in pursuit of style // apple band tart

The re-questioning of personal style seems to be an annual affair at this point. It’s hard to definitively say if the broadly sombre atmosphere of 2020 and the somewhat shaky prospects of the upcoming year play a substantial role in this shift, but my stylistic preferences are becoming increasingly monochromatic and very much less sunlight and sparkle. I have even already established a rule of thumb when shopping for clothes, which is to only buy them in shades of black or white (or blue, for denim pieces) because I would otherwise regret my purchases when the novelty wears away.

I’m pretty sure that my predilection for the lack of color will soon influence my baking habits (in fact, I’m actively planning on making my Instagram as monochromatic/primarily neutral as possible). With each passing year baking becomes more of an art form and a means of self-expression, compared to way back when when I would bake a carrot cake simply due to a dearth of a decent one where I lived. Lately it has been my mission to make desserts more like art – so pretty that you can’t bear to eat them. I’m also working out how to incorporate the surrounding environments I draw inspiration from alongside my desserts in the photo frames, which is a lot more challenging than I expected. Definitely a lot more color coordination and advanced planning involved. But I’m excited to eventually pull it off – can’t wait for you all to see the creative vision I have in my head.

So, about this tart. I picked the recipe up from the Bouchon Bakery book, which is one I’ve been meaning to try out for a while because of its interesting presentation. There’s tart dough and puff pastry all stacked up into one sturdy container for a bed of warm, custardy vanilla pastry cream and a procession of butter-and-brown-sugar-brushed apple slices. It’s very autumn/fall appropriate (as the pumpkin orange linen napkin supports). You must serve the tart warm, ice cream optional but encouraged.

Apple Band Tart

For the tart crust:

102 grams all-purpose flour

30 grams icing sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

64 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 large egg yolk

For the puff pastry:

store-bought puff pastry, cut into two 16 1/2 by 1 1/4 by 1/4 inch thick strips

For the pastry cream:

180 ml whole milk

2 large egg yolks

34 grams sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

17 grams unsalted butter, softened

For the egg wash:

1 egg, beaten

For assembly:

2 apples, quartered and sliced thinly using a mandolin

25 grams unsalted butter

25 grams light brown sugar

Make the tart dough: Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the pieces of butter and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. Add in the egg and pulse to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap. Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour. Roll out the tart dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 5 x 16 inch rectangle that’s just under 1/4 inch thick. Prick the bottom of the dough with the tines of a fork.

Line the puff pastry strips up with the length of the tart dough. Make 1/4 inch deep diagonal cuts into the edges of the dough, spacing each cut about a 1/2 inch apart. This is to help keep the tart dough and puff pastry from separating as they bake. Brush the tops of the puff pastry strips with the egg wash and lightly score the tops of the strips with lines spaced 1/4 inch apart. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Make the pastry cream: Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until simmering. Whisk in the hot milk bit by bit into the egg mixture. Pour back into the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil on high heat while whisking constantly. Keep whisking for 1 to 2 minutes with the mixture at a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pass the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Let cool for a bit. When the custard has cooled slightly, stir in the butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream and place in the fridge to chill.

Assemble the tart: Pipe the pastry cream lengthwise over the tart dough. Arrange the apple slices on top of the pastry cream such that they overlap. Place in the freezer for a few hours.

Bake the tart: Preheat oven to 180C. Retrieve tart from freezer and brush another coating of egg wash over the puff pastry. Melt the unsalted butter in a microwave or small saucepan, stir in the brown sugar until it has dissolved. Brush the butter sugar mixture over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the puff pastry is a rich golden brown.

Recipe inspired by Bouchon Bakery.

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