With a slight nutty twist to the classic, this French Apple Tart is filled with apple chunks tossed in vanilla and topped with a crunchy almond and walnut nougat.
Recipe for French Apple Tart
Like the previous Quick Apple Tart recipe using ready-made puff pastry, this pairs almonds with apples. While I used ground almonds in the topping with a splash of Calvados from Normandy in the other dessert, this tart instead uses ground almonds in the pastry. What’s more, slivered almonds make a gloriously crunchy nougat topping with just sugar and egg whites. What’s more, I love how the apples are tossed in butter and vanilla as the most tasty chunks.
I discovered the recipe for Apple Nougat Tart in Jacquy Pfeiffer’s cookbook, The Art of French Pastry. If any of you have seen the 2010 video on The Kings of Pastry (this link is a trailer), he’s the prime subject and I thoroughly recommend you watch it. Hailing from Alsace, this outstanding pastry chef co-founded the French Pastry School in Chicago. His work is totally inspiring.
The recipe calls for just slivered almonds for the topping but I also experimented using a mixture of sliced almonds, fresh walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans too. The result is deliciously fabulous.
Chef Pfeiffer adds a touch of cinnamon to the topping (very Alsace), although I like it also without, sticking with the vanilla. It’s all a matter of personal taste, bien sûr.
Going Nuts for French Apple Tarts at Christmas
If any of you have walked around with me on my previous pastry tours around Saint Germain, you’ll see that the French love adding nuts in pastry.
Not just in pastry – as of the end of November, Paris comes alive with roasted chestnuts and it begins to feel like Christmas is on the way. The nutcracker is a popular theme and I particularly love seeing them at each entrance to the Tuileries Gardens.
French Sweet Tart Pastry Recipe
The chef’s sweet tart base is prepared the day before. Shame on me but, instead of waiting 24 hours, I adapted the Sweet Tart base recipe in Teatime in Paris (there’s a whole chapter on Tarts in the book) by replacing some of the flour with ground almonds (almond flour).
The result worked really well and so I’ve posted this alternative pastry base recipe below.
As in Teatime in Paris, the method of making the tart base is all explained, step-by-step using a tart pan or a tart ring.
What Apples are Best for Apple Tart?
I personally love this tart using more tart (acidulée) apples – or even a mixture of sweet and acidic. Braeburn apples are good for this; so are a mixture of Pink Lady and Granny Smith. Otherwise, so are Golden Delicious, Opal, Boskoop, Jonagold, Reine de Reinette and Canada.
The chef’s secret to preparing the apples for this chunky French Apple Tart is to cook the apple chunks on a high heat in butter quickly until the apples are seared, then cool them off on baking paper. It’s a cracker of a pastry tip for making this.
However, lately I’ve been experimenting without using lemon juice with apples. If you peel, core and chop your apples quickly enough and immediately throw them into a hot pan, there is no need to go through soaking them in lemon juice. Good news if you’re in a hurry.
For much more on the best apples for cooking and baking,
see the Apple Market Produce page.
Best Way to Serve Apple Tarts
Inspired by chestnuts around Paris, add a few marron glacés (candied chestnuts) on top to complete a Parisian Christmas touch.
I love this tart on its own but serve with
- chestnut & vanilla ice cream,
- spiced chai crème anglaise or a dollop of crème fraîche;
- topped with a Calvados cream;
- fabulous served with warmed salted caramel sauce – make a batch of this and it keeps in the fridge for more apple and caramel desserts.
More French Tarts
- Le Saint-Germain Almond Tart;
- Parisian Pear and Almond tart, known as Tarte Bourdaloue;
- Tarte Tatin
- Strawberry and Rhubarb Frangipane Tart
- French Apple Custard Tart
French Apple Tart with Nougat
- 125 g (4.5oz/½ cup) unsalted butter softened
- 75 g (2.75oz/½ cup) icing (confectioner's) sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
- 1 medium egg (organic)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla powder or extract
- 200 g (7oz/ 1 2/3 cups) plain, all-purpose flour (type 45)
- 40 g (1.75oz/scant ½ cup) ground almonds (almond flour)
- 3 Organic apples (Braeburn, Golden or Granny Smith) peeled & cored
- 30 g (1oz/ 2 tbsp) butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 3/4 tsp extract)
- 30 g (2 tbsp) cane sugar (or Turbinado)
- 55 g (2oz/¼ cup) organic egg whites
- 55 g (2oz/¼ cup) sugar
- 55 g (2oz/ 1/3 cup) slivered almonds (or mix with broken walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)
Sweet Pastry Base
- Mix the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until pale and creamy (use a paddle beater, otherwise mix by hand but use cold butter).Add salt then other ingredients until just mixed, then stop. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film or in a bag and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.For more complete instructions, follow the recipe on pages 106-109 in my book, 'Teatime in Paris'.
- Take the pastry out of the fridge. Roll out the pastry on a very lightly floured surface to 4mm thickness. Press into the pastry ring or pan. Roll over the rolling pin on top to trim then push the pastry again into the ring to ensure it's straight against the sides. Return it to the fridge for at least 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas4.
- Blind bake the pastry by topping with parchment paper and fill with baking beans, washed coins, rice or dried beans. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool on a wire rack, removing the baking beans (this seems short but it will be baked again later with the apples).
- Prepare a sheet of parchment paper on the side. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the butter. Meanwhile, chop the apples into large dice (cut them quickly and there's no need to use lemon juice). When the butter is golden, fry the apples in sugar and vanilla for at least 5 minutes until seared a golden brown on one side. Turn the apples, cooking on high still for another 2 minutes then transfer to the parchment to cool.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg whites just with a fork until loosened up then stir in the sugar and sliced/chopped) nuts.
- Evenly spread the cooled apples into the pastry base and top with the nougat. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, a dollop of crème fraîche, chestnut ice cream or a warmed pot of salted caramel sauce. See more on types of apples for baking. Measures: Please note that all my recipes are best made using digital kitchen scales in precise metric grams. Both ounces (and cups) are given as an approximate guide.