It is fair to say that Raymond Blanc is riding high at the top of his game. He has comfortably held two Michelin stars at his flagship restaurant Le Manoir aux Quatre Saison since its opening 30 years ago. He has a successful chain of restaurants in Brasserie Blanc, and has a shareholding interest in the Loch Fyne group.
While the food served daily at Le Manoir is complicated, elaborately presented überfood, when Raymond Blanc cooks accessible recipes for home cooks on the various television shows he appears on, he invariably returns to the dishes learned in the kitchen of his mother.
Known by her sons as ‘Mother Teresa on speed,’ Maman Blanc was a stupendously good home cook. The boys would forage in the woods with a map made by their watchmaker father. Their spoils would be brought home, where Maman Blanc would show Raymond how to cook them.
It does not escape my attention that it is faintly strange that a Scottish marketing consultant living in the Peak District would be cooking so many dishes from a wee kitchen in Besançon, and yet here we are – many dishes down the road, and still cooking Maman Blanc’s family classics.
The recipe for apple tart given here is that of Mother Teresa on Speed (related by Chef Raymond), but we tend to return to an old faithful recipe for the shortcrust that is adapted from one from the equivalent force of nature that is Mary Berry.
Tarte aux pommes Maman Blanc
- For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- 100g/4oz unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- About 1 tbsp cold water
- For the filling:
- 15g unsalted butter
- Half a tbsp lemon juice
- 65g caster sugar
- Half a tbsp calvados
- 3–4 Braeburn apples (see recipe notes), peeled, cored and cut into 8 (an Oxo Good Grips apple divider is great for this)
- 100ml double cream
- 1 egg
- For finishing:
- 1–2 tbsp icing sugar, for dusting
To make the pastry, combine the dry ingredients, butter and egg in a food processor. Slowly dribble in the water until the pastry comes together in a 'ballable' lump. Form into a ball on a floured surface, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Place a baking tray into the oven to preheat. Put a sheet of baking paper on another baking sheet, and put an 8–9 inch tart ring on it.
Roll the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface, roll onto a pin, and drape carefully over the tart ring. Lift and tuck the dough into the edges of the ring. Trim off any excess by running a rolling pin over the top of the ring.
Using your index finger and thumb, pinch and press the dough until it's 2mm above the tart ring all around the edge. With a fork, prick the bottom of the tart. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the filling, heat the butter, lemon juice and 15g of the sugar in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the calvados. Set aside.
When the tart case has chilled, arrange the apple segments in concentric circles, overlapping the apple slices as you go. Brush the apples all over with the Calvados mixture. Lift the tart ring on the paper onto onto the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 200˚C, then continue to cook for a further 20 minutes, until the pastry is pale golden-brown and the apples have started to colour.
Whisk together the double cream, egg and the remaining 50g caster sugar until well combined. Sprinkle the tart with 1 tbsp of sugar and pour the 'custard' mixture into the tart. Bake for a further 10 minutes, until the custard has just set (slight wobble).
To serve, remove the tart from the oven and set aside for 1 hour to cool. Remove the tart ring and dust all over with icing sugar.
Other apple varieties can be used, but you are looking tor something firm and a little tart, but not Bramley-tart – Cox's Orange Pippin, Worcester and Russet are all suggested by Chef Raymond as appropriate for this tart. Forget things fluffy, sweet stuff like Gala.