pastry recipe is a basic sweetened dough, or as the French call it, pâte brisée sucrée. It can also be made by hand. Frozen dough from the supermarket is also not bad these days. The vanilla is just enough to add a tantalizing hint of richness.
Makes one 10-inch tart; serves 6 to 8
Crust:1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 pound unsalted butter, well-chilled, cut into 6 pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
2 or 3 tablespoons ice water
Filling:½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
6 tart apples (see note above), peeled, cored, and cut into 8 slices each
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the crust: In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the water and pulse on and off until the mixture has the consistency of small peas, about 10 or 15 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add water till the mixture forms a ball. Remove the dough. Place on a lightly floured surface and form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Preheat the oven to 400F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Run a rolling pin over the top edge to trim off the dough. Prick holes in the bottom with a fork. Line the tart with a piece of aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until just set, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and weights, and let cool completely.
To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add half the brown sugar and stir well. Add the apples and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until softened and golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a bowl. Reduce heat and leave the syrup in the pan to caramelize slightly for about 2 minutes. Then, arrange the apples in the crust in concentric circles. Drizzle the caramelized syrup over them.
In a large bowl, whisk the cream, remaining brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Pour the cream mixture over the apples. Bake until the top is set and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes.