French Apple Tart (Tarte normande)
Choose a full-flavored baking apple, and one that won't fall apart once baked. A trip to the apple stand at your farmers' market would be a good place to get advice about a local variety that's good for baking. You want one that's full-flavored, and to my taste, on the tart side. (If you like sweet apples, you could certainly use those.) I offered up a few varieties that are widely available in the post.To dial down the richness, you can swap out half-and-half for the cream in the recipe. Calvados is apple brandy from Normandy. You can substitute another apple brandy. If they're not available, you can use brandy, Cognac, or dark rum. If avoiding alcohol, omit the brandy and double the vanilla extract, although the tart gets its name, and flavor, from the brandy, so the taste will be different.
For the tart dough
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (140g) flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling
4 medium apples, (see headnote), about 1 1/2 pounds, 700g
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons granulated or raw cane sugar, for finishing the tart
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream (or half-and-half)
2 1/2 tablespoons calvados
1. Make the tart dough by mixing the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low-to-medium speed, until combined, about 1 minute. (But do not whip.) Add the egg yolk and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Mix in the flour and salt on low speed, until the dough comes together. If necessary, add a sprinkle of water if the dough feels too dry. Don't overmix it. (I often stop the mixer before the dough is done and mix it by hand, to avoid overmixing.)
2. Shape the dough into a disk and place in the center of a 9-inch (23cm) removable bottom tart pan. Use the heel of your hand, and fingers, to press the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the pan, getting it as even as possible. Refrigerate or freeze the dough until ready to use.
3. To bake the tart, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Peel and core the apples, and cut them in eighths. Place the slices in concentric circles in the unbaked tart shell.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1/2 cup sugar, along with the vanilla extract and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream and calvados, until the mixture is smooth.
5. Pour the filling over the apples in the tart dough. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake the tart until deep golden brown on top, about 45 to 50 minutes. (The tart should not leak but if you are concerned it will, bake it on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet.) Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Serving: Serve the tart warm or at room temperature. Normally tarts like this are served on their own but you can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.
Storage: The tart is best enjoyed the day it's made. It can be kept up to 3 days but does not improve.