In Baking Tips

French tartes: four classic pastry recipes

From a sweet apple flan to a simple pissaladière.

Tarte aux pommes
Makes 1 x 26cm tart

For the flaky pastry
125g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp chilled water
For the filling
30g butter, melted and still warm
3 not too big (about 550g total) apples, such as reinette or granny smith
About 60g (2¼oz) sugar
3 tbsp Calvados

1 To make the pastry, put the butter, flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and mix it in until the pastry comes roughly together.
2 Roll out on a floured surface to a neat rectangle of about 20cm x 30cm. Fold one third over from the short end to cover the middle third, then fold the remaining third to cover that, as you would fold a letter. Now fold the block of pastry in half, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 30 min. Roll out again to a 20cm x 30cm rectangle and repeat the folds. It is now ready to use or can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, or frozen.
3 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
4 Brush some of the melted butter over the base and sides of a 26cm pie or springform tin and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a circle a few centimetres larger than the tin’s diameter.
5 Using your rolling pin to assist, lift the pastry into the tin, easing the sides down and pressing them gently against the sides of the tin. Neaten the edges of the pastry; the sides should be no more than 2cm high.
6 Peel, halve and core the apples. Slice the halves into 2mm half-moons and arrange over the pastry elegantly in concentric circles, starting from the outside and overlapping the slices, working tightly in circles towards the middle.
7 If necessary, flatten the slices out with your palms and fill any spaces with leftover apple slices.
8 Gently brush the surface with the warm melted butter, taking care not to drag any of the apples away from their spots. Scatter the sugar evenly over the top. Bake (with a tray underneath if using a springform tin) for about 35 min, until golden and caramelised in some places.
9 Remove from the oven and splash the Calvados here and there over the top. Bake for a further 10 min or so, until burnished on the edges and glossy. Remove and gently use a knife to loosen any sugary edges that may have stuck to the sides.
10 Serve the tart warm, in slices. The pastry is fragile, so take care when cutting and lifting the slices.

Serves 4-6

For the dough
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
Pinch of sugar
150ml tepid water
250g plain flour
2 pinches of salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the topping
About 7 tbsp olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
About 24 (not too large) anchovy fillets in oil, drained
About 18 whole pitted black olives
Freshly ground black pepper

1 In a wide bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water, then whisk in a handful of the flour. Cover with a cloth and leave for 30 min or so until it froths up.
2 Add the rest of the flour, the salt and olive oil. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead well. Scatter a little flour into the bottom of the bowl and return the dough to it. Make a slash on the top of the dough and cover the bowl with a clean cloth. Leave for 1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
3 For the topping, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the onions and thyme leaves and sauté for about 20 min to soften. Remove from the heat.
4 Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on to a shallow baking sheet, about 33cm x 28cm, and spread it with your hands to cover the base. Gently knead the dough down in the bowl, then stretch it out into a rough rectangle and transfer to the baking sheet. Using both palms, ease the dough towards the corners of the tray.
5 Spread the sautéed onions evenly over the dough, almost to the edges, pressing them into the dough so they stick a little.
6 Arrange the anchovies in a crisscross pattern and place an olive in the centre of each diamond. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of oil evenly over the top and give a good grinding of pepper.
7 Leave to rise for 30 min or so while you heat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
8 Bake for about 30 min, until the base is cooked all over (check the middle) and the top is golden with a slight charring in places. Take care not to overcook it because it will dry out. Cut into pieces and eat while warm.

Tarte à la tomate
Serves 4-6

125g chilled unsalted butter, diced
125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
About 2½ tbsp iced water
650g ripe tomatoes, sliced 4-5mm thick
A few thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
Coarse salt, such as Camargue

1 Rub the butter into the flour in a bowl using your fingertips to give a coarse sandy texture. Scatter in a couple of pinches of salt and add enough iced water to bring the dough into a rough ball with your hands.
2 Scatter a little flour over the work surface, turn the dough out and spread it with your hands or roll with a rolling pin into a rough rectangular shape. Fold it over on itself as for a letter, and roll it out again. Repeat 4 or 5 times more (no need to chill it between rolls). Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 min.
3 Lightly flour a 24cm springform cake tin and preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Place a baking sheet, wide enough to fit the springform tin, on the middle shelf.
4 Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, not pressing too much, to a circle slightly larger than the base of the tin, about 28cm in diameter. Carefully lift the pastry into the tin, taking it up the sides by 6cm before folding it over to create a 2-3cm high border.
5 Lay the tomato slices across the pastry as though you were dealing a pack of cards — spread them out so that they overlap with no spaces (or you can arrange them in overlapping concentric circles, starting from the middle). Scatter the thyme leaves over the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and a little pepper, if you like, and set it on the baking sheet in the oven.
6 Bake for 45-50 min until the pastry is golden and the tomatoes are tinged with colour here and there. Turn the oven up to 200C/gas 6 and bake for a further 10 min, or until the tomatoes are deeper in colour and kightly charred in places. There will probably still be a little liquid on top of the tomatoes, which is fine.
7 Remove the tart still on its baking sheet from the oven and put it on a rack to cool, so that any liquid will fall into the sheet. Remove the outer ring from the tart case as soon as it is cool enough to handle.
8 Serve slightly cooled or at room temperature, with an extra sprinkling of salt for the crunch and, if you like, a drizzle of olive oil.

Tarte au citron
Makes 1 x 22cm tart

For the pastry
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
80g chilled unsalted butter, cut into
small cubes, plus extra for greasing
80g sugar
1 egg yolk
3-4 tbsp chilled water
For the filling
4 eggs
150g sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
65g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
150ml lemon juice (3 or 4 lemons)

1 For the pastry, put the flour, salt and butter into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs, then add the sugar and mix to combine. Add the egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of the water and knead lightly and quickly until smooth, adding as much of the remaining water as you need, to bring it together into a dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 min.
2 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Lightly butter a 22cm tart tin or springform cake tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a circle about 28cm in diameter, large enough to line the base and sides of the tin. (Roll out a few biscuits with any leftover pastry.)
3 Using the rolling pin to lift it, lower the pastry into the tin. Level the sides with a small sharp knife to about 3.5cm high, and press firmly against the sides of the tin so they adhere. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork in a few places and line with baking parchment, bringing it up and over the sides to cover the pastry completely. Fill with baking beans, pressing them into the corners.
4 Bake for about 15 min until the edges of the pastry are firm. Remove the baking parchment and beans and bake for another 10 min or so, until the pastry base is pale golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/gas 2.5.
5 Meanwhile, make the filling. Whip the eggs and sugar together in a wide bowl until quite thick and pale. Whisk in the lemon zest, then add in the butter. Add the lemon juice, whisking to combine. Pour into the pastry shell (if using a springform tin, stand it on a baking sheet).
6 Bake for about 20 min, until the filling is just golden around the edges and set, but still a little wobbly in the middle. Rotate a couple of times.
7 Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then slide on to a serving plate. Serve in slices, plain or with a dusting of icing sugar and a blob of thick cream.

Loup de mer
Serves 2

4 tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and fronds reserved
1 sea bass, cleaned
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Small bundle of parsley, with stalks
70g whole pitted black olives
20g butter
3-4 tbsp pastis
Camargue or other crunchy sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Drizzle half the olive oil over the base of a roasting tin about 22 x 30cm. Halve the fennel and slice into wedges about 7mm thick, keeping each wedge attached at its base.
2 Salt and pepper the fish, inside and out. Put one of the garlic cloves inside with the parsley and a couple of small fennel fronds. Settle it into the middle of the dish, then arrange the fennel wedges around it in a single layer.
3 Salt and pepper the fennel. Add the olives to the dish with the remaining garlic cloves, then drizzle the remaining oil over the top of everything.
4 Bake for about 30 min, until golden. Add the butter in small blobs here and there over the vegetables and a little over the fish. Drizzle the pastis over the fish and fennel and put back into the oven for another 5 min or so.
5 Remove the bass to a serving platter, arranging the fennel and olives around the edge. Scatter a handful of fennel fronds over the fish, then add a grind of pepper and some grains of good salt. Fillet the bass to serve, spooning some pan juices over each serving.

Passion fruit crème brûlée
Serves 6

500ml cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
65g white sugar
Pulp of 2 passion fruits
Soft light brown cane sugar, for the tops

1 Put the cream into a saucepan. Using the tip of a teaspoon, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod into the cream then add the pod too. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to infuse the flavour. Remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes longer.
2 Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2. In a wide bowl, whisk the egg yolks and white sugar together until creamy. Gradually whisk in the warm cream, a little at a time to prevent it scrambling. Remove the vanilla pod.
3 Whisk in the passion fruit pulp and divide between six shallow dishes or ramekins. Sit the dishes in a roasting tin and add warm water to come halfway up the dishes.
4 Cook in the oven for about 45-50 min, until set and pale golden, rotating the tin halfway through for even cooking. The brûlées will still wobble slightly when you shake them gently, and the cooking time will depend on the depth of the mixture/size of the dishes, so check often.
5 Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then put in the fridge to chill.
6 Spoon a little cane sugar over each and smooth it to an even, very thin layer using the back of a teaspoon. If you have one, use a kitchen blowtorch to caramelise the tops, then serve. Alternatively, put the ramekins on a baking sheet under a very hot grill until the sugar on top is golden and caramelised, keeping an eye on them as they can suddenly burn. Put them in the fridge to set and cool before serving, as the time under the grill will have heated the custard.

Shellfish gratin
Serves 2

4 oysters, cleaned, in the half-shell
4 scallops, cleaned, in the half-shell
4 medium raw prawns (shrimp), no heads, peeled and deveined, tails left on
12 mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
4 large clams, ideally venus
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1½ tsp finely chopped garlic
60g butter
2 tbsp cream
1 scant tbsp dry breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
2 Take two oysters from their shells and add one to each of the remaining oysters so that you have two oysters in both half shells. Do the same with the scallops. Put two prawns each into the two empty oyster shells.
3 Put the mussels and clams into a saucepan with 3-4 tablespoons of water, cover and cook over a high heat until they all open. Drain, then remove the mussel flesh from the shells.
4 Put 6 mussels into each of the two empty scallop shells. Pluck the clams fresh from their shells, then nestle them back in place.
5 Put the parsley, garlic and butter into a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Mash with a wooden spoon. Add the cream and continue mashing until incorporated. Divide the butter mixture between the shells. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs with your fingertips over the tops of each.
6 Arrange all the shells in a large, shallow baking dish, making sure the butter won’t leak out. Put in the oven for 15 min, or until bubbling, golden and crusty here and there. Serve hot.

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