Monday, November 24, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Tart

Welcome to Thanksgiving week at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! Have you seen our Savor the Season page? It's an amazing collection of our seasonal recipes. There's something for every taste.

This recipe started with Williams Sonoma. Yes, it's their fault for putting a fabulous picture of a Salted Caramel Apple Pie in their catalog. It was piled high and gorgeous. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I like apples. I like salted caramel. I like pie! But there wasn't a recipe.

So I went in search of recipes. Most of them are pretty much the same. They make caramel, add salt to it and pour it over the apples in the pie. I liked the idea of salting the caramel separately, so that was how I did it, but I would guess there's not a whole lot of difference.

My searching led me to an online conversation between chefs. Someone complained that the top crust gets too much heat while the bottom doesn't cook. Oh my, the suggestions! Put a tray underneath, put a pre-heated tray underneath, no tray at all, use a black pie pan, use a tray with a rack so there's air flow, and on and on. The interesting thing was that, just like us, they all had ideas and opinions, but there's not one way to do things.

It's like a cave in there!
In the end, though, while the pie was beautiful, it had problems. It didn't particularly taste like salted caramel. It tasted like apple pie. Maybe in a side-by-side taste test one could tell the difference but it wasn't worth all the steps and trouble to make. It also had a hole. America's Test Kitchen wrestled with this issue and recommended their pie crust but said something about it not cutting particularly well.

While I don't think it has to be perfect, I wasn't happy enough with the pie to recommend it for your Thanksgiving dinner.

I moved on. If I wasn't getting the caramel flavor that I sought from pie, maybe a tart would be a better idea. I have to admit that the tart took a lot less time and involved fewer steps, always a good thing.

I used sweet Fuji apples for the tart because that was what they had in my store. I trust Sheila will know what I should have used, but a tour of the countryside in search of apples wasn't on the schedule.

I made the buttery pastry in the food processor and added a dash of vodka to reduce the gluten production when worked and keep the crust soft and flaky. It came together nicely but required an hour of rest in the fridge. There's nothing magic about this particular pastry, so feel free to use your favorite.

Channels of caramel!

When I make this again, I might not bother to make the apples stand up. I suspect you'll get much prettier results if you lay the slices in circles, allowing them to overlap slightly. If you choose to make them stand, like I did, please expect them to lean once they soften through baking. The tart still looks pretty, and I do rather like the channels of caramel. Note that I didn't spread the caramel on the bottom to the edge to reduce the likelihood of it swimming away out of the pan.

In the end, I liked this much, much better than the pie. You can really taste the caramel, and when you get a flake of salt on top – oohlala! Please note that it's quite sweet. After being refrigerated, the caramel firmed up enough for it to cut quite nicely. You can make this a day ahead of time, which I always think is a major plus.

Salted Caramel Apple Tart


1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon vodka
1 large egg

Place dough blade in food processor and add flour, salt, and butter. Pulse until it looks like ground cornmeal, scraping the sides a couple of times. Add vodka, pulse, then add the egg and pulse until it forms a ball. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe container that can hold at least 2 cups (it will bubble up). Microwave in short bursts from 20 - 50 seconds, stirring each time until it bubbles up and the sugar is dissolved.


5-6 large apples

Peel, core, and slice apples. I sliced each quarter apple into six slices. Don't cut them too thin.

Sugar Topping (Optional)

I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out, so I used this paste on top of it.* Honestly, I think you can skip this step because the caramel adds enough sweetness.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cups sugar
good pinch salt

Blend together into a lumpy paste.


Malton's shaved salt

A few pinches of salt will be used in the assembly.


Preheat oven to 425. Insert a baking sheet on a rack underneath the middle rack to catch any overflowing juices.

Grease the tart pan, especially the sides so they will release nicely.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough. Lay it over the tart pan and gently press into place. If something tears, just nip off a bit of the extra dough and press it in place. No one will see it.

Place one layer of apples around the side, overlapping them slightly. Pour about 1/4 cup of the caramel over the pastry in the middle of them and spread with the back of a spoon. Lick spoon and place in dishwasher.

Add the remaining apples in circles, inserting them just a bit between the edges of the apples in the previous row. When it gets too tight to add more apples in circles, place three or four slices in the center together. Go back to the first row and insert more apple slices in any gaps.

Bake at 425 for 20 - 25 minutes. Meanwhile mix the butter and sugar into a paste.*

Remove tart from oven and lower heat to 325. Sprinkle the paste over the tart and return to oven. Bake another 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

When cool, microwave the remaining caramel 10 - 20 seconds to make it thinner. Drizzle over the cool tart. Sprinkle a generous pinch or two of salt over the top. Loosen the sides gently and remove the outer edge before refrigerating. Refrigerate tart until serving.

If you have a tear or a hole, patch it with a scrap of pastry.

Start at the outside when adding apples.

Spread some caramel on the bottom.

Add the rest of the apples.

The apples will relax as they bake.

It cuts very nicely for serving.

Mmm. Now that tastes like caramel!

Coming December 2nd!

To celebrate, we're each giving away book this week! I'll be giving away the winner's choice of 
In addition, the winner will receive one etched glass Wagtail Mountain mug!

To enter, please leave a comment
 (click on the word COMMENT a few lines below)
 by midnight Wednesday November 26th.
Don't forget to include your email address
 so I can contact you. 
Good luck and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!