Bake a fall dessert with apples

This French apple tart is made easier with Sara Moulton’s apple-slicing trick.
This French apple tart is made easier with Sara Moulton’s apple-slicing trick. The Associated Press

Ever walk past a bakery with one of those impossibly elegant apple tarts in the window, the ones with the apple slices fanned out in the shape of a flower? Nothing you could ever make at home, right?

Wrong. It’s so much easier than it looks. That’s because all you really need is the ability to slice an apple paper-thin. And it turns out that there’s a simple trick that allows anyone to do it.

The apple tart recipe below walks you through how to make the tart dough. It really is so much better to make it than to buy it.

Now, here’s how to produce paper-thin apple slices: Start peeling, halving and coring your apples. Lay each half on the cutting surface, cut side down. Using a very sharp chef’s knife, slice each half into very thin slices crosswise, aiming for each slice to be no more than 1/8-inch thick.

But here’s the trick: Do not slice all the way through. Instead, stop each slice when you’re still about 1/4 inch from the surface of the cutting board, then lift the knife and make the next slice. Why? Because it’s simply much easier to slice an apple that thinly when each slice remains attached at the bottom.

Once you’ve sliced all of the apples in this manner, turn each one on its side and trim off the bottom, which frees up all the slices, but keeps them orderly. Then you can deal them out like a deck of cards. All done? Bake the tart and take a bow.

Harvest apple cake

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves 12

Recipe from cookbook author Lisa Yockelson (“Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes”). She writes:

I love to redefine the formula of a butter cake batter every now and then, especially to create a dreamy one that’s a little lavish, perhaps less conventional and tailored to the texture and essence of the main ingredient.

Such is this butter-and-cream-cheese-enriched batter, designed to highlight fresh apple chunks. It was inspired by little more than my pushing a shopping cart up and down the dairy aisle.

Cream cheese was not in the original plan. As I walked, the concept of skipping a liquid component (such as buttermilk or whole milk) in favor of adding a dense one (sour cream or yogurt) plus an additional egg yolk seemed like an effective way to build a mixture for supporting lots of fruit.

And it was. With the introduction of a small amount of cream cheese, the crumb became even more tender. An easy cinnamon-sugar finish completes the cake, creating a scented surface that is airy rather than baked-in. For me, it’s simple baking arithmetic: A few apples (plus) pantry staples (equals) a luscious confection.

The tender chunks of apple help make this butter-and-cream-cheese cake moist and flavorful – a simple sweet for offering throughout the day and especially at brunch.

After two years of apple-baking testing, I find that a wide variety of apples can be chunked up and used for a recipe such as this one. Rome Beauty, Cortland, Jonathan, McIntosh, Stayman and Empire apples meld beautifully, as do Fuji, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Winesap and York Imperial.

Make ahead: The cake can be made a day in advance and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.


1 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced “cooking” apples (see headnote), in 1/2-inch chunks (3 to 4 medium apples)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use flour-and-oil spray to coat the inside of a 9-inch round baking pan with 2-inch sides.

For the batter: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg onto a sheet of wax paper.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat for 1 to 2 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl. On moderately high speed, blend in the sugar in 3 additions, beating for 45 seconds after each addition, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition for 30 seconds or until just incorporated. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, beating. At this point, the batter will look slightly curdled, but it will smooth out after the flour mixture is incorporated.

On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 2 additions, mixing just until the particles of flour are absorbed. The batter will be thick. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the apple chunks.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the surface. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cake has risen and set. It should pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. The top of the cake will be a medium-golden color and will look somewhat bumpy due to the chunks of fruit embedded in the batter.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto another cooling rack, lift off the baking pan, then invert again to stand right side up.

For the topping: Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. While the cake is still warm, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the cake. To serve, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into wedges.

Per serving: 250 calories, 4 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugar

French apple tart

Prep time: 3 hours, including chill time for dough

Cook time: 50 minutes

Serves 8


For the dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

6 Golden Delicious apples

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 stick cold butter, thinly sliced

1/2 cup apricot jam

2 tablespoons water


To make the dough, in a large bowl stir together the flour and salt. Add the butter and, working quickly, use your fingertips or a pastry blender to mix the dough until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of ice water evenly over the mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.

Gently squeeze a small handful of the dough. It should hold together without crumbling apart. If it doesn’t, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring 2 or 3 times after each addition, until dough comes together. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With the heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute the butter. Gather all the dough together and form it, rotating it on work surface, into a disk. Wrap disk in plastic, then chill for 1 hour, or until firm.

Once the dough is chilled, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 13-inch round. Fit it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, gently working the dough into the base and trimming any excess. Cover; chill for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Peel the apples, then cut them in half top to bottom. Using a melon baller, remove and discard the cores. Arrange the apples cut side down on a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, slice the apple halves crosswise into 1/16-inch slices, but stopping the knife before cutting all the way through. The apple slices should still be attached at the bottom.

When you have sliced all the apples in this fashion, turn each on its side so the bottom, unsliced part of the apple is exposed, and cut off about 1/4-inch of the bottom to remove the part of the apple that has not been sliced through. Keeping the slices together, arrange 8 apple halves like the spokes of a wheel in the chilled crust, leaving the center of the spokes open. Press down on the apple halves to spread the slices slightly.

Arrange the remaining apple slices in concentric circles in the center of the tart to resemble the shape of a rose. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the apples, top with butter slices and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is cooked through and the apples are golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine the jam and water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, then pour through a mesh strainer. Discard any solids.

As soon as the tart comes out of the oven, use a pastry brush to brush it with the jam mixture. Set aside to cool. Serve each slice with a small portion of ice cream or whipped cream.

Per serving: 340 calories; 160 calories from fat (47% of total calories); 18 g fat (11 g sat., 0.5 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 47 g carb.; 2 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 3 g protein; 85 mg sodium.