French Apple Tartlets: Perfect Anytime of the Day

As a longtime fan of La Grande Épicerie, one of Paris’s most celebrated gourmet groceries (it’s part of Le Bon Marché department store), I follow this French food market on Instagram. There’s always something interesting posted—their cooks do quick demos, their buyers talk about the new products that have arrived, and occasionally recipes are featured. Several months ago I was intrigued by a dessert called Apple Flower Tartlets. They were prepared with puff pastry strips that were brushed with a rhubarb compote (sold at the store), topped with paper-thin apple slices, rolled into cylinders, then baked. There was a suggestion to reduce brewed hibiscus tea to a syrup for drizzling over the pastries as a garnish. My mouth began to water. The flower in the French title refers to the tarts looking as if they are open flowers after coming out of the oven.

In my kitchen I made a few technical changes. Instead of cutting individual strips, I rolled out a single sheet of purchased puff pastry and spread it with apricot preserves combined with lemon zest. Overlapping apple slices were arranged on top and then the sheet was rolled into a coil which was sliced into 1/ 1/2 -inch spirals. The tarts were then baked until the pastry was golden and crisp and the apples inside meltingly soft. Instead of tea syrup, a drizzle of honey and some sliced almonds made nice finishing touches.

Like most pastries, these tartlets are especially good served the day they are baked, but I’ve reheated day-old pastries in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes with good results. Serve them warm or at room temperature at breakfast with coffee or grab one for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. They’re irresistible too as a dessert garnished with scoops of vanilla ice cream. A single recipe serves six—just don’t count on them to last very long

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French Apple Tartlets

1 1/2 cups very thinly sliced Honey Crisp apples (about 1 1/2 apples) quartered, cored, stemmed
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 tsp lemon zest
1 sheet puff pastry from a 17.3oz box of frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator (See market tip.)
Flour for dusting work surface
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 tsp honey
3 tbsp sliced almonds

Six 6-inch wooden skewers or six larger ones cut so they are six inches long

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper cut to fit.

2.Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice the apple quarters lengthwise into paper-thin slices. If you have a mandoline, set the blade to cut the thinnest slices possible. Slice enough apple quarters to yield 1 1/2 cups.

3.Stir together the apricot preserves and lemon zest in a small bowl. On a lightly floured work surface, roll pastry into a 9-by 11 1/2-inch rectangle with a short side nearest to you. Brush the apricot preserves over the puff pastry. Then arrange apple slices slightly overlapping over the entire surface.

4.Starting at the short side nearest you, roll the puff pastry sheet into a tight cylinder like a jelly roll. (When you do this you will hear some of the apple slices break;that's okay.) Then with a sharp knife, cut the roll into six slices that are 1 1/2 -inch wide. Lay slices flat on the baking sheet and using short wooden skewers, run a skewer from one side to the other of each pastry swirl to help it keep its shape while baking. Lightly brush melted butter over the top and sides of each pastry.

5.Transfer to the oven and bake 25 minutes. Raise heat to 400 and bake 15 to 20 minutes more until golden and crisp. The bottoms of the tarts will get browned; watch carefully so they do not burn. Remove from oven and while still on baking sheet, drizzle the top of each pastry with 1/2 teaspoon honey and sprinkle with some sliced almonds. When cool enough to handle remove and discard the skewers.

6.Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 apple tartlets

Market tip: Pepperidge Farm brand sells 17.3 oz boxes with 2 sheets that are each  9- by 11-inches. You’ll need one sheet to make this recipe. Defrost the pastry overnight in the fridge.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2024

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