The apple tart I cooked on the 1st of January is good for the body, the mind and the planet. Easy to make and inexpensive, especially if you use your own apples, the basic recipe can be added on to suit all tastes.
Good for the mind
On the 1st of January 2022, I cooked an apple tart to celebrate the new year. I wanted to create something good and healthy for the mind as well as for the body. It is pictured in my 2022 greetings. I am now publishing the recipe in English. My aim is to give people the opportunity to experience the personal satisfaction of cooking and sharing something healthy and tasty. As for those eating the tart, they will enjoy the dual benefit of eating well while caring for the planet.
Good for the body, easy to make and tasty
I wanted to create an apple tart combining culinary techniques that I have used and developed during my research on fruit in the past ten years. My goal has always been to identify easy-to-apply methods that enable us to eat well and healthily.
The apple tart with sliced apples on a layer of compote, the French word for dessert apple sauce, is a common French recipe. My 1st January tart is a distinctive variant of it. Firstly, it is made with a minimum of ingredients: butter, flour, a pinch of salt and apples. Secondly, as a consequence, it is low in sugar, as it is only sweetened by the natural sugar of the fruit. It is therefore suitable for people who don’t have much of a sweet tooth and those who want to limit their sugar intake.
Creating a low-in-sugar tart with a minimum of ingredients was not my main aim though. I wanted, above all, to experiment with the following three founding principles:
- Made with organic ingredients. It brings health and environmental benefits.
- Made with unpeeled apples. That way a maximum of nutrients are kept, and there is a minimum of wasted matter. The taste is also richer.
- Compote processed using my own method, which saves time, especially if the apples are small.
I strictly applied these principles when I purchased the ingredients on 31st December and when I cooked the tart on 1st January. The outcome is a basic, minimal recipe which can be added on to suit all needs and tastes. I could have sweetened the pastry, blended it with an egg, flavoured the compote with vanilla or cinnamon, brushed the apples with melted butter and sugar before baking, glazed the tart with apricot or quince jelly. I could also have flambéed it with calvados and sprinkled ice sugar or chocolate on top of it as a final touch. The outcome would have been closer to a classic gourmet tart found in a pastry shop, on the table of a restaurant or in the pictures of homemade desserts featured in magazines and on the Internet.
This post focuses on the basic recipe but it is important to say that applying the same principles bring the same benefits to all its variants.
As I didn’t have access to fruit from a home garden, I purchased the apples in an organic British supermarket. They looked really good. Perfectly ripe, they were tasty and sweet.
The compote (dessert apple sauce)
I am beginning with the compote because I want to highlight what is in my view one of the most significant outcomes of my research on fruit use. I would like the reader to become aware of how valuable it is to make apple sauce without peeling the apples.
The process has many advantages:
- The apple sauce is simple and quick to make. I have described the process in my 22 October 2013 post. Not only does it save time, but it also uses a bigger proportion of the fruit, in particular the flesh just under the skin which would go to waste if the apples were peeled.
- The outcome is a more nutritious product, as demonstrated in my 12 January 2021 post. A piece of scientific research I drew upon in this article concluded that when processing fruit using heat, ‘the more detrimental steps are actually those that involve physical actions to separate peels from flesh (screening, peeling), because of higher concentrations of secondary metabolites in the epidermis’ (Renard et al, 2014, p126)1.
- It makes it easier to use apples which would otherwise go to waste, should they be small, of an irregular shape, or even partly damaged, as I showed in my 8 October 2016 post.
- It can be used for any purpose, should the compote become one of the components of a dessert, like in this apple tart, the dessert itself (see our Compote page for examples), or an apple sauce to complement a savoury dish.
The apple wedges
In the classic recipe, thin slices of peeled apples are arranged on top of the compote layer, overlapping each other’s edges2. I chose to keep the apples unpeeled. The scientific research cited in the January 2021 post above and a recipe from a local chef in the Auvergne region of France I tasted at a friend’s house last autumn influenced that choice. It would make the tart even more nutritious and give it colour. I also chose to cut the wedges thick, and didn’t make them overlap.
However, I must say that the outcome was a bit disappointing to me in that occasion: the apple varieties I used had a thick skin, which I found unpleasant to chew once cooked.
Using apples with a thinner skin, of the Golden cultivar for instance, would have been a better option in my view. However, in order to keep the recipe simple, I would just advise to peel the apples. Those of us who don’t like to feel the apple skins in their mouths wouldn’t be disappointed. As for people who like the apple slices with the skins, or prefer to maximise nutrition and to use as much of the fruit as possible, they can opt for unpeeled slices. Cutting thinner wedges is also a good solution.
I wanted to cook a fully organic tart, so I made the pastry. Using a ready-made pastry sheet can be easier and faster. I would recommend this solution to the busy householder for its convenience. After all, the tart doesn’t have to be fully homemade and organic. And maybe organic ready-made pastry sheets are sold somewhere, which would make the fully organic recipe more accessible to everyone.
My 27 October 2013 post shows how to make this apple tart with a ready-made pastry sheet. The article also explains how to glaze it with fruit jelly.
Good for the planet and the wallet
I have focused so much on the pleasurable and the healthy that I was about to forget to talk about the other benefits of the recipe. They are nonetheless very significant in my view.
It is good for the planet. Firstly, it uses organic produce, contributing to the development of a more sustainable form of agriculture than current mainstream farming. Secondly, if the ingredients, or at least part of them, come from a local source, such as our home gardens or a trade with local suppliers, it reduces food miles.
It is good for the wallet too. I made the tart in the UK. The 100g of organic butter and 150g of organic plain flour I bought in high-end supermarkets cost me around £1.40. I paid £1.60 for the four large organic apples I found. The cost therefore amounted to a total of £3 for the ingredients, plus the energy to cook the tart, probably around 60p at current energy prices. The tart served six people, which makes a total cost of 60p per serving. How much would you have to pay for a portion of organic gourmet dessert purchased in the trade?
The additional benefits of using your own apples
I must say that paying £1.60 for the apples was quite a good deal, as they could have easily cost twice as much. At £3.40 for the fruit, the total cost of one serving would have been 90p, £5.40 for the whole tart. This might be seen as expensive.
However, if we are lucky enough to have an apple tree in our garden, which requires little maintenance and therefore doesn’t cost much, if someone gives us their surplus fruit for free, or if we contribute to and benefit from a local community garden in the form of complimentary produce, the total cost of the tart goes down to around £2. It means less than 34p per serving. As for the food miles? They are reduced to a minimum. And healthy fruit? Well, in our garden the apples grow without any other human intervention than some maintenance pruning.
Doesn’t this nutritious organic apple tart recipe, and all its scrumptious variants, also point us to the benefits of growing our own apples in our private and community gardens?
The basic recipe
Ingredients: 100g of organic British unsalted butter, 150g of organic British plain white flour, four large organic apples or the equivalent in smaller ones, a pinch of salt, 2cm3 of cold water.
Mix the butter, the flour and the salt in a bowl with the tip of your fingers. Use chilled butter and work quickly, avoiding kneading. I didn’t dice the butter but used a flat cheese and vegetable grater instead, which proved very fast and practical. Add the water and continue to mix until the dough starts to cohere. Again, work quickly and avoid kneading. Form the ball of dough and put it in the fridge.
Compote (apple sauce):
While the dough is in the fridge, cut half of the apples in fours. Remove the stem and the remains of the flower at the bottom of the apples. Slice and put in a sauce pan. Add a drop of water, just enough to avoid burning. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
When the apples are cooked, pass them through the food mill. The remains of the skins and the pips will stay in the mill.
Once the compote is ready, pre-heat the oven at 180°C. Take the dough out of the fridge, dust it with flour and smoosh it with the palms of your hands, working quickly. Dust again, as well as the rolling pin, and roll out. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, then unroll in the tart pan. Ours was 22cm in diameter.
I pre-cooked the pastry for 15 minutes. This step can be avoided though, which will save time as you won’t have to wait to spread the compote and add the apples slices. It’s just that we like the pastry to be well-baked.
Once the compote has been spread over the pastry with a large spoon, cut the remaining apples in fours, after peeling them or not, according to your taste, and remove the cores. Thin into wedges the thickness you want. Arrange the wedges in a circle along the perimeter of the pastry and then in the middle.
You may wish to add more apples to make the tart bigger and more fruity. In that case, it would be practical to cut the wedges thin and overlap the edges, and maybe to arrange them in two layers.
Put the tart in the oven and cook it for around 30 to 45 minutes at 180°/200°C, the duration depending on whether you precooked the pastry and added more apples or not. Take the tart out when the pastry is golden brown. Serve at room temperature or warm, adding for instance some jam or vanilla ice cream if you don’t find it sweet enough.
Whatever variant of the recipe you create, enjoy your nutritious homemade organic dessert!
References: (accessed 12 April 2022)
- Renard, C., Caris-Veyrat, C., Dufour, C., Le Bourvellec-Samour, C. (2014). Le devenir des polyphénols et caroténoïdes dans les fruits et légumes traités thermiquement. Innovations Agronomiques, INRA, 2014, 42, pp.125-137. hal-02629481 https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02629481/document
- Picture of an apple tart with thin slices overlapping on the edges: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/kitchen-notes/a-french-answer-to-american-apple-pie (the post also contains excellent guidance to make a top-end version of the classic recipe)