I thought it would be interesting to find out a little more about this French classic. The reason for this is because when I first set out finding a recipe to try I found a lot of variation between recipes.
You would have thought that because it is a famous French dessert that there would be at least one definition of La Tarte aux Pommes to go by, but it seems that this isn't the case.
When I began looking for a recipe the first I stumbled upon was a tarte aux pommes that is said to be from the Normandie region of France, Tarte aux Pommes á la Normandie (Source for recipe: allrecipes.com). It comprised of a shortcrust pastry tart base, the usual crescent slices of apple on top, and also a frangipane filling underneath the apple slices. Unknowingly I assumed that this would be the only type of apple tart, and so made one which was served that evening at dinner. My wife (who is French) then pointed out to me that it wasn't like the tarte aux pommes that her mother makes. Oh, I thought, there must be two types then. The tart, however, was still nice I must add.
At a later date I decided I'd prepare another tarte aux pommes, this time to fit the description that my wife had given me. It had a shortcrust pastry base, as expected, with a apple compote filling flavoured with a touch of vanilla and topped with the regular crescent shaped apple slices. I found a recipe that resembled the description just to make sure I was going in the right direction, this time from a French recipe site (Source for new recipe: www.marmiton.org ). The tart worked, the compote filling had set on cooling (I had concerns it wouldn't) it was very nice indeed. I would say that it was nicer than the frangipane tarte aux pommes because it tasted of apples, rather than almond with a bit of apple.
If you perform a search using the world's favourite online encyclopedia, wikipedia, you don't actually get an entry for tarte aux pommes. I decided to try the French site which, I found, does have an entry for the tart albeit brief. Now, I know that we can't rely exclusively on wikipedia for research, but it's a starting point. The entry explains that it can include a compote filling, or prepared as a flan without compote which would then carry 'à l'alsacienne' at the end of the name denoting the region of France, Alsace, that this particular version comes from. The entry also says that if it were to be the Normandie version then there would be a topping or accompaniment which is made from flour, egg, cream, sugar and brandy. No specific instructions or quantities, however this does contradict the first recipe I found also saying it was from the Normandie region because there is no sign of almond.
If you delve deeper in to some of the less top ranked recipes the variations include: made with puff pastry; brandy and apple compote; custard filling.
In the end I thought it best to consult a reliable encyclopedia. I tried Larousse, a famous French encyclopedia, and search for 'tarte aux pommes' on their website. No entry was found at all, which I find bizarre considering the popularity of this dessert. The only thing I saw whilst looking online is that Larousse produce a encyclopédie gastronomique which I'd hope would have an entry for it. I'll be trying to get to the library to have a look soon just to see if there is a definitive version and origin within France. Until that point I can only assume that it is like some nursery rhymes and there isn't a specific story explaining exactly how it came about. I'll update the article soon, once I've had chance to check out Larousse Gsatronomique.
- Written by Stuart Edge
- Category: History of Foods
- Published: 07 May 2012