When I’m hosting a dinner party, I love to have a dessert on display for my guests to see the minute they enter the room. It sets the mood for what’s to come. A perfect example would be a coconut cake with coconut spilling off its top and sides, but my all-time favorite showpiece dessert is a classic French tart.
First of all, when I’m talking about a classic French tart, I could be talking about the Shirley MacLaine character in the romantic comedy Irma La Douce. I could, “but that’s another story,” so no, this isn’t about that. Instead, my tart refers to decadence of the pastry kind, an open and revealing pie with thin sheets of crisp, papery dough draped over a seductively sweet apple filling.
Most tarts have sliced apples in a nicely flavored sauce, artfully layered over a pie crust. This recipe has a different take in that phyllo is the dough of choice. The bottom crust is layered, while the top is made by pinching quartered sheets of phyllo dough, turning each one over and layering it over the top of the tart. This gives the tart a beautifully rustic appearance and a pleasantly visual surprise, and perched on top of a pedestal cake plate, it’s a sight to behold. The gustatory anticipation of your guests will be palpable.
It’s sliced like a pie and served warm with either some real whipped cream on top or a scoop of ice cream on the side (or both) with a slight dusting of cinnamon. C’est délicieux.
Tart (Apple) Classic French
8 TbspButter plus more for greasing
Several applicationsCooking spray butter-flavored
1/2 cupSugar granulated
6Apples Golden Delicious
7 sheetsPhyllo dough
4 tspSugar granulated
Defrost the phyllo dough if frozen.
Make afternoon of the event.
Peel and core the apples, and then cut into wedges.
Time: About 75 minutes.
Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.
Add ½ cup granulated sugar, salt, and apples. Cook stirring occasionally, until apples are slightly caramelized (about 20 minutes).
Pull saucepan from heat and layer brandy; carefully ignite. Return to heat and cook until flames subside and liquid is reduced by half (about 3 minutes). Let cool.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease a 10” spring-form pan with butter; set aside.
Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a small saucepan and spoon off clarified butter and set aside.
Lay 1 sheet phyllo on a work surface and spray with cooking spray or melted butter for a richer flavor. Fit into prepared pan, allowing corners of dough to creep up but not over the sides. Keep a moist towel over the phyllo sheets so they don’t dry out.
Repeat using 3 more phyllo sheets, laying each sheet at a 45 degree turn from the last.
Spread apples over dough in an even layer.
Cut remaining 3 layers of phyllo dough in quarters. Working 1 piece at a time, pinch at the center and flip over, so that the corners are pulled together and facing up; place over the top of the tart. Repeat with the remaining pieces until tart is covered.
Drizzle the melted butter over the top of the tart. Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar over this.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Watch very closely to be sure it doesn’t overcook. If after 30 minutes you would like it to have a bit more color, change oven heat to broil to toast the top. Again, watch very carefully so it doesn’t burn.
Let tart cool completely in the pan, then unmold and transfer to a serving platter. Display it proudly.
This can be reheated in a microwave and served with either real whipped cream or French vanilla ice cream on the side (or both). Dust very slightly with cinnamon.