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Apple tart

As cooks, it is difficult to pick a favorite season, but the fall market in Beaune is certainly a favorite. Fall is a beautiful time to visit France in general as the majority of the crowds have returned home and things are getting somewhat back to normal. It gives you the opportunity to really have a chance to experience France as the French do, without all the tourists.

Every Saturday we stroll by our little brocante on the way to the market. Most Saturdays, we  are "good" and enjoy the thrill of the hunt and do not splurge unless we find something we simply can't live without. Several months ago  we came upon a beautiful soup tureen that we, regrettably, talked ourselves out of. We've been disappointed ever since.   As luck would have it, just this last Saturday, another one appeared and dare we say, we think it is even more lovely than the first one. We have a thing for anything food related and our particular love is white ironstone. We think it will pair nicely with an upcoming butternut squash soup we've been dreaming about.

With the chill in the air and the lovely heirloom apples in Monsieur Talmot's stall, we were inspired to preheat the oven and bake some classic French pastry. In France, you will find an apple tart in every window of every pâtisserie, but we prefer to spend the afternoon baking to welcome in the new season. The classic apple tart in France is most often made with a purée of apples topped with sliced apples in a decorative fashion and it is usually coated with an apricot glaze. For this tart, the purée is flavored with just a hint of vanilla and the top of the tart is brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar so it comes out lightly caramelized but not too sweet. It's the perfect dessert to celebrate fall. Served with sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream flavored with just a touch of Calvados, it just might be a slice of heaven.

Apple Tart

serves 6 to 8

1 recipe Pâte Sucrée (from "The Cook's Basics")
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced into even 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar

for the apple purée
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled cored and diced
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the tart pan with the pâte sucrée. Prick the bottom with a fork and line the shell with parchment. Fill the lined tart with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 15 minutes until the edges are set and lightly browned. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper and dried beans.

To make the apple purée, put the diced apples, vanilla bean pod, sugar and butter in a saucepan with 3 to 4 tablespoons of water. Cook gently, stirring often until soft, adding more water if necessary, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Using the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean, then discard the pod. Transfer the mixture to a food mill or mash with a fork until smooth.

Heat the butter in a sauté pan and gently sauté the apple slices to coat them in the butter until just softened.

Spread the purée evenly in the partially baked tart shell. Carefully arrange the apple slices in a neat circle around the edge. They should be tightly overlapping but not squished together. Depending on the size of your tart pan and the apples, you can repeat to create an inner circle or just fill in the center in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle over a tablespoon or two of sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven until just browned and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraîche or Calvados spiked whipped cream.