There’s nothing quite like travel to get the creative juices flowing. New sights, new sounds, new smells, and new tastes inevitably bring me inspiration. Even the memory of meaningful journeys from long ago can be enough to spark a fresh idea.
Many years ago my friend Christina lived in Berlin, and I, being young and unencumbered, was only too happy to visit her there. This was a time when I never turned down an opportunity to travel to far flung reaches simply to say hi to a friend. I fell absolutely head over heels in love with this beautiful, bohemian city. The art, the architecture, the history, and the food affected me greatly. In that sea of beauty, somehow I never forgot an unassuming German pastry I enjoyed there. It was something between an apple cake and an apple tart, featuring a delicate pastry crust, sweet tender apples, a springy cake, and a gorgeous crumble topping.
This taste memory has lasted all these years but for some reason I’ve never attempted to recreate it myself. Until now that is. To create my own version, I turned to my more recent friend named Christine, who also, funnily enough, hails from Germany. She kindly took the time to share her mother’s version of this recipe and her own memories of the many different adaptations she has enjoyed over the years. This recipe is the result of that inspiration and, if I might say so myself, I think it’s a pretty lovely ode to the traditional pastry I had all those years ago.
In developing my tart, I decided to skip the cake interior and stick with a more classic tart set up. I have my own shortcrust pastry recipe that I’ve been baking for years and it’s wonderfully light and delicate. I love that it can quite easily be pressed into the tart tin. No rolling necessary. But, in the end, this tart is all about the apples. I used a sweet eating apple called the Blondie but you can use another type if you like. I would, however, stick with a sweet apple and stay away from the sour varieties like Granny Smith. I added very little sugar to this pastry, depending instead on the sweetness of the fruit.
I was overjoyed to get a solid thumbs up and rave reviews from Christine. Now I just need to get Christina to make the long hard trip from New York City out to the ‘burbs. I was thinking that perhaps a slice of German apple tart might lure her out…
Serves 8 to 10
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup sliced almonds
3 medium Blondie apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (not too thin – about 1/4-inch thick)
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- First, make the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and butter. Pulse just until the ingredients come together and resemble coarse meal. Add the sugar, egg yolk, zest, and 2 tablespoons of the water and process to combine. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together into a ball. Be careful not to over-process or your dough will become tough.
- Turn the dough out onto a surface that has been lightly dusted with flour and give it a turn through the flour. Using the balls of your fingers, gently press the dough into a 9-inch round removable-base fluted tart tin. Press up the sides and around the entire base of the tin to create an evenly covered surface with no holes in the dough. Place on a baking tray in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill while you get on with the rest of the tart.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- While the pastry is chilling, make the Crumble Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. With your fingers, rub in the cubes of butter so that the butter incorporates with the dry ingredients to create a clumpy crumble. Stir through the almonds.
- Now prepare your Filling: In a medium bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice and zest, and sugar. Mix to coat all over.
- Remove the chilled pastry from the refrigerator. Top the pastry with the apple slices. Scatter over the crumble topping and then place in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Cool completely in the tin, slice, and serve.