An Apple Is a Rose Is a Tart: Apple Rose Tart

When our friend Jim recently hosted us at his home to watch a football game, I volunteered to bring not only some soft pretzels as a pre-game snack, but also a dessert to follow dinner. I was in the mood for something light and I had a lot of apples on hand, so I decided to make Yossy Arefi's Rose Apple Tart from The New York Times. It's basically just a sweet pastry crust with apples -- no custard, no frangipane, no other filling.

You make the crust in the food processor by mixing flour, powdered sugar, salt, cold cubed butter, an egg yolk, vanilla, and cold water. I needed to add very little water to get the dough to hold together, and it wasn't difficult to pat the dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Even though the recipe calls for a 9-inch pan, I used a 10-inch pan. (I do own several 9-inch tart pans, but I find that tart recipes often generate both excess crust and excess filling -- so I have gotten into the habit of using tart pans one-inch larger than specified.)

I froze the tart crust until it was firm, lined it with non-stick aluminum foil, and baked it until lightly golden. It took longer than the 20-25 minutes specified in the recipe, and I baked it for a few minutes with the foil removed the get more color on the crust. Also, the crust did shrink a fair amount -- in the future, I would consider using pie weights. The crust was a little puffy after baking, but I used a tart tamper to flatten it out and restore the right angle between the bottom and the sides.
After the crust is slightly cooled, you sprinkle on a little flour and sugar and then arrange thinly-sliced apples in concentric circles. The recipe calls for three Honeycrisp apples and I had two and a half Honeycrisps, and a bunch of Gold Rush apples. Given that I was using a 10-inch pan instead of the 9-inch pan specified in the recipe, I wasn't surprised that I ended up needing more than three apples -- but I was a little surprised about how much apple got wasted during the process of making the tart. I followed the recipe directions to cut large pieces of apples off of the cores and then sliced them using a mandoline. (Of course it would be possible to make this tart without a mandoline, but the very thought cutting the apples by hand gives me a headache.) The problem was that I ended up with quite a few slices of apple that were quite short, and that would not have been conducive to forming a beautiful rose shape. So I ended up using only the tallest slices of apple, with the shorter slices going into a pile that I was happy to munch on later.

The tart ended up as a sort of two-tone affair, because I used Honeycrisp apples around the outside of the tart, and after I ran out, I switched to Gold Rush apples. So while the strips of apple peel around the exterior of the tart were pink, the apples in the interior had gold peels. I didn't mind the mix of colors. I sprinkled sugar and a little salt on top of the apples, and dotted the fruit with butter before baking.
I applied a pie shield about halfway through baking to prevent the edges of the crust from becoming too dark. After cooling the tart slightly, I gently brushed a glaze of thinned and warmed apricot jam onto the apples. I served the tart after it was completely cooled and it released easily from the pan, allowing me to cut neat slices. The crust was nicely golden on the bottom, cooked through, and tasted like a delicious butter cookie; the sprinkle of flour and sugar on the crust did a nice job of absorbing juices from the fruit and preventing the crust from becoming soggy. The apples were tender without being mushy, and delightfully sweet. I loved this tart. It was beautiful and so elegant in its simplicity. The straightforward flavor was so satisfying, and the tart's dramatic appearance makes a big impression -- even though it requires relatively little effort.

Recipe: "Rose Apple Tart" by Yossy Arefi, from The New York Times.