My favorite of Simone's specialties was her plum tart. She would roll the dough out into a rectangle, slide it onto a baking sheet, and cover it with slices of deep purple fruit. Then, without a measuring cup in sight, she would whisk together some quantity of cream with an egg or two, perhaps some sugar and, frankly, I'm not really sure what else. Finally, she would pour the stuff over the fruit, bake it until the custard was set, and then leave the beautiful thing on the counter for us to graze on all week.
Sometimes Simone would forget about the cake in the oven. The dough would get a little burnt around the edges and the custard would blush one shade too deep. Poor Simone would curse in German and sulk around a bit, until I would take a bite and proclaim that the cake was perfect just as it was. The mild sweetness of the cake came not from large amounts of sugar, but from the plums, and the smooth, buttery crust.
I have tried to recreate Simone's cake numerous times on this side of the sea. My results have never matched hers in quality, though I have had some modest success. Over the last few years, I've played with any recipe for tarte aux quetsches (or, "Prune Plum Tart") that has come my way. Recently, I came across this one, posted by the Ulterior Epicure, and decided to give it a try. There was just one problem. It's the dead of winter and there are no plums to be found. At least not any that I would actually want to eat. So what do you do when you're in the mood for tarte aux quetsches in January? Grab a couple of apples and make a tarte aux pommes instead!
Tarte aux pommes
Adapted from the Ulterior Epicure's "Tarte aux quetsches"
1/2 recipe pâte brisée [I've cycled through a few different recipes. Right now I'm into Martha Stewart's. You can freeze the other half of the dough to use at a later date. Or go ahead and make two tarts in one fell swoop!]
2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced. I like to leave the skins on.
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar (+ 3 T. if you like your not-so-sweet closer to sweet)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
2 dashes of cinnamon
3 T. flour
2 T. turbadino sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out the pâte brisée and fit into a 9-inch tart pan. Prick all over with a fork, and lay the apples over the dough in concentric circles. If you cover the pan completely with apples and you have extra slices to spare, form another layer on top.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and flour. Pour the mixture over the apples. Bake for approximately 50 minutes. When the tart is finished, the custard will be puffed and golden, the apples slightly browned.
Allow the tart to cool to room temperature. Sprinkle the turbadino sugar over the top. Using either your oven broiler or a small torch, melt the sugar slightly so that it forms a thin, sweet, crunchy layer over the apples. (If you use a torch, be careful -- the tips of the apples singe very easily, as you can see in my pictures! The taste, you'll be happy to hear, was not affected.)
Serve at room temperature.
Serve at room temperature.