Classic Apple Tart with Bourbon-Rye Crust
September 17, 2020
Happy apple season! We’re here, we’ve made it, and it’s time to go pick some apples and bake them into delicious treats. The most wonderful time of the year! My fridge is overflowing with many varieties of apples already, so this is only the first of a lot of recipes for the fall. Let’s get started on a simple dessert with just a little upgrade, and try this classic apple tart with bourbon-rye crust.
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I didn’t buy this tart pan specifically to make an apple tart, but this is the first tart I’ve made in my new pan! These are special pans, different from either a pie or cake pan, because of the removable bottom and fluted edges. The bottom is a separate piece from the outer rim, making it easy to keep your tarts looking gorgeous when you take them out of the pan.
What You Need to Get Started
- Pantry: Rye flour, All-purpose flour, Confectioner’s sugar, Brown sugar
- Spice Rack: Salt, Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, Nutmeg
- Fridge: Unsalted butter, Egg, Applesauce
- From the Bar: Bourbon
- Produce: Apples
- Equipment: Mixing bowls, Whisk, Pastry blender, Plastic wrap, Rolling pin, Parchment paper, Aluminum foil, High-sided saute pan, Tart pan
Let’s Make a Bourbon-Rye Crust
I was excited to make a classic apple tart, but I knew that I didn’t want to mess around too much with it. Instead of some big twist or changes, I decided to keep it fairly simple, and focus on making an interesting crust.
Bourbon and rye add an interesting depth to the flavor of this tart. Both are complex flavors, with rye bringing an aromatic, nutty, earthiness. Bourbon supplies a touch of sweetness, along with the toasty oak and, of course, a kick.
This crust is a variation on a shortcrust, with a combination of rye and white flour. You will start by combining the two flours together with salt and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk these until everything is fully incorporated.
Then you’ll add cold butter. The temperature of the butter is what controls the texture of a crust. So in this case, it being cold will help the crust be flaky and melt-in-your-mouth. I like to cut the butter into cubes and then chill it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it.
Combine the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools, and this is what it was made for. It will help cut the butter into smaller pieces, and start to combine it into a coarse meal texture. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can also do this with a food processor, but use the pulse function to be sure not to over-blend it.
Next you’ll be adding the liquids to make this into a dough. The egg acts as a binder, holding everything together. The bourbon is mostly there for flavor, but the water in it also helps add to the liquid content. Whisk the egg first, and then add both of these to your dough.
Lightly flour your hands, and use them to combine all the ingredients together and knead the dough until it’s fairly uniform. There shouldn’t be any dry spots or flour pockets, but it’s fine for there to be some larger chunks of butter. If your hands are warm, take a break to allow the dough to cool in the fridge for five minutes halfway through.
Finally, form the dough into a disk shape that’s about 1 inch thick. This shape will help you roll it out later, but it doesn’t need to be super precise. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate it for half an hour. You can chill it longer, but if you do, you’ll need to let it thaw at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before rolling.
Add the chilled dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into an 11-inch circle. If it’s tough to roll, let it rest on the counter, and then go back to it in a few minutes. Transfer the rolled dough to your tart pan. You can do this by wrapping the crust around your rolling pin loosely, and then unrolling it over the pan.
Use your fingers to press the crust into the edges, so it sits flush against the pan. Then trim the edges. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the top, touching the surface of the crust and freeze it for at least an hour.
At this point, you can freeze it for up to a month (although you should wrap it tightly in foil if leaving it for more than a few hours) and return to make the rest of the tart later. This is a great way to save some time later!
Preheat your oven to 375F. Remove the crust from the freezer, and remove the parchment. It should peel easily off the frozen crust, but still pull it slowly so it doesn’t tear. Place a sheet of foil on top, and then pie weights on top of that. If you don’t have pie weights, you can place a heavy ramekin inside a pie or cake pan placed on the foil.
This is called blind baking, and it helps the crust so that it doesn’t need to cook through when you bake the filling. The weight helps keep it from puffing up, and the frozen crust will hold its shape in the pan better than a warmer one. Bake it for 20 minutes, and then set the crust aside on a wire rack to cool fully.
How to Make a Classic Apple Tart
Meanwhile, it’s time to make the apple filling! I used Paula Red apples for my tart, because they are an early season apple. In general, you want something crisp with a good balance of sweet and tart. I don’t suggest using McIntosh apples here which soften a lot, but Jonathan or Braeburn should also work well.
I don’t peel my apples, but if you are using one with a waxier skin, like Granny Smith, you might want to before cutting. Slice the apples 1/8 of an inch thick. My apple cutting technique involves cutting the apple into 9 segments, with the core being a square in the middle. Then I slice the segments, which have a nice flat edge.
This filling is super simple, and comes together without much effort. Basically, you just throw it all in a pan and cook for a few minutes. Butter, brown sugar, and a whole bunch of spices will come together to make a sticky syrup coating for the apple slices. Add all of those to the pan, and cook on medium, stirring until the butter melts.
Then add some water, and cover the pan. This will create steam, which will let the apples get nice and soft. After a few minutes, the apples will be fork tender. Then you can uncover the pan, and continue cooking off some of the liquid. It’s ready when the syrup has thickened and coated the apple slices.
Set the cooked apples aside for about 15 minute to let them cool enough to be handled. Meanwhile, it’s time to put together the tart. Preheat your oven to 350F, and find that baked and cooled crust from earlier.
The first layer you’ll add is applesauce. I love making mine from scratch using a slow cooker. It’s the easiest recipe you’ll ever try, with no peeling! This version is made using Sansa apples, which are the best for sauce. They have a little bit of sweetness and spice, so you don’t need to add a thing. Plus the peels give your sauce this rosy color.
Spread the applesauce evenly over the crust, and then begin placing the apples. You can arrange them any way you want, but they will be visible in the final tart, so I suggest something fun!
To make this pattern, I started from the outside, and placed all the slices facing the same direction, around the outer rim. You can place the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock slices first, so it’s easier to angle the ones in between. Then for the next circle inside, I just flipped which way the apples faced. Finally, the third circle in the middle was back to the first direction.
Bake the tart for 15 minutes. Everything is already cooked, so the aim here is to let it all come together. The water in the applesauce cooks off, thickening it almost to an apple butter consistency, which holds onto the apple slices.
You can remove it from the oven at this point, let it cool, and serve, or you can add one fun addition. Sprinkle the top of the tart with some confectioner’s sugar, and then place it under the broiler for five minutes. This will melt the sugar, and create a sweet glaze on top. It will also brown the edges of the crust a bit more.
If you want to glaze but not the browned crust, use aluminum foil to cover the edges of the tart. If you want it the other way around, broil the tart without adding the sugar first.
Once it’s cooked, let the tart cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes in the pan. Once it’s cool enough to handle, remove the outer ring of the tart pan. The easiest way to do this is to place the pan on top of an upside-down bowl or glass, and then gently lower the rim. Transfer the tart to a plate, and cut into eight slices to serve.
An apple tart is such a fun and gorgeous dessert for apple season! Try this version with a bourbon-rye crust.
How to Serve
This tart is best served warm. Whether that’s fresh out of the oven or stored in the fridge and then reheated as individual slices doesn’t really matter. It’s delicious on its own, but I also recommend topping it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some homemade whipped cream.
For something a little cozier, try using decaf coffee ice cream instead of vanilla, and serve each slice with a warm mug of chai white hot chocolate. Or play up that bourbon flavor in the crust with an amaretto old fashioned.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- I love anything with apples, and you can use them to make apple butter brioche cinnamon rolls or a no-bake caramel apple cheesecake!
- Bourbon is always a favorite of mine, like in the bourbon-maple syrup for these sweet corn fritters.
- Try using the cinnamon and allspice in a strawberry rhubarb crumble, or the cloves and nutmeg in a weeknight apple crisp.
- Applesauce, especially if homemade, makes a delicious snack. Try it warmed up with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Classic Apple Tart with Bourbon-Rye Crust
- ½ Cup Rye Flour
- ¾ Cup All Purpose Flour
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ½ Cup Confectioner's Sugar
- ½ Cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter cold and cut into cubes
- 1 Egg
- 1 ½ tsp Bourbon
- 2-3 Medium Apples cut into ⅛-inch slices
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ Tbsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Allspice optional
- ¼ tsp Cloves optional
- pinch Nutmeg optional
- 2 Tbsp Water
- ⅔ Cup Applesauce
store bought or homemade
- 1 tsp Confectioner's Sugar optional
- In a medium bowl, add both flours, sugar, and salt. Whisk until combined. Then add in the cubes of cold butter, and combine with a pastry blender, distributing and cutting the butter pieces until the whole thing has a coarse meal texture. Optionally, you can use a food processor to add in the butter, and pulse a few times until distributed.
- Add in the egg and bourbon, and use floured hands to mix and knead the dough in the bowl until fully combined and no dry spots remain. Shape the dough into a 1-inch thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you need to refrigerate it for longer (up to overnight), let it thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Remove the plastic wrap, and place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into an 11-inch circle, and then transfer to the tart pan, shaping the dough into the corners. Trim any excess. Cover the pan with parchment paper touching the dough surface, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the tart crust from the freezer, and remove the parchment. Cover the crust with foil, and add pie weights. Bake for 20 min.
- Remove from the oven and remove the foil. Place the crust on a wire rack until cooled to room temperature.
- In a large, high-sided saute pan, add the apple, butter, sugar, and spices. Cook on medium heat, stirring until the butter melted, and the apples begin to get coated in the spices.
- Add the water and cover, cooking 3-4 min until apples are soft. Uncover and cook another 2-3 until the apples are coated and the syrup has thickened thickened. Let it cool 20 min, meanwhile preheat oven to 350.
- Add the applesauce to the cooled tart crust, and spread into an even layer. Add the apple slices, arranged in a pattern on top of the applesauce.
- Bake the tart for 15 min. Optionally, sprinkle the surface with confectioner's sugar and broil for an additional 5 minutes. This will create a nice glossy glaze, and brown the crust up. If you want the glaze without darkening the crust, cover the edges with foil before broiling.
- Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool for about 15-20 minutes. Then remove the outer rim of the pan, and transfer the tart to a plate. Cut into eight pieces. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
- Make ahead tips:
- You can prepare the crust and freeze it, unbaked for up to a month. Wrap it tightly in foil, and then bake directly from the freezer with pie weights, as explained above.
- You can prepare the entire tart and store it whole or sliced in the fridge for 3-4 days, in a sealed container. Warm individual pieces before serving.
- If you don't have pie weights, you can use a similar sized pie or cake pan, weighed down with a heavy oven-safe dish, like a ceramic ramekin.
- The spices in the apples are all optional, but add a ton of extra flavor. Feel free to use any combination of your favorites, or a pre-mixed apple pie or pumpkin pie spice instead.
- The bourbon in the crust can be replaced with vanilla extract, for a sweeter, alcohol-free version.
- If you have extra syrup from the apples, you can add it to the tart before or after baking. I liked the tart served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with the extra syrup drizzled on top.