THE BACKSTORY BEHIND MY SIGNATURE APPLE TART – AKA AUTUMNAL HEAVEN AND HOW YOU CAN PERFECT THE TECHNIQUE AT HOME
BY CHEF DAVID BURKE PHOTO BY CHEF STUART MARX
This is how my famous caramelized apple tart got its start. First, like Adam and Eve, it all began with apples, my favorite fall ingredient. One of the ways chefs learn to master techniques is to work for free in another chef ’s kitchen (called stage). One of my stages was at one of the best restaurants in the world, Georges Blanc in Vonnas, France, a three-star Michelin restaurant. My job was basically production, and one of my duties was to make their famously perfect apple tart, or as the French say, galette aux pommes. Blanc made a big round tart that he cut into wedge-like slices, like a pizza. This tart took a lot of time, patience, and attention. The apples were sliced very thin and placed in a circle on top of a sugar dough. In the hour it baked we had to baste it about 20 times with melted butter, water, and sugar. The apples evaporated and the fresh sugar prevented the apples and sugar dough from burning. With all that basting the apples would become like crème brûlée and the pastry stayed crispy. The taste? Pure Heaven! When I got back to the States, I wanted to make my own American version. An American kitchen didn’t have all the available labor that a fine French kitchen had, so I got creative. We used puff pastry for the dough and added cinnamon. To keep the dough crispy (without all the basting), I inverted the tart halfway through the cooking time so the puff pastry stayed nice and crispy. I served the tart with cinnamon ice cream. And since I’m a Jersey boy I topped it with a caramelized apple sauce made with good ole Laird’s Applejack. My very talented pastry chef Stu Marx makes my caramelized apple tart at Red Horse in Rumson and Orchard Park in the new Chateau Grande Hotel in East Brunswick.
1 10-inch sheet puff pastry
8 tablespoons white sugar
8 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons melted butter
FOR THE APPLE TART
Roll out the puff pastry until about 1/8-inch thick. Place the pastry sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. While the pastry is resting, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix and reserve.
Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices. Toss them in the lemon juice. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place it on a board. Invert a 10-inch plate over the pastry and with a pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut around the edge of the plate. Remove the plate and carefully place a circle of the pastry dough on a baking sheet with a nonstick surface. Using the point of a sharp knife, prick holes in a circular pattern over entire sheet of pastry, and return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and, starting from the center, layer the apple slices onto the pastry, forming a circular pattern. Apple slices should overlap. Brush the apple slices with melted butter and top with half the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Bake the tart until the apples begin to brown slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and, using a spatula, slide the tart onto a plate. Invert the plate over a baking pan. Pastry will now be on top. Sprinkle the pastry with the remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture and return to the oven. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Allow the tart to rest for five minutes, and cut into 4-6 servings. Place each serving on a dessert plate. Spoon Applejack caramel around tart and place a scoop of cinnamon ice cream beside each portion.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons Applejack brandy (Laird’s)
2 tablespoons butter
2 apples, peeled and cut into small balls with a melon-baller cutter
FOR THE APPLEJACK CARAMEL
Combine the sugar and cider in a heavy saucepan and cook until caramelized. Add the water, brandy, and butter and cook until all of the ingredients are combined. Stir in apples.
David Burke and Carmel Berman Reingold, Cooking with David Burke, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)
Drifthouse & Nauti Bar by David Burke
1485 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright / 732.530.9760