What is an Apple Tart?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The apple tart is a dessert that combines pastry and apples. Tarts come in a variety of forms and they typically differ from the well known apple pie because they are not covered with pastry on top, though tarte tatin’s baking process is an exception. It may be better to say that a tart tends to feature a single pastry crust, and choice of pastry may vary from puff pastries, to more traditional pie or shortbread crusts. The interested baker has many different recipes to try.

Apples.
Apples.

It’s impossible to leave out tarte tatin, when discussing apple tart. This is a famous French dessert that could best be described as an upside-down pie. Instead of baking a pastry crust with apples topping it, apples are topped with the crust. When tarte tatin is finished, it is inverted so the apples are served up, but because it is cooked upside down, the texture of the apples is reminiscent of apple pie.

Many people like to use tart Granny Smith apples in tarts.
Many people like to use tart Granny Smith apples in tarts.

Tarte tatin is representative of one of the big differences between most apple pies and the apple tart. Since most tarts feature apples that are cooked partially uncovered, their texture can be very different. While a two-crust pie has apples that are cooked thoroughly, as does tarte tatin, the tart may feature some apple tops that are still a little tougher or dryer. Some recipes call for glazes or pre-cooking the apples to produce more evenly cooked fruit, but many people like the difference in textures when eating an apple tart and find this step unnecessary.

Some apple tart recipes call for homemade applesauce.
Some apple tart recipes call for homemade applesauce.

So many different recipes exist for apple tart that it would be difficult to discuss them all. These recipes may feature some commonalities. Typically, only a layer or two of apples are used in constructing the tart, instead of the cups of apples that might fill a pie. The resulting tart is expectedly flatter than a deep dish pie. Occasionally, apples are mixed with other ingredients like flour, sugar or even milk products which produce a custard-like sauce while baking. A traditional tart may simply use a couple layers of apples that are evenly placed in the tart shell, and these might be coated with brown sugar and cinnamon, and brushed with butter or light jam.

The tart shell can be composed of a variety of pastry crusts, and different pans are used, with flat fluted pans often being preferred. It isn’t necessary to use a pan, and some people simple roll out the crust, place the apples in it in concentric circles, and bring the crust edges slightly over the top, while still leaving most of the apples uncovered. This type of apple tart is also called a galette.

The best time to cook an apple tart is when there is access to fresh baking apples. Traditional apple choices include Gravensteins, pippins, granny smiths, and other apples with sharp or wine-like flavors. As these cook, they yield complex flavor, whereas “eating” apples may disintegrate while cooking or be less flavorful.

When tarte tatin is finished, it is inverted so the apples are served up, but because it's cookedupside down, the texture of the apples is akin to apple pie.
When tarte tatin is finished, it is inverted so the apples are served up, but because it's cookedupside down, the texture of the apples is akin to apple pie.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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