A couple of years ago, Dave and I spent a few months traveling through France. We were in Bordeaux over Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I was heartbroken to be away from my family, knowing they were all gathered together, drinking wine and eating my aunt's to-die-for selection of pies.
Despite the fact we were only a party of two, I was adamant about having a Thanksgiving feast. As we didn't have access to all of the traditional ingredients, let alone a fully stocked kitchen to prepare them in, we had to do a bit of improvising.
We slurped down some meaty Arcachon oysters and sipped on some Sémillon while preparing a few salads. Instead of a roast turkey we picked up one of those juicy rotisserie chickens that spin in the windows on every block of the city. I took inspiration from the French tarte aux pommes and made a free-form crust in the absence of a pie dish (which to the French, is actually more of a galette).
In the end, it was pretty far from a traditional Thanksgiving, but it was perfect in that time and space.
A takeaway from that meal was how much I loved the rustic, thrown-togetherness of the apple tart. Ever since, more often than not, I opt for this kind of crust when baking a pie or tart, be it savory or sweet. It is a less formal approach. It can be sliced however you want. Somehow that makes the dish more suitable for any time of day, from brunch to dessert. The simple presentation also let's the ingredients of the filling shine. More than anything, it is incredibly forgiving. If you're not a patient, perfectionist baker (like myself), this is a great approach to dessert - you can create something really beautiful with minimal fuss.
Rustic Apple Tart
2 cups flour
10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cold water
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons quince or apricot preserves
In a large bowl, add flour and butter. Using a pastry knife or your hands, cut butter into flour mixture until dough resembles coarse meal. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until dough comes together into a uniform ball. Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick. Re-wrap in cling wrap and chill another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a large mixing bowl, gently toss apples with sugar, lemon juice, and butter.
Place dough on a large baking sheet. Roughly arrange apples in a spiral on top, leaving a 2-3 inch overhang of dough. Working in a circle, fold overhanging dough onto the apple filling. Bake until apples are caramelized and crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Melt preserves in a saucepan over low heat. Using a pastry brush, paint top of tart with preserves. Serve immediately with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream, or cover and store up to 3 days.