Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TWD -- Beauty is its own excuse for being

Beauty is its own excuse for being
My mother, who came from an era when poetry and famous essays were memorized, could always come up with the appropriate quote for every occasion. When our cocker spaniel, a beautiful dog, would leave a big puddle in the middle of the living room rug, she would shrug and quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Beauty is her own excuse for being." I would have to say this about the French Apple Tart. It looks beautiful, but the taste was lacking, paling in comparison to a good old American apple pie oozing with thickened spicy filling and a flaky top crust all ready to soak up the accompanying vanilla ice cream.

I would like to blame my apples. I used Granny Smiths, as indicated in the Baking with Julia recipe, and even chose ones the same size as the ones used in the video found on You Tube. They even came from the state of Washington, the state from which the baker Leslie Mackie hails. But mine were dry. Perhaps when you live in the Midwest, far from the apples' origins, and it's the middle of the winter, one should expect dry. In fact, my apples were so dry, I actually added water to the filling and sprinkled water on the apples on top of the tart. When the recipe indicated the apples would give up their juices during the baking period, I thought, "What juices?" when I pulled the pan out of the oven. And when the recipe indicated the apples on top would caramelize as the result of the juices, butter and sugar basking in the hot oven, mine just laid there. It wasn't until I squirted water on the top with a turkey baster did I get a small degree of caramelization.

7-inch crust before blind baking
Since I live in a household of two, I decided to cut the recipe in half and use a small pie pan to make the tart. Half the pie actually called for more filling than half the recipe, so I used about two-thirds of the recipe for a seven-inch pie.

I liked the method of blind-baking the crust -- at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. I usually blind-bake my crusts at 425 to 450 degrees for a shorter period of time. The longer time and reduced temperature, I found to be very satisfactory and resulted in a better crust.

Before blind baking, using beans as weights
Would I make this pie again? I doubt it, unless the reviews from other bakers are more positive. I am curious to see if someone tried apples other than Granny Smiths. If so, and the result was a success, I might try this one more time. The tart, after all, is quite beautiful.


  1. I echo your sentiments. I thought it was a pretty tart, but the flavor wasn't as impressive as I hoped for.

  2. It was prettier than it tasted, I will give you that. Although, I did use pink lady apples which are a little sweeter and was pleased enough. A drizzle of caramel may have done the trick?

  3. I really enjoyed your post. And I have to say your crust skill is amazing.....your crust looks so good. I definitely have crust envy!! I will need to practice my crust edging for sure.

  4. Beautifully formed crust! I used Granny Smith apples and as you had very little juices released. I however loved the filling. I did add about a tsp or more of cinnamon than the pinch called for.