The tangy taste of a Windsor, or the snappy crunch of a sweet new season Gala – this week marks the official start of the British apple and pear season, one of the staple flavours of autumn and a prized seasonal star in the homegrown calendar.
While eager apple fans may have already been enjoying early season varieties like Windsor and Spartan, the big hitters like Gala, Braeburn, Cox, and not forgetting English Bramleys, are all about to hit their peak.
To celebrate the start of the season, ambassador for the British apple and pear sector, and renowned chef and patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc, has shared his recipe for a traditional baker’s tart, or Tarte Boulangère.
“I am tremendously excited to be part of this year’s start of season launch,” he says. “Britain produces some of the finest apple and pear varieties in the world, and it is hugely important to me that we support our home grown produce. With so many wonderful varieties available this season in an array of beautiful colours, textures and flavours, there really is a British apple to delight everyone.”
Raymond Blanc’s Tarte Boulangère
Prep 15 mins/cook 50 mins
Tarte Boulangère. Or baker’s tart. So called because for centuries it has been prepared by nimble, floury fingers in every bakery in France. A pillar of French tradition, this dessert is also very simple, unrefined and rustic – bakers did not aspire to be the finest pâtissiers. With the availability of good-quality puff pastry, it is even easier to make these days. It’s delicious and a joy to cook at home, using British-grown apples.
The lidless tart can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature, or gently reheated in the oven and served warm. Apricots, plums, figs and most fruits make a delicious substitute for apples.
plain flour, for dusting
300g all-butter puff pastry (block or ready-rolled)
5–6 Royal Gala, Cox or Braeburn apples (total weight 700–800g)
50g unsalted butter
5 dessertspoons (about 85g)
1 teaspoon ground
juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon Calvados (or water, if you must)
a handful of flaked
icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
Pastry first. On a floured board, roll out a disc of pastry that’s about 4mm thick. If using ready-rolled, simply unroll your pastry. Place a cake tin of about 18cm diameter on the pastry and cut around it, to create a disc of puff pastry. Run a sharp knife around the pastry, bout 1cm from the edge, and about 1mm deep. This concentric circle will enable the pastry to rise perfectly around the apples. Line a baking tray, and place the disc onto it. Reserve in the fridge.
Peel and core the apples. Halve each apple lengthways, and cut each half into three equal-sized segments lengthways.
Melt the butter and mix it on a separate baking tray with the Demerara sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and the Calvados (or water). Roll the apple segments in the sugary mixture, so that they are well coated.
Roast for 10 minutes. Turn over the apple pieces, baste them, and return them to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/170°C fan/gas 5. Baste the apples once more, and leave them to cool.
Arrange the apple segments on top of the pastry in a circle – leaving the space of about 1cm from the edge of the disc – to form a dome of apple pieces. Brush them with the remaining syrup from the baking tray.
Bake in the oven (at the reduced temperature of 190°C) for 25–30 minutes.
Enjoy Tarte Boulangère warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with flaked almonds, if using, dust with a little icing sugar and serve with a jug of cream, a bowl of whipped cream or with ice cream or crème fraîche.
Roast flaked almonds or crushed hazelnuts in the oven and sprinkle over when you serve.
Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home by Raymond Blanc is out now (£25, Headline Home).