This tart is always a show-stopper, especially if you can take the time to make the dainty apple roses. I will be honest, it does take a while to do, but it is worth it. If you’re tight on time, then sliced apple on top works just as well. Just skip the apple roses section, slice the apple into eighths after coring, leaving the skin on, and fan them out on top of the custard.
For the pastry
250 g (9 oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
50 g (2 oz/heaped ⅓ cup) icing (confectioner’s) sugar
grated zest of ½ lemon
125 g (4 oz) butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 egg, beaten
½ tablespoon whole milk
For the custard
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) whole milk
½ vanilla pod (bean), halved and seeds scraped out
160 g (5½ oz/scant ¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
For the filling
4 tablespoons strawberry jam (jelly)
110 g (3¾ oz) butter, at room temperature
100 g (3½ oz/scant ½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
juice of 2 lemons
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Gala or red eating (dessert) apples
1 tablespoon soft light brown sugar
To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon zest and cubed butter and rub them into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until you get a crumble-like mixture.
Add the egg and milk. Carefully work in with your hands until you have a dough, but don’t want to overwork the pastry. Flour the dough lightly and cut in half. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) before popping it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To make the custard, put the milk and vanilla pod and seeds in a heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together to form a thick paste. Stir in the flour until combined.
Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and very slowly and gradually pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat very gently over a low heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. Lay a piece of cling film (plastic wrap) touching the surface of the custard to avoid a skin forming. Set to one side.
Take a pastry half out of the refrigerator and leave to come to room temperature. (Use the other half in another recipe.) Preheat a fan oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 6) and grease a 23 cm (9 in) tart dish with butter.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Press into a tart dish and prick the base with a fork. Blind bake in the oven for 20 minutes until it is golden. While the pastry is still hot, spread the strawberry jam onto the base.
For the rest of the filling, put the butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Do not let the mixture boil. Leave to cool to room temperature.
Pour the lemon juice into a large bowl and stir in the melted butter and sugar. Cut the apples in half, then core and slice them as thinly as possible using a mandolin and add the slices to the bowl. Ensure the apple is covered with the liquid and leave to stand for 15 minutes. This will ‘cook’ the apples and make them more pliable to shape.
Pour the custard into the tart base so it comes halfway up the side. Then, take one slice of apple at a time and roll one around another. You’ll need about four or five slices to create a rose. Cut the base of the rose flat and place into the custard to hold it in place. Repeat until your tart is full of apple roses.
Preheat a fan oven to 160°C (320°F/gas 4). Sprinkle the tart with brown sugar and bake for 20 minutes before serving nice and warm.
A recipe from Apple: Recipes from the Orchard by James Rich (Quadrille).