French Apple Tart: Tarte fine aux pommes

Come fall, you’ll see tartes fines aux pommes in bakeries across France. In contrast to fancy pastries many pastry shops are known for, these thin apple tarts are French baking at its most basic, and at its best. A thin crust of buttery, crackly puff pastry with a fan of baked apples on top, then glazed, these simple tarts are normally served without any accompaniment, however you wouldn’t get any complaints from me if there was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, cinnamon ice cream, or salted butter caramel ice cream, on top.

My discerning Frenchman likes things simpler and would tell me to leave it alone, but if I just happened to have some ice cream on hand, and was serving myself a scoop, I know from experience that he wouldn’t refuse one, too.

It’s easy to want to complicate things, or add spices or whatever. But if you want to live like a local, the way to enjoy this tart is just as it is. That said, one variation you sometimes see is a layer of cooked-down apple puree spread under the apples before baking. But to me, good-tasting apples are enough. So try to find the best-tasting apples you can.

It’s hard to recommend specific varieties since they vary by country and region, but seek out apples that won’t get mushy when baked. (Macintosh apples, for that reason, are out.) At the markets in France, apples are labeled whether they are tart or sweet, crunchy or soft, and better for baking or for eating. When it doubt, if you ask, the vendor will have an answer and direct you toward the right one. (And sometimes madame behind you may chime in as well.) It may be a challenge to get to a greenmarket where you live, but if you can find a good, old-fashioned (heirloom) apple, those usually have the best flavor. When in doubt, Golden Delicious, Braeburns, and Jonagolds are reliable varieties.

The dough is a riff off the “express” puff pastry in my book Ready for Dessert which we started making at Chez Panisse when my co-worker, the wonderful Linda Zagula, discovered that quick puff pastry almost nearly indistinguishable from the more laborious pâte feuilletée, the classic puff pastry, and is faster and easier.

There’s no reason to hyperventilate – there’s literally ten minutes of active prep time to make it. You roll and fold the dough four times, then chill it a few hours, then do two more rolls and folds. And that’s it. When you start out, it won’t look like much and you’ll wonder how I talked you into this and how the shaggy dough with dice-size pieces of butter in front of you will ever be smooth, but it will.

While you might be tempted to take great care in making your tart look perfect, don’t worry or fret about that; by the time you’ve rolled out of the dough, arranged the apples over it, baked it with a sprinkle of sugar, and glazed it, it’ll be perfect. You’ve got this.

 

Apple Tart

This quick puff pastry is super easy to make and suprisingly, very forgiving. It'll start off looking shaggy and rough, with big chunks of butter visible. But as you roll and "turn" the dough, it'll be easier to roll out each time, and when it's done, it'll be smooth and easy to work with.
Two tips: Roll the dough in just enough flour to keep it from sticking on the counter but avoid using too much as excess flour can make the dough tough. Use a pastry brush (or even a kitchen towel) to wipe away excess flour before each folding and turning the dough.
And work quickly. Because the dough has a lot of butter in it, if it warms up, it tends to stick to the counter. So roll and fold it as swiftly as possible. Don't worry about it looking like a perfect rectangle; the idea is to get it close to that size and shape so you can fold it over in thirds, then move on to the next turn quickly.
If you want to use store-bought puff pastry, you'll need about 9 ounces (260g) and you can certainly double the recipe and freeze half to have on hand for another tart. It'll keep in the freezer for a few months.
For those with convection ovens, I found this tart browns better in a standard oven. So if you're oven offers the option of both, I recommend the standard (non-convection) setting. I used Apple Jelly to glaze the tart, but thinned out apricot or red currant jam works fine, instead.
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 8 servings

For the quick puff pastry

  • 3/4 cup (110g) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (115g) unsalted butter, cubed and well-chilled
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

For the apples and glaze

  • 1 1/2 pounds (700g) apples, about 4 medium apples
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • apple jelly, apricot jam, or red currant jelly, thinned with just enough hot water until brushable
  • To make the quick puff pastry, in a medium bowl mix the flour and salt. (You can also make this part of the recipe in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Add the cubes of butter and mix quickly with a pastry blender, or your clean hands, until the butter is in just slightly smaller pieces, about 25% smaller than they originally were. Add the water and mix (and knead a little bit), until the dough forms a cohesive mass, which will still be a bit shaggy. On a lightly floured countertop, pat the dough out into a rough rectangle.
  • With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rough rectangle approximately 10 x 5-inches (25x12cm.)
  • Fold the dough over in thirds, starting with one side being folded over the center.
  • Then fold the other end over the center.
  • Now turn the dough so that the short ends of the rectangle are back on the left and the right. You've done one "turn."
     
  • Repeat that process of rolling out the dough again as you just did, folding left over the center, then right over the center. That is your second "turn." Repeat during two more "turns" until you've done a total of four turns. Wrap the dough and chill it at least 2 hours.
     
  • Do two more turns of the rough, rolling and folding (at this point, you will have done a total of six turns), then wrap the pastry and chill it for at least an hour, until ready to use.
  • When ready to prepare and bake the tart, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured countertop roll the pastry into a 14-inch (35cm) circle. Use a tart ring or round cake pan as a guide, trim the dough with a paring knife so it's a 12-inch (30cm) circle. If you don't have a similar-sized ring or pan, you can eyeball it. Fold the dough in half, which makes it easier to handle, then transfer it to the baking sheet and unfold it. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator while you peel and core the apples.
  • To assemble and bake the tart, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC.)
  • Peel and slice the apples as thinly as possible either by hand or with a mandoline. (Here I used a chef's knife.) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and arrange the nicest slices of apples in concentric circles over the pastry, leaving a small border of dough around them. (You can snack on the less-attractive apple bits.) Brush or drizzle the melted butter over the apples, as well as on the crust making the border, then sprinkle the sugar over the apples and exposed crust. Bake the tart until the apples and the crust are deep golden-brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, but rely more on how it looks rather than a kitchen timer since apples (and ovens) can vary. Let cool for a few minutes, then brush with the glaze.

Notes

Serving and storage: The dough can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to three months. The tart should be served the day it is made. If you're entertaining and want to get ahead of the project, you can roll the dough and leave it on the baking sheet and put it in the freezer, so it's ready to top with apples and bake. (You can actually freeze the unbaked tart with the apples on it too, which, admittedly, isn't in the spirit of a fresh apple tart, but works.)

French Apple Tart: Tarte fine aux pommes

73 comments

  • November 16, 2020 1:32pm

    FYI Berthillon has wonderful individual tarte au pomme as well as roasted pineapple tartes fines. Reply

  • Kathryn
    November 16, 2020 1:37pm

    When do you put the glaze on? Reply

    • November 16, 2020 1:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      It gets brushed on after it comes out of the oven, but I like to wait a few minutes because if it’s too hot the apples can absorb the glaze. Reply

      • Kathryn
        November 16, 2020 4:13pm

        Many thanks! Looks gorgeous. Reply

    • Lisa M
      November 16, 2020 4:31pm

      See recipe last comment. Reply

    • David Kellett
      November 16, 2020 5:25pm

      The last sentence of step 11 :-) Reply

    • Purple Cottage
      November 16, 2020 6:32pm

      After baking, let cool for a few minutes and then brush the glaze on. Reply

    • Wendy
      November 16, 2020 7:10pm

      before it goes in the oven Reply

      • Jacklyn Campbell
        November 17, 2020 8:11pm

        No! After it comes out of the oven and has cooled. See last step of recipe. Reply

  • Leslie Raynor
    November 16, 2020 2:00pm

    What a treat to find this tempting tart recipe in my inbox this morning! Not only does the recipe look wonderful, your relaxed, down-to-earth approach to life and food is just what we need right now. Stay well. Reply

  • November 16, 2020 2:13pm

    I was just commiserating with myself about the lack of apple variety in France. I miss a nice sour Bramley which is delicious baked or pureed. French apples, like their potatoes, tend to be firm. Perfect for this tart however. Very tempted to have a go. Reply

    • Beatrice
      November 28, 2020 2:52pm

      When you wrote to “not worry” when making this puff pastry,
      it allowed me to relax, take my time and to try this apple tart recipe. What a gift! It’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever made.
      I enjoy reading your newsletter very much. Such delight, generousity,humor and kindness comes through your writing. Thank you. Reply

  • iulia
    November 16, 2020 2:31pm

    I was just looking today at your website for a recipe of a tarte tatin. This is a good version, but still looking forward for a tarte tatin :-) Reply

    • November 16, 2020 2:37pm
      David Lebovitz

      I have one in my book Ready for Dessert but not on the blog. Reply

      • iulia
        November 16, 2020 3:34pm

        I was looking for Ready for Dessert for a while now but cannot manage to find it. Do you know where I could get it ? ( I live in Belgium) Reply

        • November 16, 2020 3:59pm
          David Lebovitz

          They sell it at Book Depository which has worldwide free shipping. The Tatin recipe in the book also has quince in it but you can swap out apples for them. Reply

          • iulia
            November 16, 2020 4:18pm

            Just bought it, thank you!!

  • Dennis DiMuzio
    November 16, 2020 2:33pm

    I use a peeler/corer device and as long as the apple isn’t too big it gives me beautifully peeled, sliced, and shingled apples in seconds. When I lived in Central New York Cortlands were a great apple for this tart. But only when they were in season. When held in storage they changed in texture. When I make it now Golden Delicious are good, as well as Granny Smiths with extra sugar. Reply

    • November 16, 2020 2:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      They do have very good apples in New York – I lived in upstate New York and the apples were excellent. But you’re right that apples change and vary due to a variety of factors, which is why I prefer to get them from growers if I can, since they are freshest and you can also get good info from the vendors. Reply

  • Lorraine Fina Stevenski
    November 16, 2020 2:34pm

    I will make this today. Thank you David for the lovely recipe and the tutorial pictures. Here in the US, I love HoneyCrisp apples for pies and tarts. Reply

  • Mary Osborne
    November 16, 2020 2:43pm

    So….no tart pan, or pan of any kind? Reply

    • November 16, 2020 3:28pm
      David Lebovitz

      In step #9 you put the dough on a baking sheet, then the tart gets baked on that. Reply

  • Ginette Bisaillon
    November 16, 2020 2:45pm

    My go-to “apple pie” since I discovered it in the 1970’s. I glaze with strained apricot jam and sometimes I make it into a long rectangle with a pastry border. Reply

  • November 16, 2020 2:51pm

    Is this the one you had on stories?Looks so good :)Thank you..I looked in my books and I don’t think I found this one.. Reply

  • Khush
    November 16, 2020 3:05pm

    After the first turn, do you roll the dough lengthwise or breadthwise? In other words, are the shorter ends on the left and right when I start to roll it again, or are they up and down?

    Thank you for your advice. Reply

    • November 16, 2020 3:29pm
      David Lebovitz

      I do it as shown in the photos but you can do/roll the dough any way you’d like, as long as it’s a rectangle and you fold the two ends over the center, as shown in the photos. Reply

    • Jackie
      November 29, 2020 8:28pm

      Just finished she’d making this! I used maple syrup at the end since there isn’t any jam or jelly here.
      Also- I used Macintosh apples. I wonder what the Canadian apples were that you mention in the other Apple tart recipe. Reply

  • Linda
    November 16, 2020 3:23pm

    Can I use frozen puff pastry. Asking for a friend. Reply

    • November 16, 2020 3:29pm
      David Lebovitz

      Sure! No problem. I mention in the headnote that you can use store-bought puff pastry. I do recommend one that’s all-butter as some versions have other fats in them, and won’t taste as good :) Reply

  • Claire
    November 16, 2020 3:31pm

    So this does not go in the tart pan, just on a baking sheet? Reply

    • Claire
      November 16, 2020 3:34pm

      Sorry! Missed the answer above. Reply

  • stuart itter
    November 16, 2020 4:21pm

    Love it. Make little apple tarts all the time. (Or, galettes when rushed). In tart shells-some ask for pre-baking the crusts with weights. Pain! Same dough recipe but the pre-kneading will be interesting. Thanks. Reply

  • Tinda
    November 16, 2020 5:03pm

    This looks beautiful. However, I always get stuck at the part of recipes that ask you to put a baking pan or sheet in the refrigerator. Does everyone but me have a refrigerator that is large enough to put a half sheet pan into it for chilling? And the freezer! Besides the fact that our freezer compartment is so narrow, it is pretty much filled in all its cubic space with containers of chicken stock, tomato and tomatillo sauce, summer pesto, and farmer’s market berries, fancy flours and breads. Still, going to give this a try. Reply

    • November 16, 2020 6:10pm
      David Lebovitz

      American half-sheet pans are bigger than European baking sheets (for home bakers) but American refrigerators are bigger. You could fold the rolled dough in half or quarters and chill it if you don’t have space in your refrigerator. Reply

  • November 16, 2020 5:09pm

    David that is a gorgeous tart. I love how the edges get a little extra color. Yum! Reply

  • Lee
    November 16, 2020 5:46pm

    This also works in a rectangular format in addition to a circle. I’m, looking forward to trying the quick puff pastry recipe. There is a lovely South American woman in Toronto who makes all butter puff pastry that I keep in the freezer. Maybe cheating but it makes such an easy an impressive dessert. I did some work in Grenada last year and bought nutmeg jelly there. It makes a lovely glaze too. Reply

    • Lisa
      November 21, 2020 1:26am

      Who is the lady in Toronto? Can I buy her puff pastry? Reply

    • Judith
      November 27, 2020 11:13pm

      Where in Toronto can I find this puff pastry maker?? Reply

  • Emma
    November 16, 2020 6:10pm

    Thanks for the quick dough recipe ! Gonna make it this week-end, but with the glaze. I hate glaze in tarte aux pommes, it distracts from the taste I feel.
    By the way, always thanks for the French apple cake recipe : absolutely delicious and always a hit at friends gatherings (I am the expected baker) Reply

  • Francine Helene
    November 16, 2020 6:14pm

    Wonderful David! You always remind me of my growing up years. My mother used to make this throughout the fall and winter every weekend. She would make it on very large pans, like the size of American cookie sheets. So, it was a rectangle. She would always make two at a time because the tart would be devoured by everyone so quickly. Thanks again for all that you do. And I will make one of these myself in the coming days. Reply

  • Elinor Nelson
    November 16, 2020 6:24pm

    This looks great. I actually made something similar last night. But I was taught to dock the dough before putting the fruit on. You don’t do that? Reply

    • November 16, 2020 7:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      No, the dough is pretty thin and the apples do a good job keeping it down. But you could dock/prick it with a fork before arranging the apples if you wish. Reply

  • Christina
    November 16, 2020 7:40pm

    Lovely tart and one of my favourites. I love laminated doughs and have never understood how quick puff pastry is much faster since it is really the turns and resting that takes the most time. Placing the butter block is really no harder than fiddling with little pieces of butter and flour – à mon avis! Thank you as always. Reply

  • Ellen
    November 16, 2020 11:19pm

    I’ve always been intimidated by puff pastry but after reading your explanation and seeing the pictures, I’m going to try it! Thank you! Reply

  • Diane Welnhofer
    November 17, 2020 2:30am

    I made this today. It was excellent! I added a layer of pastry cream under the apples and it added a little creaminess which I love. Thank you for the quick puff recipe, it’s a keeper!!! Reply

  • Harvey
    November 17, 2020 8:27am

    Is a kitchen aid mixer with a whisk a “pastry blender”? Reply

    • November 17, 2020 10:17am
      David Lebovitz

      A pastry blender is a tool shaped to cut butter/fat into dry ingredients. Mine is shown in the 3rd picture in the post. Reply

      • Harvey
        November 17, 2020 10:58pm

        Of course! I have one. I was going through my food processor blades, kitchen aid…forgot the basics.

        Thanks David.

        Harvey Reply

  • Marguerite
    November 18, 2020 2:03am

    Made this today and it was lovely. I took a short cut and used prepared puff pastry. I spread a thin layer of frangipane that I had leftover from an apple gallette. It was in the oven within 15 minutes. Tomorrow’s breakfast! Thank you! Reply

  • Maureen
    November 18, 2020 3:45am

    Excellent recipe for the last of my NY apples that we picked in early Oct. I had extra apples so while I was chilling the dough I made concentrated apple sauce (no sugar) and used this, as you mentioned, under the apples. I also had reduced apple cider syrup which I used to glaze the tart. Next time I will use the pastry custard as another writer suggested. Always a pleasure to watch you on instagram and read your posts. Thank you David. Reply

  • Carrie
    November 18, 2020 6:55am

    I think I could give puff pastry a try. All purpose flour for the quick puff or should pastry flour be used? Reply

    • November 18, 2020 11:17am
      David Lebovitz

      Recipes use all-purpose flour unless otherwise stated. So use all-purpose for this : ) Reply

  • sillygirl
    November 18, 2020 2:06pm

    By the way I loved your newsletter before – and I love the new version even more – a win-win!!! Reply

  • Bonnie
    November 18, 2020 5:37pm

    We polished this off in two sittings! Luckily I have more apples. (I think I overworked the dough a bit in the stand mixer, but you’re right—it’s a very forgiving recipe. Still pretty flakey!) Reply

  • ange
    November 18, 2020 10:59pm

    I love the elegance of this super flat thin style. Feel like that will make it taste better too – as with thin crust pizza, my fav. Will try this tonight thank you. Reply

  • Mark Steele
    November 19, 2020 3:23am

    I remember making many of these as pasty chef at Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant Jams in the 80’s. Occasionally we would do a thin layer of frangipane under the apples, but years later I think the simple version is better. I also did this simple version for lunch menu at Bouley with vanilla and caramel ice creams. In Autumn, I think it was a close second to chocolate souffle. Thanks David for bringing this classic back! Reply

  • Annemette
    November 19, 2020 12:36pm

    This recipe brings back very sweet memories, when I lived in Paris 8 years ago, I had a very nice Taiwanese friend, who was learning to cook French food by her mother-in-law. This was the first thing she was taught, made with ready-made puff pastry, so not the most advanced recipe, but she was sooo proud she could serve us a proper French dessert. I will make this and think of her! Reply

  • Una
    November 20, 2020 3:05pm

    If using store bought pastry (dufour) do I simply use out of package or do I need to roll it? I want to make sure I achieve the thin-ness of your photo. Reply

    • November 20, 2020 5:10pm
      David Lebovitz

      Most store-bought puff pastry comes in a rectangle that needs to be rolled out, but some in France comes in rolls, ready to use. I don’t know about Dufour but it depends if it’s already rolled out or if it comes in a thicker rectangle, which would need to be rolled out. Reply

  • Francine Helene
    November 20, 2020 7:43pm

    November 20th, Hi David, hi folks. I just finished making this tart. I made the pastry last night. It was really easy making the dough, and the result is spectacular. Thank you. Where I went into another direction was twofold: I set the mandolin for too thin slices–so the apples came out paper thin, and I had to put on several layers; also I ran out of parchment paper and so I had to bake this in a glass pie plate. The result looks a little different from yours but it is very tasty. I did find it a bit hard getting the pastry dough as thin as yours. What is the secret to getting it that thin!! Nevertheless, the taste is excellent, and I will be making another one this weekend. Thanks ever so much Reply

  • Jean
    November 20, 2020 10:56pm

    I made the pastry today. It will grace our Thanksgiving table and will be glazed with your apple jelly. Thank you or all of your recipes! Reply

  • Ann
    November 22, 2020 6:26pm

    I’m not a baker, but I had to make this. Imagine my surprise at achieving flaky puff pastry on the first try. This apple tart is delicious, thanks for sharing and for giving such detailed instructions! Reply

    • November 22, 2020 7:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      Happy it was a hit, and you made in successfully – bravo! Reply

  • Kristin
    November 22, 2020 9:32pm

    Does the pastry dough chill for a total of 3 hours? Reply

  • Sylviane
    November 22, 2020 11:13pm

    Come Maman faisait. Merck Reply

  • Mary M
    November 24, 2020 8:28pm

    Looks fantastic! Do you peel the apples? And are they cut in half circles? Reply

  • Charlie
    November 25, 2020 1:12pm

    Hi David, this is so timely, I’m in a big ‘rough puff’ phase and this is a twist on the technique I’ve been using. On my way to the kitchen.
    Also, I know you are on top of all things cooking and tech, but I am wondering if you follow the baker Erin McDowell? Like you, I think she’s such a natural in front of the camera and makes cooking/baking look so fun and easy.
    I’m really enjoying her series on baking on Food52 and the tour of her kitchen for the Times is epic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hwb24ZswXUo Reply

  • Danie
    November 25, 2020 3:45pm

    Can i make this with a Pate Sable crust? Asking for myself. Reply

  • Pam
    November 27, 2020 6:22pm

    This is so good. The puff pastry was so easy. I can’t believe I made puff pastry. I used quince jelly because that’s what I had. I melted the jelly as best I could, without water, then when off the heat I added Calvados instead of water to thin. This mixture was not perfectly smooth, but smoothed when brushed over the hot pastry. Thank you David! Reply

  • Judith Barrett
    November 27, 2020 11:28pm

    I made your tarte and it was wonderful. Although I used my basic pate brisée, I did the fold and it was very like puff pastry. Thank you. Reply

  • November 28, 2020 5:21pm

    I made this for Thanksgiving. I was a bit daunted by the idea of making puff pastry from scratch but it was EASY. The tart was a triumph. Thank you David for this fabulous recipe. I’ll be making it again soon. Reply

    • November 28, 2020 6:47pm
      David Lebovitz

      So happy it was a success! Reply

  • Ben
    November 29, 2020 5:25pm

    Thank you, David, for a phenomenal recipe! I wasn’t sure about the puff pastry–I’ve made regular before but never the quick method–but, despite messy beginnings, it came together perfectly! I put the tart on parchment paper on a pizza screen and glazed with reduced apple cider (1/2 c. cider + 1 TB sugar boiled to syrup while the tart was baking) since I didn’t have jelly. The whole family enjoyed it, both for dessert and breakfast. It’s not only the tastiest apple pastry I know, but also the lowest sugar one. I will definitely be making it again! Reply

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