Every time I taste this tart I think of my grandmother. She never used a recipe but still managed to create the same tart time after time. The apples she used came from the gnarled trees in the back yard tended by my grandfather. I never knew their name. They were terrible and starchy eaten straight from the tree but cooked into a deliciously fragrant, soft, tangy custard-like fruit that seemed exotic to my young taste buds. I like this tart because it can be broken down into manageable steps and then assembled and baked the day of your feast. It’s simple but seems fancy enough to make your guests think you made an extra effort on dessert. Serves 8 -10
1. To make the custard: place the milk in a medium bowl. Whisk in the starch until smooth and then add the eggs and sugar. Whisk until eggs are fully incorporated.
2. Add the cream, vanilla, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk until everything is well incorporated. Reserve.
3. To prepare the apples: preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a sheet pan.
4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and wait until it bubbles and foams.
5. Add half of the apples and let them brown to golden then flip with a spatula to brown all sides. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat if pan gets too hot and starts to smoke or if juices start to burn.
6. When apples are golden and soft, sprinkle ¼ cup of sugar evenly over the apples and toss. Continue to cook until sugar is caramelized and bubble thickly.
7. Add a little water if the apples are still firm and cook until the water has evaporated. Apples should be meltingly tender. It should take about 15 minutes. Turn out onto the prepared sheet pan and repeat steps with the remaining apples.
8. Pour the custard into the tart pan lined with your pre-baked pate brisee. Arrange the cooked apples in a pinwheel on top to fill the crust.
9. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 30 minutes until custard is set. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.