Every once in a while, I cheat. I don’t mean cheating on my beloved. That’s not happening. But shortcuts in the kitchen, now that’s the type of cheating I will do and feel good about. This Easy Apple Puff Pastry Tart is just the latest in my forays into shortcuts that definitely work.
It would make a great Thanksgiving dessert. An untraditional alternative to apple pie, with filling that’s less sweet and gooey. Plus the outside has more crunch and it’s much easier to cut. An elegant winner that is sure to wow your family and friends.
But my favorite shortcut is store-bought puff pastry. I’ve already done Puff Pastry Potato Roses and Chocolate Marzipan Tarte Soleil, not to mention Apple and Honey (single serve) Tarts and Roasted Red Grape and Rosemary Tart. Now, with apple season in full swing, I’m all about this simple tart that is easy to put together but is oh so elegant.
The inspiration for this tart is the apple cinnamon slab pie on Natasha’s Kitchen. I borrowed the concept of using puff pastry for a long, strudel-like pastry. My version diverges a bit in the filling and technique. Plus my directions are a bit more specific.
The recipe has a few steps and a bunch of equipment listed. But don’t be put off. It’s really easy and looks elegant when done.
The Ingredients and How to Make this Recipe Vegan
My ingredients are mostly the same. But I’ve upped the amount of apples, added cardamom (preferably roasted) in the filling, and cut down on the butter. You can use any apples that work for pie. I prefer a combination and generally use at least one Granny Smith or Honeycrisp.
This is not an ad for Trader Joe’s, though I do love the store’s puff pastry. (Note that the store only seems to carry it during the fall and early winter. I often stock up and freeze several boxes.) My second choice after Trader Joe’s is Dufour, which is lovely but expensive. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is widely available, but not as good IMHO because it uses oil rather than butter. That being said, Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan.
The flour is not really an ingredient. Use it to keep the dough from sticking to your mat or counter as you create the tart.
Plus, I’ve played with the basic recipe and found some excellent variations.If you’re into ginger, as I am, adding chopped crystallized ginger is a nice touch. You can even add fresh cranberries and slivered almonds.
Although it’s not essential to the finished product, for the topping I like to mix sparkling (coarse) sugar, which is pure white, with brown Demerara sugar.
The egg is not really an ingredient. It simply “glues” the top of the tart to the bottom and glazes the top so the sugars stay on.
Steps in Making the Easy Apple Puff Pastry Tart
The exact shape does not matter, but I do roll the pastry out to a larger rectangle than Natasha does. Mine is generally about 10 & 1/2 inches x 13 inches (27 cm x 33 cm.) And I don’t fuss to much about the exact size or the edges.
After peeling the apples, core and slice them.
The filling is simple. First, melt the butter. Then add the apple slices and cook them for a short time. Next add the brown sugar and spices, cooking the mixture until the slices soften and brown.
After placing the cooked apple slices on the bottom piece of dough, brush egg on the edges. Then add the top and press down the sides. (I do that latter step with a the tines of a fork.) Finally, brush the top with egg and sprinkle the sugar. Then make a few slits in the top – as you would for a two crust pie – and bake.
Tips for Making an Easy Apple Puff Pastry Tart
- Apple slices. Make them thin and chill the cooked slices to make it easier to pile them in a line down the center of the tart. Don’t worry if they begin to brown before you cook them, as they will brown during the cooking process. If they render a lot of juice during cooking, don’t use all of it when you put the apples onto the dough. Keeping too much liquid with the apples will just leak out during baking. You can hold some back and drizzle part or all of it into the tart after baking through the slits.
- Working with puff pastry dough. Keep it cool. If your room is warm or the dough seems too warm, refrigerate the part you are not using at the moment. (I refrigerate the top while I’m working with the bottom one.) Also, cutting the top slightly larger than the bottom allows the top to hang over the apples and still meet the edge of the bottom piece.
- Closing the tart. I use the tines of a fork to press the top and bottom together. You can do that, or fold the edges, or some combination. Whatever you do, the goal is to seal the edges tightly, so the inside does not seep out.
Make this Tart into Vegan Easy Apple Puff Pastry Tart
You can make this tart vegan with 3 easy changes in the recipe:
- Use vegan-friendly puff pastry. In other words, use puff pastry that does not contain dairy (butter), e.g., Pepperidge Farm.
- Substitute vegan “butter” for dairy butter. When baking for vegans I prefer to use Miyoko’s, but check out this list for other brands.
- Use a plant-based alternative to egg for painting the bottom edges and glazing/”egg washing” the top. For a vegan version, I would probably use a neutral oil (not olive), perhaps mixed with a bit of plant-based milk.
Easy Apple Puff Pastry Tart
Using store bought pastry makes this tart simple. It's elegant too, perfect for a small gathering when you want to impress during apple season.
- 3 large apples, preferably a combination of Granny Smith or Honeycrisp and other good apples for pie/cooking, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch/.6 cm slices About 1 & 1/2 lbs/700 g
- 3 tablespoons butter or vegan alternative, melted 1 & 1/2 oz/43 g
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed 2 oz/53 g
- 3/4 teaspoon round cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted from frozen
- all-purpose flour (for dusting)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water, or vegan alternative
- about 3 tablespoons sparkling or Demerara sugar or a combination about 1.7 oz/16 g
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
After melting the butter in a medium-sized, deep skillet or pot, add the sliced apples and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally for about another 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, to make it easier to handle and so it won't melt the pastry dough.
Cut two parchment sheets, one as big as your sheet pan and the other slightly narrower. Lightly dust them with flour. Put the still-cool, defrosted pastry sheet on the larger parchment and roll it out to about 10 & 1/2 inches wide by 13 & 1/2 inches long. Cut the pastry almost in half lengthwise (I like to leave one side, for the top, slightly wider than the bottom, by about 1 inch/1 & 1/4 cm) and put the slightly larger/top half back back in the refrigerator on the narrower sheet of parchment, while you work with the bottom. Using a pizza cutter is the easiest way to cut the dough, but you can use a knife too.
Mound the apple slices horizontally (with their tips pointing to the narrower sides of the parchment) in a line down the center of the sheet of parchment, leaving a border around all the sides of about 1 inch/2 & 1/2 cm. Don't be too obsessive about how the apples look. (They will be covered by the top layer of puff pastry dough.) Just make an effort to keep them in a line facing the same way.
Brush the egg wash over the empty border. Take the second (top) sheet out of the refrigerator and gently place it on top of the dough with the apple slices lined up. Gently press around the edges to seal the pastry or seal it. Using a fork to seal works well, but you can do it with your fingers, rolling it slightly, or any other way that creates a tight seal.
Brush the top with the egg wash or vegan alternative, sprinkle the coarse sugar over the top and add a few vents with the sharp knife to let the air out of the pastry as it bakes.
Slide the parchment onto the pan and bake for 15-17 minutes, until the top of the puff pastry is golden. Cool to warm or room temperature before cutting.
I've frozen the baked tart, defrosted it and reheated for about 20 minutes at 350°F/180°C.