Nothing quite spells out A-m-e-r-i-c-a more than apple pie. Really, name one American who just doesn’t love that gooey deliciousness of baked freshly picked apples with a twist of cinnamon and lemon between a buttery crisp crust. It’s the signature dish of all that’s delicious and patriotic. It’s the finishing touch to those infamous hot summer picnics after chowing down a warm weenie in a bun and a bottle of a cold foaming beer. It’s a sloppy, melt in your mouth slice churned out with a batch of vanilla ice cream on top, served as a standalone celebratory treat after that home run strike. Yum, and yum some more. I can’t wait until summer is in full swing!
But I love change. I love variety. Tradition is great and comforting, but new is unpredictable. And who knows, the new may just be better than the old? So when I found this recipe on my absolute go to online cookbook, The Kitchn, I just had to try it. And I was pleasantly, no, more than pleasantly surprised and I think you will be too.
I am not a cook, I am not a baker. I can’t claim to be. Maybe one day. But for now, I stay pretty faithful to the recipes of those more adventurous kitchen connoisseurs. So I won’t list the ingredients and instructions here. Sara Kate Gillingham already did a pretty good job of that.
But I can and will share with you how easy it was to throw together, and how simple the ingredients are to find. They are things you seriously will have lying around in your spice drawer and fridge bin: flour, sugar, salt, butter (I use salted and unsalted invariably), water, 2-3 large apples, brown sugar, almond extract, and jam. The recipe calls for sliced toasted almonds for the topping. I did one tart with almonds, and one without. I’m not a nut fanatic so I preferred the latter. But I am a lemon juice fan and I added about a teaspoon of it along with the almond extract.
And what I loved most about it was how American and French it is. Seriously, I miss walking around the corner and stumbling upon a warm bakery. A slice of this tart would only cost me 1€ in France and would have been the perfect 4PM snack. The idea of exposed fruit in pastry is very French. Apricot tarts, plum tarts, and especially apple tarts. The French love their apples too just as much as we Americans. Lucky for me, this tart is the perfect recreation. The dough is sweet, sugary, and light, something new for me since Americans sprinkle salt into their apple pie dough for taste, at least that’s the case with the recipe my family uses.
Did I mention how pretty it is when it comes out of the oven? Lightly tanned, gooey caramelized apples…and the almond extract…oh, the almond extract. Let’s just say, why didn’t I think of this before?
I presented my apple pretties at a French movie night party I hosted. Technically we watched an American film, but it was about France and had beautiful shots of Paris and really great music from the 1920s. Can anyone guess what film I showed? But by and far, the Free Form Apple Tart stole the show away and was the perfect international junction between my beloved France and my American heritage. I bet you will just love it too.