When you work from home, baking from scratch can become part of your usual routine, like making the same French apple tart recipe three times in one month.
It’s been far easier to cook and bake from home, ever since I started freelance writing. It’s a pretty sweet arrangement, although it has changed a bit, now that I have this little person who needs one-on-one attention every 1.5 hours or so.
Why we’ve had this dessert three times recently.
The first time was when we were in Chicago about a week ago, and Time and I helped my mom make it. Hers was executed beautifully, with perfectly sliced and arranged apples glazed with apricot jam, and a cookie-like sweet pastry crust.
The next two times were here at home. Clearly, the flavor is a solid A+.
If I never eat another apple dessert ever again, it will be totally okay. I’m telling you, Tim and I would be happy with just this one… over and over again.
The recipe is close to my mom’s version – she makes two distinct layers of apples: a bottom layer of lightly sweetened cooked apples, and a top layer comprised of a beautiful arrangement of sliced fruit.
What originally won me over with this tart is the crust. It’s not a flaky pie crust. Known as pâte sablée in the French pastry world, this is a sweet pastry dough.
The best way that I can describe it is that it tastes like a cookie crust – sweet, firm, and buttery like a vanilla shortbread, yet rolled into a crust.
Making the crust and prepping all of the fruit takes a little elbow grease, or at least it did for me, balancing a baby on one hip while I rolled out the dough… but it’s worth it.
Worth it, worth it, worth it.Print
Looking for a dessert to show off a bunch of pretty apples? Make our beautiful French apple tart with a maple syrup glaze.
For the Tart Dough:
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
For the Filling:
- 4–5 apples
- 1 teaspoon lemon (or lime) juice
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
For the Top:
- 2–3 apples
- 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
For the Crust:
- Set out a clean 9-inch-round tart pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, water, and vanilla. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Cut the butter into the flour mixture until all of the butter pieces are no larger than small peas throughout.
- Add the egg mixture, and mix with your hands until everything is combined and comes together to form a dough.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough in a circle shape until it is a little larger than the size of the 9-inch tart pan.
- Transfer the dough to the tart pan. Use your fingers and hands to press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cut off any excess dough.
- Let chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
For the Filling:
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples for the filling. If they are small, use 5.
- In a large saucepan, combine all of the filling ingredients. Cook the mixture over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft enough that a fork can easily be inserted into a slice.
- Remove from the heat and let cool completely in the pan while you slice the remaining apples.
To Assemble and Bake:
- Core and thinly slice the remaining 2-3 apples for the topping. If they are small, use 3.
- Spread the cooled apple mixture into the bottom of the chilled tart crust. Arrange the sliced apples decoratively on top.
- Evenly dot the top of the tart with the pieces of butter.
- Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes, or until the apples are soft and browned on top and the crust is golden.
- Remove from the oven. While still warm, brush with maple syrup all over the top of the fruit to create a thin glaze.
- Serve warm or cold. Store in the refrigerator.
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- Category: Tart
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: French apple tart, apple, maple syrup
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Make the Dough
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, water, and vanilla extract, and set aside.
Cut the unsalted butter into the flour mixture until all of the butter pieces are no larger than small peas throughout the mixture. I prefer to use a pastry cutter for this step, but you could also use two knives.
Add the egg mixture, and mix with your hands until everything is combined and a dough forms. Don’t mix too much, or else the final texture will be too chewy.
The egg, an ingredient that isn’t included in a traditional pie crust, helps to stabilize the mixture, so it’s not as delicate as a typical pie crust. The texture becomes more cookie-like, and the flavor is delicious, especially with the addition of vanilla extract.
Step 2 – Roll out the Dough
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough, and use a floured rolling pin to roll it out in a circle shape until it is a little larger in diameter than your 9-inch tart pan.
Keep some extra flour in a bowl nearby. You will definitely need to dust the rolling pin, your hands, the rolling surface, and the dough itself with additional flour to prevent sticking as you continue to flatten and shape the dough.
Step 3 – Line Tart Pan with the Dough
Transfer the dough to the tart pan.
Not really sure how, without ripping the dough? You can either roll the dough around the rolling pin, and then un-roll it over the pan…
… Or, you can gently fold the dough in half and transfer it over to the pan, lining the folded edge up in the middle of the pan, and then unfold. This is the method that I used for this recipe, which you can see pictured above.
Use your lightly floured fingers and hands to firmly press the dough into the bottom of the pan, and up the sides. Trim off any excess dough.
Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.
Step 4 – Make the Filling
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Peel, core, and thinly slice 4 to 5 apples. Go for 5 if the fruit is on the smaller side.
Not sure which type of apples to use? Check out our guide to the choosing the best types for cooking and baking.
In a large saucepan, combine all of the filling ingredients: the prepped fruit, lemon or lime juice, sugar, and water.
Cook the mixture over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft enough that a fork can easily be inserted into them. Remove from the heat and let cool completely while you slice the apples for the topping.
Step 5 – Slice the Fruit for the Topping
Core and thinly slice the remaining 2-3 apples for the topping. Again, if they’re on the small side, prep one or two more. Use a sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board for this step to get clean, even slices.
I like the look of the skins on the fruit, but you can definitely peel them if you prefer.
Step 6 – Assemble
Spread the cooled apple mixture into the bottom of the prepared and chilled tart crust.
Arrange the sliced apples on top. Depending on how large the slices are, you may not need to use all of them. Save any leftovers for a snack!
Evenly dot the top of the tart with the pieces of butter.
Need a little extra design inspiration for how exactly you can arrange the slices on top? Use one of our preferred options for a decorative look:
This one is easy and simple: just pile the apple slices on top – intentionally messy, but in a good way!
Classic and Elegant
Neatly shingle pieces on top of each other in a round pattern, starting around the circumference from the outside and working your way to the center.
Fun and Whimsical
For something that’s more one-of-a-kind, group slices together and arrange them upright in random sections on the top of the tart. It’s what we did with our version that you see here!
Step 6 – Bake and Glaze
Place in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes, or until the apples are soft and browned and the crust is golden.
Remove from the oven. While it’s still warm, glaze with maple syrup all over the top of the tart using a pastry brush to create a thin, even coating.
Step 7 – Serve
As my mom’s notes on this recipe say, “Serve warm or cold – great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!”
It really is delicious at any time of day. If serving warm, consider topping each slice with some homemade ice cream.
Display, Not Hide, Those Beautiful Apples!
Why hide something so pretty?
All are tasty options, of course, but a French apple tart shows off the meticulously cut and arranged fruit slices on top – a layer of beauty!
What will you choose to do? Rustic, classic, or whimsical?
Do you have any other fun ways of arranging the fruit on top? Leave us a message in the comment section below!
Looking for more apple recipes? Try these sweet seasonal desserts next:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on October 11, 2015. Last updated: September 10, 2023 at 9:52 am. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.