French Apple Tart & Cinnamon Snails

French apple tart, just baked

If you struggle with anger management, this post might be a good one to skip. Just send it straight to your trash can if you’re reading via email; just skip back to the grilled cheese or the French toast, if you’ve happened upon here via google. At apple-rosette attempt three, I envisioned flinging this tart frisbie style straight into my tv; at apple-rosette attempt five, I imagined raising it above my head, slamming it straight down, and splattering it all over my kitchen floor.

Fortunately — and I never imagined saying this — I have a child that drives me to read self-help books. I put myself in a timeout for two minutes (grossly ignoring the minute-per-year-of-age rule, which would have had me sitting for half an hour), during which I took a few deep breaths and told myself to let the apple rosettes go.

When I came out of my quiet time, ready to be a nice girl again, I set to work. Within minutes the tart shell brimmed with fanned apple slices, not quite so pretty as Saveur’s, but pretty nonetheless. And best of all, not too pretty to eat.

French apple tart, glazed

In the Cuisinart, this tart dough comes together in seconds:
tart dough, made in Cuisinart

tart dough

Just as I set out to work, someone ran off with my tart pan. Fortunately, I have another.
Ella's tart pan

laying dough into tart pan

Both the dough and the assembled tart shell must chill for one hour, which allows for plenty of time to peel and slice the apples as well as to make the cinnamon snails with the leftover dough.
tart shell

halved apples

apple-filled tart

tart, ready for the oven

French apple tart, glazed

Notes:

1. I am so so happy I finally got around to making this tart, which is as delicious as beautiful. And, despite my frustrations expressed above, the tart truly is not complicated to assemble. Peeling, coring and slicing the apples is time consuming, but the effort is worth the reward. I advise taking a look at the Saveur slideshow, which is detailed, inspiring and helpful even if you don’t end up making the rosettes.

2. I added a thin thin layer of frangipane to the bottom of the tart shell before filling it with apples. I love the flavor of a layer of frangipane in this sort of dessert, but it is by all means optional. I have included a recipe for the smallest batch of frangipane I know how to produce, but unfortunately, you will have leftover frangipane. Fortunately, it keeps well in the fridge and freezes well, too … you can always just make another tart.

3. While the apricot glaze gives the final tart a nice sheen, I think I prefer it without it. For me, it doesn’t offer much flavor wise, it’s an extra step, and truthfully, the apricot-glazed look reminds me of the often inedible tarts filling glass-cased display shelves in mediocre pastry shops. You can make the call when the tart comes out of the oven. Personally, I prefer the unglazed look.

French Apple Tart

Adapted from Saveur

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar (optional — this is my addition. I love a little sugar in a tart shell.)
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, divided
1/4 tsp. table salt
7 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and halved*
1/4 cup sugar

frangipane (optional, recipe below)

1/2 cup apricot jam, optional (see note above)

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

*I used Pink Lady apples, and I needed about 5 for my 9-inch tart pan.

Making the tart:

1. Combine flour, sugar, 8 tbsp. butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until pea­size crumbles form, about 10 pulses. Drizzle in 3 tbsp. ice­cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3—4 pulses. (Do not pulse so much that the dough forms a mass — see the photo above with the food processor. It will clump together when you form it into a disk.) Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Note: This can be made up to three days in advance.)

2. Unwrap dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into a 13″ circle and then transfer to a 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges; chill for 1 hour. (Note: My tart pan was 9 inches, but I still rolled it out to about 13 inches.)

3. Heat oven to 375º. It is helpful to flip through the slideshow on Saveur before beginning this step. Also, if you’re using the frangipane, spread a thin layer (about 2 tablespoons) of it across the bottom surface of your tart shell. Working with one apple half at a time, thinly slice into sections, keeping slices together. Press sliced apple half gently to fan it out; repeat with remaining apple halves. Place 1 fanned apple half on outer edge of the tart dough, pointing inward; repeat with 7 more apple halves (or as many as you are able to fit — with a smaller tart pan, you won’t be able to fit as many). Separate remaining apple slices. Starting where the apple halves touch and working your way in, layer apples to create a tight rose pattern. Fill in any gaps with remaining apple.

4. Sprinkle with sugar (I did not use the full 1/4 cup. Use as much or as little as you like. If your apples are really sweet, you won’t need a full 1/4 cup; if you’re using a 9-inch tart pan, you also likely won’t need a full 1/4 cup.) Dot with remaining butter — this seems like a lot of butter, and you certainly could cut back, but I think it adds flavor. Bake until golden brown, 60—70 minutes. (I did 70.)

5. If you’re doing the apricot glaze: heat apricot jam in a small saucepan until warmed and loose; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl and set aside. Transfer tart to a wire rack; using a pastry brush, brush top of tart with jam. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with whipped cream.

Frangipane

1 scant cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon brandy, rum, or bourbon (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, combine almond flour, sugar, salt, butter and egg. Pulse until combined, then add alcohol if desired. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a storage container and chill until ready to use.

Making the cinnamon snails:
making the cinnamon snails

cinnamon snails, made with leftover dough

Cinnamon Snails

leftover pie dough
softened butter
cinnamon and sugar

1. Roll out pie dough scraps into a rectangle. Spread with a layer of butter. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Roll into a spiral. Cut crosswise into slices. Bake at 375º for 10 to 15 minutes — just keep an eye on them; they brown quickly at the end.

44 Comments

  1. I have an insane tart love, and this is gorgeous! My mother used to make the cinnamon snails with leftover dough when I was a little girl. Thanks for that lovely memory!

    Reply
  2. Gorgeous tart, Ali! I had a laugh about the image of you in timeout and I love Ella’s pudgy little hand appearing in the photo as she takes over your tart pan. Can’t wait to make the tart. I’d love to make the snails, but I have a dough thief in my house who loves to eat leftover dough… I’ll have to try to sneakily set some aside.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I was wondering what I would fix for my afternoon with friends that I taught with. I hope my tart turns out as beautiful as yours. I will look at Saveur first.
    Your recipes are divine!
    Diana

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  4. I grew up eating those snails every time my mother baked a pie. We called them “pets,” and they had brown sugar sprinkled in as well! They had a burnt sugar-caramelized flavor. So delicious. Now when I bake pies for my family, my sisters ask if I’m making pets.

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  5. Ha, ha, ha! Hilarious–time out! Excellent reward for good behavior! Love the matchbox cars in the tin. Too funny. Your funny posts are as rewarding as the finished product!

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  6. Despite the lead-in for this recipe (your frustration) I am definitely going to give it a try. We just went apple picking and I have to use them in some fashion, and your tart is absolutely beautiful.

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  7. Your tart is beautiful!! your photos are always gorgeous, but your tart is really fantastic. The Saveur tart, for one thing, was made in some insanely gigantic tart pan which i am guessing is why you had a trickier time with yours. I think you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself :) i love your recipe notes! They always make the most sense.

    And, i loved the cinnamon-sugar rollups my mom made with leftover pie dough… i can just smell them right now. Thanks for that memory!

    Reply
  8. Gorgeous tart! Too bad it was such a pain to begin with. I actually like your end result better than Saveur’s! Like a number of the commenters, the cinnamon snails brought back many memories. Beautiful photos!

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  9. I don’t know what it is about tarts, but I’ve had similarly frustrating experiences making them. Yours turned out beautiful, though! Definitely looks like it was worth the effort.

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  10. I’m absolutely blown away by your blog. Usually I just skim pictures in food blogs but I find myself captivated and mesmerized by your prose and helpful, insightful tips. For years I’ve been cooking mostly vegetarian because I’m a student and broke blah blah, rising gas prices and insane textbook prices blah blah blah. I stayed away from meat and seafood because they were pricier and more prone to messing up, and my budget’s just too tight for experimenting (admittedly what money I did save on I’d splurge on jasmine, rose and lavender macarons). BUT NO MORE.

    I made your salted oatmeal cookies. Later today (it’s 6:28 am currently) I will attempt Fish En Papillote. Wish me luck and let me live underneath your staircase Potter style, okay?!

    Reply
    • Crotchfairy — You are too too nice to say such things. Thank you! I totally understand staying away from meat and seafood because of prices — they are insanely high right now! I don’t know how anybody lives. We are currently making our way through a cow in our freezer, so I don’t have as many opportunities to experiment with various meats/fish either, but I’m ok with that at the moment. I hope the fish en papillote comes out well for you. I just grilled two whole trout the other night and they were fabulous and affordable and sustainable — win win win. I’ll post about it soon. So glad you liked the oatmeal cookies!

      Reply
  11. I’m not much of a baker, but this is something I’d like to make after apple-picking this week. Plus, it looks so much more amazing than Saveur’s, IMHO ;)

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  12. I initially saw your tart on The Garden of Eden and I am adding it to my Mouth Watering Monday post this Monday but I will give you credit and a link here for the recipe. So gorgeous!!! Cheers, Tara

    Reply
  13. my name is mohre, (it is my nick name in my weblog) i am from iran
    many thanks, it seems really wonderful. i will make it in near future.
    you know english is our second language so it was hard for me to note all steps but i know it worth.

    Reply
  14. Hi,

    I just took the tart out of the oven. I am not much of a good baker, but I couldn’t resist doing this tart when I saw it on Pinterest. So I bought ready made dough and just put the apples. The baking time was just around 1/2 hour, but other than that everything as you desribed. The tart is cooling off right now and my fiance and me are looking forward to eating it. It smells wonderful! Thank you very much!

    All the best and have a great weekend!

    Maria

    Reply
  15. Boy this looks good. I have been hungry for apple pie, and this would fit the bill. It may have been frustrating, but Your last picture came out so pretty. And these get eaten so quickly…

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  16. Just found this recipe on pinterest. I am in the process of making. Chilling dough…baking in the morning. I just wasn’t ready to make strudel ( I do the full roll out crust like my grandmother where you can read a love letter through the crust) and this is beautiful. I hope the family enjoys.

    Reply
    • I hope so too! Wait, can you elaborate on the reading-a-love-letter-through-the-crust strudel? I am so curious. And also, I am dying to make a strudel. Any thoughts would be so appreciated! When you have time…no rush!

      Reply
  17. This is seriously the best tart I’ve ever made. I’ve made it for my in laws (crazy tough customers), my husband, and friends. Everyone loves it. I even used pairs instead of apples once and it came out great! Thank you.

    Reply
  18. i absolutely love this recipe! I’ve made it with apples at least 4 times, and I am currently trying it with nectarines! this is my go to recipe for easy tart crust!

    Reply
    • So happy to hear this, Emily! Please let me know how it turns out with nectarines. I love this recipe, too. Frangipane complements everything it seems. You are inspiring me to make my first tart of the season. Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  19. I like the way yours looks much better than Saveur’s.

    Has there ever been a mother who doesn’t make snails out of the excess pie dough? We’re on the third generation of pie makers in my family, and we’ve all made the cinnamon-sugar snails for our children. {smile}

    Reply

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