Maybe you’ve also seen this happen after a big holiday meal: the pies come out and everyone wants “just a little slice.” You rest your knife on the crust, showing where you’ll make the cut.
NOOOO! SMALLER! they will shout, mistaking you for a surgeon and your knife for a scalpel and your cut for a procedure where removing any more tissue than absolutely necessary would be a grave mistake.
Soon, that magnificent pie turns into a bunch of wimpy, mangled slices.
This is why tarts are genius. They’re like shallow pies that are rich and sturdy. Even teeny tiny slivers stay in tact.
Mark Bittman’s Simplest Apple Tart is a dessert that maintains its elegance even when under the knife. And, it’s sooo pretty.
This dessert is purely about the crust and the apples. It is simple, minimalist and delicious, and easier than pie. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can make a freeform crust. Very rustic chic.
The glossy top is the thing that makes it look like it came from a fancy pastry shop. It’s like top coat for your nails. Shine serum for your hair. All you do is thin out apricot preserves with water, and brush on.
Bittman’s recipe for Rich Tart Crust comes from his cookbook, “How to Cook Everything,” which is a 944-page ordeal without pictures.
So, you don’t know how pretty it’s going to be until you actually make it.
Once you’ve made the crust and chilled it, proceed with these instructions for the apple part of the tart:
SIMPLEST APPLE TART
By Mark Bittman
Makes about 8 servings
1 Rich Tart Crust, chilled
2-3 pounds tart apples, such as McIntosh
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional – I went without)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup strained apricot preserves (optional)
1 tablespoon water or any liqueur (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°. Prick the chilled crust all over with a fork. Line it with foil and weight the bottom with dried beans, rice or a smaller pie plate. Bake 15-20 minutes, until shell is no longer raw but still quite pale. Remove from oven, reduce heat to 375°, carefully remove weights and foil, and set shell aside to cool.
- Peel and core apples, then cut them into thin slices (about 1/8-inch thick). Use a mandoline. Toss apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Arrange apples in concentric circles in the shell, with the circles overlapping. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (if using), then dot with butter.
- Bake until the apples are soft, about 40 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes before brushing on the glaze.
- To glaze: While the tart is cooling, warm the preserves with the water or liqueur in a small saucepan over medium heat, until thinned. Brush the mixture on top of the tart. Serve at room temperature.