply

    • Sue Sartini
      January 28, 2021 4:52pm

      Hi Carol, I have a lovely watercolor of me and my little dog standing in front of chocolate shop in Paris. It was done by a lovely lady who had recently moved to NYC to Paris. Is that lovely watercolorist you? Reply

      • January 29, 2021 4:09am

        Yes Sue,
        That was me :)) Still painting other people’s pets. Reply

  • Dave Trevena
    January 27, 2021 11:37am

    Love the simplicity, and not a great lover of hiding the natural apple flavours, we have 12 varieties of ancient apples being grown in Cornwall, nothing like you buy in supermarkets. One of my old tutors years ago was ex army and would make apple pies using potato instead… and by the time you added brown sugar, butter, sultanas, lemon and cinnamon, you would fool most people especially served with a good English custard! Reply

  • Leu2500
    January 27, 2021 11:59am

    The colors of the plate are a nice reference to his time with Howard Johnson. Reply

  • Boost Laurence Anne
    January 27, 2021 12:05pm

    I always enjoy reading your articles and even more now that we are in a total lockdown here in Portugal!
    I also enjoyed reading L’Appart and admired your patience at times with the different artisans ☹️ Reply

  • January 27, 2021 12:13pm

    I am making this tart this weekend. I love Pepin’s recipes and follow so many of his methods. I make a roast chicken based on his methods and hands down everyone who has my roast chicken says it is the best they have ever had in their lives…thank you for this lovely article. We have mutual friends from LA, a friend who ran the DGA magazine and we are always loving your blog and your emails. Reply

    • Denise
      February 7, 2021 12:34pm

      Hello jd, I too follow many of Pepin’s methods/recipes as well as Davids. This tart is terrific and quick to do, making it again today for super bowl dessert. Would you share Pepin’s roast chicken that wows? Thank you.
      Denise Reply

  • Deb Damascus
    January 27, 2021 12:36pm

    Well….there goes my effort to lose the added covid lockdown weight…will make this on the weekend. Looks fantastic! Reply

  • January 27, 2021 12:38pm

    I really enjoyed this post and Jacques Pepin’s story and how being a chef can be challenging, and how French are or were more into negative criticism. I hope it’s a bit changing, although I am not sure… Merci for this post Reply

  • Stephanie Hanson
    January 27, 2021 12:43pm

    A great read ~ now on to peeling apples. Reply

  • Angie French (yes, my last name is French)
    January 27, 2021 1:14pm

    Sounds delicious and easy! Curious. Would Country Crock plant butter work in this recipe? I must be dairy free with what I eat. I have been successful with the almond version of County Crock in other baking so wondering how it would do in the crust and in the filling. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 2:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’m not familiar with that product but generally (I think) plant-based butter substitutes are fine in place of the butter, but perhaps some readers who are familiar with them can guide you in the right direction… Reply

      • January 27, 2021 6:49pm

        Whipped plant based butters (the kind in the tubs) don’t work well in pastry dough because the water content is too high. Use a stick plant based butter. I prefer Miyokos because it tastes more like real butter and it has less chemicals and better quality oils. I combine it with a little palm shortening for structure in pastry dough Reply

    • Pam
      January 28, 2021 1:09am

      Earth Balance works great for pastry dough. My “butter only” friends love my pastry (when they don’t know it’s Earth Balance). Miyoko’s has great flavor but doesn’t work well by itself in pastry. The pastry doesn’t hold its shape, and spreads when baking. Miyokos works well alone however when you need a melted or soft butter, such as Swiss buttercream, brownies, or babka.

      Some ‘traditional’ tub-only margarine companies like Country Crock are getting into the stick game. But you have to read the labels; many of these margarines have some form of dairy in it; for example Imperial contains whey. Since Earth Balance works so well, I haven’t tried these new-to-the-stick types. Reply

  • Lorraine Fina Stevenski
    January 27, 2021 1:19pm

    Lovely recipe David. And thanks for bringing this back to us. In this world today we really need a bit of comfort and memories from way back when. Nothing better than to watch Jacques making recipes and keeping us interested in eating and cooking once again. Love your story too. Reply

  • Christina
    January 27, 2021 1:41pm

    Oh my days as a young mom, watching Jacques and Julia on PBS, BC(Before Cable)! I fell in love with the classic technique of French cooking married with a classic “laid back California kinda vibe”.
    I may make this when my kids come over for a belated birthday brunch!
    I’ll have to see how it differs from my Chez Panisse recipe.
    Thank you for the kinds of posts and recipes that I’ve been missing.
    Cheers! Reply

  • Lorraine Chesterman Holl
    January 27, 2021 2:03pm

    Such a great piece David! You really captured Jacques’ spirit and values. Though I never met him, I, like so many, feel that I know him. This last year, his Facebook videos were both an inspiration and a comfort. My heart went out to him when his beloved Gloria passed and I imagine him in his kitchen, cooking to honor her memory. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 2:14pm
      David Lebovitz

      There’s a wonderful documentary about him on PBS and Gloria is featured in it, and when she talks about how they met it’s pretty funny Reply

  • Sandra H.
    January 27, 2021 2:12pm

    Wonderful article, thank you. I love Jacques Pepin. I love seeing him cooking, I love his cookbooks and and I hear his voice whenever I read anything he’s written. Reply

  • Giacomo
    January 27, 2021 2:24pm

    Nice article about chef Pepin! Reply

  • Leslie Davis
    January 27, 2021 2:26pm

    David, Thank you for your lovely memories of Jacques. I have several of his small cookbooks, but never The Art of Cooking.
    As always, after reading your blog I feel the world will be alright. At least when we are in our kitchens. Reply

  • Angela
    January 27, 2021 2:31pm

    I adore Jacques Pepin & love that you wrote this post about your personal knowledge of him. I have yet to read his book, but you’ve inspired me to do so. As one of my culinary idols, I was also filled with a whole new
    Love & respect for him given your comments about his acknowledgement & concern that black chefs/cooks were not “seen” in the culinary world, to which I wholeheartedly agree. I currently live in the Charleston, SC area and I can tell you that the food scene here is so proud of their Gullah culinary history and how it’s shaped the food of this region, unfortunately it wasn’t always so acknowledged. Jacques, Such a wonderful man, as are you for sharing this story & the apple tart recipe! Thanks Dave, you & Romain be well. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 2:50pm
      David Lebovitz

      Food writing was also very different back then and if you wanted recognition, one of the esteemed food magazines or newspapers would have to mention you. So in some ways the internet helped to bring new voices out, giving more visibility to different cultures, races, and cuisines, who were not seen (or who had to pass through the filter of an editor or publisher. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant kitchen, as Jacques did, knows how much immigrants brought to our culture and cuisine. It was remarkable that he wrote about it twenty years ago, but quite revealing that in 2003, he mentioned “…the past forty years” as he wondered how much richer our cuisine and culinary culture would be had they been included. Reply

  • Kim King
    January 27, 2021 2:43pm

    Wow! I also just finished Pepin’s memoir and agree that he had an amazing career and influence in cooking here in America. I loved his description of “La Nouvelle Cuisine” and how it eventually became boring and overused. I’d like to try his mother’s recipe for “oeufs Jeanette.” It seems like a wonderful one. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 2:53pm
      David Lebovitz

      That was an interesting passage in the book, the era of Nouvelle Cuisine. While a lot of it got rather silly (foam, kiwifruit on everything, minuscule portions…) it did open a wide door for future French chefs to step through so they could expand their repertoire beyond classic sauces and presentations. It left quite an impression on him and was glad he talked about it. Reply

    • Evelyn
      January 27, 2021 8:24pm

      I loved reading about Jacques Pepin. I am wondering if you could possibly print Jacques Pepins fruit recipe? Thank you so very much! Reply

  • Jake Sterlikng
    January 27, 2021 2:53pm

    In the discussion about apple varieties, one thing I always notice is that nobody talks about when the apples are picked. My mother always started making apple pies when the apples were still slightly unripe. When you do this you have to add a bit more sugar because the apples are still sour. There is still a lot of carbohydrate that eventually turns to sugar, but is still in starch and pectin form in a green apple. This also means that you don’t need to use any thickener in a green apple and the apple flavor is much tarter and more intense. To me, the age of the apple is just as important as the variety. Sadly, if you don’t have your own trees, green apples are hard to come by. Here in New England, orchards, even pick-your-own ones, don’t like to pick any apples until they are “ready.”

    Hooray for leaving the cinnamon out! I don’t mind a tiny pinch, but I hate the heavy cinnamon flavor that permeates most commercial apple pies. Reply

  • January 27, 2021 3:35pm

    Great apple pie recipe – simplified for unsure bakers…an apple pie galette is my lockdown recipe for today.

    Merci Reply

  • Brenda LeDrew Keyes
    January 27, 2021 3:37pm

    Great apple pie recipe – simplified for unsure bakers…an apple pie galette is my lockdown recipe for today.

    Thank you Reply

  • January 27, 2021 3:41pm

    Hi David, I enjoyed your post about chef Pepin. I worked at Williams Sonoma in Boston in the 90s and met Julia and Jacques several times when they came in for cookbook signings. They both were so sweet , unpretentious and welcoming. Ironically my husband and I have a little cafe in York, Maine. We are doing a Julia and Jacques inspired dinner this week for takeout. I enjoy your blog. I appreciate how much time it takes to get it all just right..keep it up take care Steve and Mike Reply

  • Judith Cheney
    January 27, 2021 3:42pm

    Concerning the French & their absolute rules for the traditional dishes they prepare. One summer day about 10 years ago I invited my dear French friend of 40 years to lunch. I made a ratatouille, served with crusty baguette & a nice wine. She ate her food, but told me that ratatouille is “nevair evair” made with “ze celaireee”. Oops! I guess I mixed it up with “cajun holy trinity” cooking. I continue to make ratatouille with celery. I like it that way. I’m an American after all. So is Y. since she became a citoyenne. But still…French recipes must “nevair” be messed with. Thanks for writing about beloved Jacques. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 4:17pm

      Love your comment. I am French but true, the French search for perfection and rigid attitude can be tiresome and frustrating. Cuisine would never have changed if some had not dared to explore and alter the traditions. I am more concerned about seasons and do not keep recipes now that are calling for ingredients not growing at the same time. Celery (not celeriac) is OK in a Ratatouille. Have you tried fennel ? It blends very well. I like the anisé flavor and also put some pastis in the recipe sometimes. or toast some fennel seeds to sprinkle on the zucchini. What kind of ratatouille do you prefer ? Separate sautéed vegetables then put together or all together in some broth ? Both are really good Bon appétit. Reply

      • Judith Cheney
        January 27, 2021 11:32pm

        I have not tried fennel, but surely will. I have sprinkled tarragon in, often. I like a hint of anisé too. And have sprinkled fennel seeds in coleslaw (with olive oil & tarragon vinegar) on occasion. I make dishes with what’s on hand or seems would be good, instead of following recipes precisely, as I used to do when first learning to cook. I read them now to spark ideas. I usually sauté this & that & then just put them all together when making ratatouille. I love to eat it hot, room temperature or cold right from the fridge. I love it, period! Bon Appétit to you as well, Martinn & Bon Santé. Reply

        • Martinn Key2paris
          January 27, 2021 11:43pm

          Yes a cold ratatouille can be wonderful on hot days. I am starting my own cookbook and want to make it more like “ideas” a recipe and many other possibilities, Telling others to create, make their own. You are right Judith BONNE SANTé is also important these days Reply

          • Judith Cheney
            January 27, 2021 11:52pm

            (Oops, encore!) Bonne santé, Martinn, David et tout le monde.

  • Leslie B.
    January 27, 2021 3:51pm

    Ironically, I’m reading Jacque’s memoir right now. Your comments about him are so true. He’s an expert who’s not a snob which probably has much to do with how much he’s loved and admired. Thank you for this tribute. I’ll be making that apple tart very soon. Reply

  • Kathy sykes
    January 27, 2021 4:01pm

    I was so pleased to see that you focused on Jacques Pepin today. I was an editor at House Beautiful for many years. He was the food editor for a time. I recall feeling devastated when he had his car accident – a deer went through his windshield. He came close to dying. I look forward to reading his memoir. Reply

  • Chris Atkinson
    January 27, 2021 4:30pm

    David-Just read your post about the Crunchy Apple Tart and Jacques Pepin. You are a wonderful writer – descriptive, chatty and yet always informative! I met you at a cookbook signing at Williams Sonoma in Santa Monica, and you always educate me with your writings. Plus you take me to France all the time, which is delightful. Stay safe and healthy and thanks for everything! Chris Reply

  • Mike
    January 27, 2021 4:59pm

    I just ordered The Apprentice. Thanks for the recommendation. If it’s half as good as 32 Yolks, then I’m in for a treat. Reply

  • January 27, 2021 5:01pm

    Lovely story, David; I’ve printed the Crunchy Apple Tart and will try it in place of my go-to, which is a crostata that is similar, but flavored with citrus. I had a student once call me to comment on making a French apple dessert, “with NO cinnamon!” I remember thinking it over and wondering if it wasn’t just the apple was more pronounced, but also if the butter — which is so lovely in France –wasn’t a big part of the flavor profile. I’ll make sure and use great butter :) Thanks! (PS Last time I was in France, my landlady in Beaune sent me home with a bag of cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans since they were so expensive here!) Reply

  • Alison
    January 27, 2021 5:07pm

    I love your posts, they always remind me of something in my life–watching Jacques & Julia on tv, going to Chez Panisse with my father. And I appreciate the comment about not needing the most perfect looking fruit for the perfect shot! You always strike just the right balance between what is realistic and relatable, yet still attractively plated and presented. Reply

  • January 27, 2021 5:09pm

    Thank you, David, for your comments on Jacques Pepin. Love his book The Apprentice. When I mentioned his name to my cousin in Brittany a few years ago she, like Romain, had never heard of him. Only in America could he break “the rules” and become the chef that he is. Reply

    • January 27, 2021 5:43pm
      David Lebovitz

      I remember when Julia Child passed away, people in the States said to me, “The French must be devastated” but few, if any, in France know who she was. Although Jacques Pépin cooked at the présidential palace in Paris (although few, if any, know who the cooks are in there, even now), he became well-known in America due to his books and tv show. But he also understood American products and ingredients and how Americans cooked. Reply

  • January 27, 2021 6:12pm

    The next memoir you should read is ‘Rebel Chef’ by Dominque Crenn. Another story of a French chef who moved to America. Great, quick read. Reply

    • Lili in Colorado
      January 27, 2021 6:49pm

      Thank you, Tess, I’ve put it in my book cart, as well as “Dirt” by Bill Buford. Reply

  • Linda Rodman
    January 27, 2021 6:35pm

    Delicious! And so lovely to read friendly comments unrelated to the Star Wars going on over here. Thank you❤️ Reply

  • Philip
    January 27, 2021 6:58pm

    Jacques Pepin is a total mensch. Reply

  • Mary Fris
    January 27, 2021 7:28pm

    What a delightful article about your memories of Jacques and his wonderful way with food! I simply adore him and even after 40 plus years of cooking, I am still learning tricks & techniques from Jacques. He is both a master & magician in the kitchen! Reply

  • Mary Fris
    January 27, 2021 7:29pm

    What a delightful story about your memories of Jacques and his wonderful way with food! I simply adore him and even after 40 plus years of cooking, I am still learning tricks & techniques from Jacques. He is both a master & magician in the kitchen! Reply

  • dotti Cahill
    January 27, 2021 8:48pm

    Great article..I have been able to meet Jacques and see him in action!! Nice experience..It is a truly gifted Chef!!! Reply

  • Lorraine
    January 27, 2021 9:05pm

    Hi David
    I love the idea of pie and this one sounds simple and good. Pie dough is my nemesis though: rolling it out cold right out of the fridge is a challenge to my (underdeveloped) arm muscles. I have tried a tip from Dorie Greenspan, where you roll the dough out right after making it, fit it into the pie plate and then chill it. Wondering if you have any comments on this process? Reply

  • Valerie
    January 27, 2021 9:05pm

    I watched Jacques Pepin on youtube make Thanksgiving turkey. After years of confusion about the “best” way, I followed his method.
    It was a success – simple to prepare and delicious. Reply

  • Susan
    January 27, 2021 9:27pm

    In 2019 I stayed at Julia Child’s former home in Provence (across from Simone Beck’s) which was an amazing experience. Much of the original interiors are still intact, including many hand drawn and painted pieces of art by Jacques, and those are the items that I remember most fondly! Reply

  • Susan
    January 27, 2021 9:32pm

    Oh, and David, what you said about the French not knowing who Julia Child was — still so true! Throughout all areas of Provence, her name is completely foreign, even among the top chefs and restauranteurs. I dined for lunch at an amazing one star, owned by a renowned French chef and his wife — they were the only people who I came across who had even heard of her. That restaurant was amazing, by the way — Le Figuer something — right on the Med. Reply

  • A Brown
    January 27, 2021 10:14pm

    Not everyone knows that M. Pepin is a wonderful artist. I have a watercolor of his and it is one of my most treasured works of art. Reply

    • January 28, 2021 8:13am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, his artworks has been used on cookware, dinnerware, and you can even buy his prints and menus. Reply

  • Robert in Santa Fe, New Mexico
    January 27, 2021 10:43pm

    I have used Jacques Pepin’s “La Technique” since the mid-70s. I have learned so much from that book and made so many delicious things with his guidance. I find him such a lovely man. Reply

  • Rob
    January 27, 2021 11:14pm

    Recommended book :
    The President’s Kitchen Cabinet
    The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas
    by Adrian Miller Reply

  • Martinn Key2paris
    January 28, 2021 12:00am

    why oops ? Reply

  • Judith Cheney
    January 28, 2021 12:15am

    I used masculine tense for ‘santé’. Reply

  • Marie in Toronto ON Canada
    January 28, 2021 12:29am

    Thank you David for sharing this story. I like Jacques Pépin’s style a lot. He is indeed the best of both cultures. I used to watch his TV shows. I have several of his books and the one with his daughter: Encore with Claudine. I don’t cook from his books anymore as all my children are vegan. I am not fully vegan yet; however they all love desserts with apple. I will surely make this tart this weekend. It’s very easy to veganize it by replacing the butter with vegan butter, and the egg wash with a bit of aquafaba and oat milk or other. Thank you for the lovely article. Reply

  • Martinn Key2paris
    January 28, 2021 12:30am

    Not important What you mean is more important than spelling or masculine/ Feminine. If you want to correct my English you are welcome :-) Reply

  • Our Crumb
    January 28, 2021 2:04am

    Somebody should introduce Jacques P to Lenny Henry ;-) Reply

  • Steve L.
    January 28, 2021 2:36am

    Lovely reminiscences.

    (I think you could skip ‘Dirt.’) Reply

  • January 28, 2021 2:39am

    I don’t usually comment but this one hit a nerve. I LOVE Jacques Pepin, watch his show on PBS every Saturday, quote him to my wife to her agony, have his cookbook “Jacques Pepin Techniques” three feet from me now. I just saw a video of my favorite redhead, Melissa Clark, doing a French omelette and am now torn between her version and Pepin’s. But anyway, he is a god in my house and I will try this apple tart (perhaps with some vanilla and cinnamon.) Reply

  • Kathy
    January 28, 2021 3:49am

    Thank you for yet another delicious apple tart, David. I made a half recipe, about 7 inches across, and it was perfect. The crust was as flaky as in your picture. The galettes so bragged-about on the internet mostly look like concrete, but this one was delicate and shattering.

    FYI, the first decent pie crust I ever made was your tarte fine aux pommes. Reply

  • I luv chicken
    January 28, 2021 4:57am

    Seeing your photo of hurt apples, brought back childhood memories, and a few tears, when my mother would go out into the garden to choose some apples for pie baking. Among the ones picked from the tree, were the ones which had previously fallen, but were just fine for baking. Thank you. Reply

    • January 28, 2021 10:30am
      David Lebovitz

      This fall I discovered a mini apple orchard in Brittany where there were a gazillion apples just waiting to be used and no one was using them. I spotted the owner who told me to take all i could and most were, admittedly, funny looking and dented or weird in some way, but they made amazing Apple Jelly! Reply

  • Monicak
    January 28, 2021 5:13am

    I can’t say I’ve made any of Jacques Pepin’s recipes but I always loved watching his shows whether it was with Julia Child or alone. I did hear that he lost his wife not too long ago so RIP to her.
    Last fall, I went to apple picking and picked the mushiest apples…I made them into apple butter which my husband enjoys with chicken and duck. I made mistakes of making apple pie with those apples and I promised myself never to make apple pies with mush apples. They were horrible.
    I used to be able to get granny Smith apples fairly easily in US but with so many new varieties of apples I see these days, I guess there is no room for granny smith. Reply

  • Sue Loomis
    January 28, 2021 2:22pm

    How timely! My husband has recently become a Jacques Pepin fan, watching him on YouTube. I am a longtime fan and loved watching him and Julia Child together (black vs white pepper ) I have Jacques’ book The Apprentice and promised to find it today for my husband to read, but I think I’ll read it again first as I enjoy a huge piece of Apple Crunch Tart. What a mouthwatering name for a tart. Thank you, David. BTW, off to Madison CT on Friday to have a socially distanced lunch with our son. Isn’t that where Jacques lives? Reply

  • January 28, 2021 6:13pm

    So lovely and so happy to have this recipe. Jacques feels like an old friend to me, I watched an old PBS show of his 20 years ago when I was going through a difficult time. Still today every time I prepare garlic to chop using his simple advice I think of him.

    Now my two favorite indulgences are watching you unpack your market bags or watching his quick Instagram recipes, both transport me! Reply

  • Rosemary
    January 28, 2021 11:40pm

    Wonderful to read this post about Jacques Pepin. His book, The Apprentice, reads like a novel, a page turner. I took a memorable class with Pepin at Peter Kump’s Cooking School in Manhattan 30 years ago. He autographed all my cookbooks, a gracious guy. Have you ever seen A Fare for the Heart? Low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol that he did for the Cleveland Clinic. Reply

  • saf
    January 29, 2021 3:43am

    Jacques taught my husband to cook – one episode of Jacques’ first PBS series, and off goes the husband to buy the ingredients for the stuff Jacques made. He never was big into cooking before that.

    And as for apples, I grew up using 20 ounce apples for pie. https://www.applesfromny.com/varieties/20-ounce/ No longer being in NY, I find it baffling realize that nobody else has ever heard of these apples! Reply

  • Katharine
    January 29, 2021 2:04pm

    This recipe looks delicious! Any idea if I could substitute pears for the apples in it, or would there be too much liquid? I don’t have enough apples but have lots of pears at home right now (and trying to minimize grocery store trips) Reply

    • January 29, 2021 5:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      Pears can be quite juicy, so if you wanted to try them I would, 1) Use a variety that’s not super-juicy. (Comice and Bartlett pears for example, are quite juicy.) and 2) Perhaps add a thickener of some sort, like flour or cornstarch to the fruit to absorb excess liquid. Another strategy may be to add crumbled crackers until the pears to absorb additional liquid. If you do try them, let us know how it turns out! Reply

      • Katharine
        January 31, 2021 1:34am

        Update: I made it with pears and it was a huge success! Sliced about 2 pears, tossed with a tablespoon of lemon juice, then a tablespoon of cornstarch then a tablespoon of brown sugar, then made the recipe as directed. It wasn’t too juicy and was so delicious! Definitely making this again (maybe next time with apples). Reply

  • lamassu
    January 29, 2021 2:33pm

    just made it-
    the real thing!
    + at the best time too
    (my husbands birthday) Reply

  • Martinn Key2paris
    January 29, 2021 5:27pm

    why not adding some almond powder to balance the pear juice? Do you think it would change the taste too much ? Reply

  • jane
    January 29, 2021 6:28pm

    Simplicity is so comforting in complicated times – thank you for this. Also for the fun links. Reply

  • BJ Dix
    January 30, 2021 11:20am

    Simple apple desserts are my favorite and this looks yummy! I have a question though about the oven setting. With an electric oven, would you use both the upper and lower heating elements or set it to just the lower element. How to best attain that crunch on the top crust? PS the internet is full of contrary opinions on lower vs upper and lower elements in baking; your opinion on this would be very helpful! Bonjour to you and Romain from Narbonne! Reply

    • January 30, 2021 12:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      Every oven is different; many inexpensive home ovens have heat on the bottom, which is rather intense so I tend not to advise people to bake anything on the lower rack of those. Upper and middle are recommended for this since you want bottom heat for the underneath and upper heat to brown the top. Reply

  • BJ Dix
    January 30, 2021 1:25pm

    Thank you for the quick reply, you work so (too) hard! Reply

  • Joyce M
    January 30, 2021 11:06pm

    I loved the article and I enjoy recipes from both you and Jacques Pepin. I made this recipe, but it seemed like way too many apples. I could not fit 800g of apples into the 14 inch round of dough. Not sure why this didn’t work for me. Reply

  • Marguerite T.
    January 31, 2021 12:40am

    Just made this in an electric oven and got a lovely crisp brown sugar crust. How to best store the leftovers? On the counter?
    I did a little modification of adding some boiled down apple cider to the apples to increase the apple flavor and it’s a lovely dessert. Reply

  • Jeffrey C
    January 31, 2021 9:13pm

    Ah, had I not just made the ultra-tasty and ultra-simple French Apple Cake from Dorie Greenspan, I’d be putting one of these in the oven. Next time.

    https://www.davidlebovitz.com/dorie-greenspan-french-apple-cake-recipe/ Reply

  • Karen Brown
    January 31, 2021 11:08pm

    Oh, that tart looks divine. Kinda off topic, but it’s the middle of summer here in New Zealand, and I just made your creme fraiche ice cream recipe from ‘The Perfect Scoop’. So delicious served with a peach pie. I think it would pair perfectly with this apple tart. Cheers from the South Seas, Karen Reply

  • Debby Holt
    February 1, 2021 9:04pm

    I made this recipe over the weekend and it was soo good! I even made it vegan friendly with plant-based butter. Instead of egg wash I used melted butter and sprinkled the demerara sugar over the top. It was great. I used 2 honeycrisp, 1 Fuji and 1 Granny Smith apples. It was the easiest way to make apple pie ever. Thanks, David. I love your blog and newsletter, and I have read L’appart and I have My Paris Kitchen. You’re a favorite! Reply

    • February 2, 2021 2:11pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Debby for the updates on making it vegan-friendly. Happy you liked the Apple Crunch (and my books, too!) Reply

  • Roberta
    February 2, 2021 1:18am

    Thank you so much for this book suggestion! It was fascinating on all kinds of levels, as all the best memoirs are. Reply

  • Juanita
    February 2, 2021 7:40pm

    I’m reading l’appart. You’re such a good writer. I like books that ‘talk’ to me! Lovely story about the fabulous J. Pepin. I have La Technique. Thank you for your blog & recipes. I made tarte Tatin for the first time last year in my Lodge skillet. Don’t know why I was afraid before. I love apple and blackberry pie (very English) but only with the ones you pick. Reply

  • Lynda
    February 3, 2021 12:27am

    Years ago I read a comment by Jacques Pepin calling American apple pie “cinnamon pie.” And he’s right: cinnamon completely overpowers the delicate taste of apples. Ever since, I’ve used just a pinch of cinnamon or no cinnamon with apple desserts–and they’re far better for it. Thanks for this lovely article about Jacques Pepin! Reply

  • Mariangela Sassi
    February 3, 2021 6:18pm

    I made this last night and it was incredible! I was happy to have demerara on hand -the crunch was perfect. Recipe written to perfection as always and headnotes much appreciated. Reply

  • Mike Reding
    February 5, 2021 3:15pm

    My wife and I live in Lyon and have a deep respect and love for the city. A huge plus for us is that Chef Pépin was born and raised, then trained in the area. His food is great. But, beyond that he is a great man with a kind and generous soul. Thanks for sharing your memories of him with us. Nu, how was his chocolate cake? Can you share that recipe? Reply

  • Samantha K
    February 18, 2021 11:46pm

    This is the second time in two weeks I’ve made this delightful tart. In the past I’ve wanted to love apple pie but am always disappointed, even with those supposed blue ribbon recipes. I live in Washington state, so have access to a ton of fresh apple varieties, even in the dead of winter, luckily. I was worried this would be plain but it is the most perfect version of apple baking. We are gluten free, so I made my normal gf pie crust and it works beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing! Reply

  • Kristy
    February 24, 2021 3:12am

    First time commenting but had to chime in on this one. Wonderful recipe, divine crust (and I didn’t overwork it!). I cheated and included a smidge of cinnamon with the apples but not much so it was still very apply. This is my new favorite apple dessert (with Joanne Chang’s apple snacking cake a close second). The chocolate marshmallows from a short while back were also amazing. I’ll be making those again. Love the wonderful variety of recipes you showcase. Thank you! Reply

    • February 24, 2021 1:18pm
      David Lebovitz

      Happy it was a hit. It’s ok to cheat with cinnamon if you like it but it’s nice to have a hint, rather than overload, especially if you have very good apples! Reply

  • Carla P Blanco
    February 25, 2021 2:32am

    I make a fabulous Tarte Tatin that everyone is always asking me to make. The other day I made this recipe, my husband liked it so much that he asked me to make it tomorrow to take to a friend’s house. I was surprised! So much less time consuming than the TT. The crunch is everything, just delicious! Thanks for the article and the recipe. Reply

  • Terry S.
    February 28, 2021 6:44am

    Hi, I made this tonight and it did not disappoint. Delicious! Thank you for sharing! Reply

    • deb
      February 28, 2021 5:03pm

      Did you have trouble rolling out the dough? It was hard for me to get to that 14″ Reply

  • deb damascus
    February 28, 2021 5:02pm

    I just placed the tart in the oven and darn! I forgot to place the butter on the apples! I was so good – diced it beautifully and placed it in my fridge to stay cold. Well, I’m sure it will be delicious as is…I’ve been cooking and baking for 40 years and I have to admit the dough was gorgeous but it was very hard rolling it out to 14″. I almost felt like next time I’ll increase the dough by another third. Just to have the luxury of rolling it out easily. I know it needs to be thin. I made sure to use flour on the countertop so it wouldn’t stick. Gave up sweets for Lent but I’m looking forward to serving this today to my family. I used Granny Smith apples because I love the tartness and with the crunch of the sugar on top it’s going to be great – maybe I’ll sneak one little bite….as always, thanks David for these wonderful recipes. They are always the best! Reply

  • Marlana
    March 9, 2021 7:39pm

    Wow, this was delicious! The sugar crunch was both beautiful and delicious. I didn’t have demererra or turbinado, so I subbed 1 T granulated sugar mixed with 1T coarse sparkle sanding sugar. I thought the apple juices were baking out of the edges, and I was worried that it would make for a soggy crust, but it was some of the butter baking out. My crust had nice layers, but was a bit tough (for my taste, but husband had no complaints); this is my constant challenge with all-butter crusts. David, I would love any insight you have on getting an all-butter crust to the right moisture/texture for rolling without over-working or adding too much water, which make it tough. My shortening/lard crusts come out perfect, flaky and tender, so I think it’s just pilot error with water and working the dough. Reply

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