Apple Sablé Breton Tart

Week 9 of Bake Off saw French patisserie take over the tent with the bakers making their signature layered slices inspired by patisserie, a technical sablé breton tart and making a showstopping themed banquet display. I wanted to push myself to try something different and put my twist on the technical challenge, which looked so delicious and relatively simple to make. This is my take on the sablé breton tart, my Apple Sablé Breton Tart!

Prue’s Sablé Breton is topped with a pistachio creme mousseline and lots of fresh strawberries and it felt wrong to recreate that in the late autumn/early winter. I wanted a fruit topping that captured the autumn/winter and to me, that was the classic cinnamon apple pairing which goes so well with the vanilla pastry cream. I make sure that the apples have a little bite to them and cut them into half moons with the skins on for an attractive finish but the apple skin has pectin which helps to thicken up the juices in the pan which I drizzle over for extra apple flavour.

The biscuit dough is based off a pate sablée dough recipe by Michel Roux but I replace some of the sugar with brown sugar to complement the sugar to cook the apples and add some ground almonds to help create a tender delicate biscuit dough. The dough is baked in a 20cm springform tin but only two-thirds of the dough is used for the biscuit base. The remaining third gets combined with more flour, plus some cinnamon and rolled oats, to create a streusel topping that gets sprinkled over, almost like an apple crumble.

For the sablé breton dough:

  • 200g margarine or unsalted butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large egg yolks

For the vanilla pastry cream:

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 30g cornflour

For the cinnamon apple topping:

  • 4 medium red apples
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

For the streusel topping:

  • 30g plain flour
  • 25g rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In a large bowl of a stand mixer or in a large food processor, beat the margarine or unsalted butter for around 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the two sugars and beat until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add in the plain flour and the ground almonds along with the salt and mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolks one at a time and beat until a soft but not sticky dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead briefly and shape into a disc. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla bean paste until it is warmed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the caster sugar and cornflour until they are pale and light in colour. Gradually pour in the warmed milk, whisking constantly and return the whole mixture back to the pan over medium heat. Cook the pastry cream until the mixture has thickened and boiled and the mixture has bubbled. Immediately transfer to a shallow tray or dish. Press clingfilm onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and chill in the fridge until needed.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Lightly grease a round 20cm springform tin.

Take two-thirds of the dough and press into an even layer in the greased tin, making sure that the middle is not too thick or it will not bake through properly and that the dough goes right up to the edge. Dock the pastry all over with a fork. Bake the biscuit for around 20 to 25 minutes until it has risen slightly and has turned golden and feels set on the surface. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

With the remaining third of the dough, break up into chunks in a bowl and add the extra flour, rolled oats and ground cinnamon. Use your hands to mix and press together until the sablé dough has absorbed the flour and turned into a streusel/crumble topping texture. Depending on how much dough you left and how soft the dough was initially, you may need to add more flour. You should have a mix of fine crumbs and clumps of dough. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for around 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown and baked through. Leave to cool.

Prepare the apple topping by chopping the apples into 1cm wide half moon shapes. The easiest way is to slice the apples around the core and then slice each piece into half moons. Place into a pan along with the brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and a small splash of water. Cook over medium heat for around 15 to 20 minutes until the apples have softened but still have a bite in the middle and the syrup has thickened and is beginning to coat the apples. Set aside in a bowl to cool down slightly.

When you are ready to assemble, place the biscuit on a serving plate or cake stand. Give the chilled pastry cream a whisk to loosen and transfer to a piping bag and cut off a 1cm hole off the end. Starting from the centre, pipe the pastry cream in a circular motion towards the outer edge, leaving a 1.5cm border exposed. You can use a knife to neaten up any parts of the pastry cream. Carefully arrange the apples on top of the pastry cream, avoiding putting too much of the apple syrup on at this stage.

Sprinkle over the streusel, placing the larger crumbs on the apples and a border of the smaller crumbs on the plate. Dust the entire thing with icing sugar and then drizzle over the leftover apple syrup from the cooked apples to finish off the dessert. Slice the dessert into eight slices to serve.

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