Caramel Apple Tart is everything you would want in an apple dessert. Full of apples, spices, brown sugar and brandy, it's covered with walnut streusel and caramel. This was a fall favorite with my clientele at the bakery.
So you ask, what is the difference between a pie and a tart? The answer is essentially nothing significant. A pie is quite often covered with a top crust. Tarts seldom are and are generally baked in fluted tart pans with removable bottoms - think quiche pan or deeper.
That's where the streusel comes in. Something has to go on top of the apples, so they don't dry out while baking. The caramel that tops this particular tart gilds the lilly even more. This was a favorite with my wholesale clientele.
One of the big differences between this and the original post is the dark tart pan. Generally, I am not a big fan of dark bakeware because it browns quickly and often the item bakes up too dark. However, that very characteristic is what makes it work to the advantage of the pie crust which often doesn't brown enough on the bottom. This pan solves that problem.
Found a 9 ¾ x2 inch tart/quiche pan online. It seems to be very close to the one I have. I also found that Sur la Table and Williams Sonoma also have some, but not sure of their sizes. Be sure to follow the directions to hand wash and dry immediately as this is tinned steel and will rust if left wet.
There are basically two ways of making caramel. One method is to put sugar in a pan and melt it, continuing to cook until it is the desired color. Then butter and cream are added. I have always been a phenomenal flop at this method. I'm not sure if it is the pan, too high a heat or my impatience and lack of clarity that befuddles me but something does. I usually burn the caramel with this method. However, adding some water to the pan first and then adding the sugar helps but I still don't use it.
The caramel we made at the shop is still my favorite. I could eat it by the spoonful. It uses water with the sugar and corn syrup for the first part. Always put the water in the pan first and then the sugar to keep the sugar from absorbing the water and clumping up. The most important part is bringing it to the correct temperature. Too low and the caramel will be runny, too high and it will set up too hard.
The crust for this Caramel Apple tart is not an American pie crust. Because this was made for restaurants, the crust had to hold up for a number of days under refrigeration which a normal pie crust will not do. It is not flaky at all but is tender and buttery. It is a close cousin to the Pasta Frolla used in the Torta Rustica. It is a snap to make and a dream to roll out straight from the processor. This crust is much easier to handle than an American pie crust or French Pate Brisee. If asked, I would say this is my favorite crust for single tarts and pies.
As far as the apples are concerned, all one type can be used or you can mix them. I am using Gala and Granny Smith apples for this tart. At the bakery, we used Spy apples and I loved them. However, in my market, I can't find them.
When baking our tarts, I found that by covering them for the first part of baking and then uncovering for the last part was better than trying to cover them while hot in order to prevent the top from burning. After baking, the tart is cooled and chilled to make applying the caramel easier.
This Caramel Apple Tart can be frozen with the caramel or without the caramel. We sold them with the caramel already on but for home baking, I think it is a better idea to freeze the baked tart without the caramel. In any case, the tart should be thawed, preferably in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you didn't apply the caramel top before freezing, apply it after it is defrosted. Remove the tart from the refrigerator hours before serving so it can reach room temperature.
This Caramel Apple Tart has parts that can be made ahead to make this easy to put together. The caramel must be made at least the day ahead and up to 10 days ahead if refrigerated. Take it out the night before using, so it can return to room temperature.
The Streusel can be made days ahead and refrigerated. Use it straight from the refrigerator.
They don't say apple pie is America's favorite for nothing and this Caramel Apple Tart is right up there with the best of them.
Caramel - for how to photos of Caramel
1 cup cold water
1 ½ cups sugar (300 grams or 10 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup 40% cream
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (105 grams or 3 ⅔ ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a 2 quart or larger saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is dissolved completely. Bring to a boil; wash the sides of the pan down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, then boil without stirring until the mixture becomes a medium golden color.
Off heat, immediately add the butter and stir until it is melted. Pour the cream in all at once and stir in. If some of the cream lumps up don’t worry. Return to medium high heat and bring to a boil. Boil to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour into a bowl and allow to come to room temperature.
This can be made days ahead, cooled and refrigerated. Take out the night before using to soften.
Yields: 1 ½ cups
Streusel Topping½ cup walnuts (60 grams or 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons flour (17 grams or about ⅔ ounce)
½ cup packed brown sugar (100 grams dor 3 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (30 grams or 1 ounces)
Put all in a processor bowl fitted with the steel blade or the bowl of a mixer. Pulse to form a crumbly streusel topping. Set aside or refrigerate if making ahead.Filling
2 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced (1135 grams)
2 tablespoons brandy or lemon juice
1 cup packed brown sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
¼ cup flour (35 grams or about 1 ¼ ounces)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
Pour the brandy or lemon juice over the apples.
Mix the remaining ingredients together
and pour over the apples. Mix well so apples are all coated. Let rest about 15 minutes while preparing the crust.
2 cups sifted cake flour (250 grams or 8 ¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces (114 grams or 4 ounces)
3 tablespoons cream
Place the flour and salt in a processor bowl or mixing bowl. Mix to combine.
Add butter and cut in until mealy and indistinguishable. Whisk the egg and cream together and add to the flour mixture and mix or process until a smooth ball forms. This will look powdery at first but just keep processing or mixing and it will ball up.
Form into a ball and flatten somewhat. Roll into a circle about 11 inches. Fit into a 9x2 inch fluted tart shell with a removable bottom or a 9 inch deep dish pie pan. Make sure it is seated well into the corners by pulling the dough to the center and fitting it into the shell at a 90° angle.
Remove the excess dough by pressing with the palm of your hand on the top of the shell to cut it off. If using the pie pan, you may have to cut it off cleanly with a knife. Set aside.
Assembly of Caramel Apple Tart
Preheat oven to 400°F. If using a glass pan, reduce the temperature by 25°F and adjust the time as necessary.
Line a half sheet pan or another rimmed baking pan with foil for easy clean up in case of overflow.
Fill the pastry crust with the apples, keeping the filling flat and making sure the edges of the pastry are filled. Pour the juices that have accumulated over the apples.
Top the Caramel Apple Tart with the streusel.
Tear off a piece of foil large enough to enclose the top and sides of the baking pan. Spray the dull side of the foil and cover the tart. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 35 minutes more or until apples are soft. If the streusel darkens too quickly, lightly cover with the foil again. Cool to room temperature, then chill.
Finishing the Caramel Apple Tart
Finely chopped walnuts
Remove tart from the refrigerator.
Release the tart edges by making sure none of the juices from the pie filling have sealed the crust to the pan. A pointed offset spatula makes this easy.
Place the tart on a wide can and gently drop the sides. Use as much of the caramel as you like. Spread caramel over top of the streusel. Edge with finely chopped walnuts. This may be frozen at this point. Thaw in the refrigerator for 2 days. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm but be careful not to melt the caramel.
Note: This may be made without the caramel if desired, for an Apple Streusel Tart.