Apple butterscotch tart

As the apple and walnut crumble was made for mothers day for my OH’s parents, so this was made for my mum, on the Tuesday following mothers day. The tart was made to follow roast pork with cider gravy and crispy roast potatoes, helpfully made by my OH. Nigella mentions that this tart is especially good after roast pork, which did not so much inform the menu choice, but helpfully facilitated it.
However, I am slightly nervous in making this tart for two reasons: Firstly, anyone that has How to Eat (and, if not, run out and buy it now, I insist!) will know that Nigella does not give much of an introduction to this tart, as usual, and thus I was slightly apprehensive as to what to expect. Secondly, the tart involves making pastry to line a flan case. Now, I have not had a great deal of experience with pastry whatsoever. Anyone who has read this blog in its entirety will know that I have had success with a scone-like dough for the Irish tarte tatin, but had a complete first-time failure with the almond pastry for the Bakewell tart. However, it’s been a while since I tried my hand at pastry again, and thus I feel as optimistic as could be expected under the circumstances!
The tart itself is made from a shortcrust pastry, filled with peeled, cored and sliced cooking apples, which is then spread with a butterscotch paste, made by combining muscovado sugar, flour, eggs and cream, and baked in the oven for 20 minutes, roughly speaking. This, then, sounds like a delightful sweet and sour take on one of those home-spun American desserts, which always look and smell so welcoming.

Ingredients: All ingredients can be easily purchased from any supermarket. I must say that having moved from a small village in the middle-of-nowhere to a fairly big, semi-modern, city, I am very grateful for the added choice in the supermarket. For example, I was able, for the first time, to purchase Italian 00 flour to make the pastry with. I have heard this mentioned a great deal, but up to this point, have not found it anywhere, and have had to resort to standard plain flour from the baking aisle. As an aside, I note that Nigella mentions the fat she uses in her pastry is a combination of half lard, half butter. To this end, I brought a big block of lard, and the same of unsalted butter!

(The butterscotch sauce)

Price: The flour, butter, lard, apples and cream (double) totalled £5.38, an extremely cheap haul. We already have muscovado sugar and flour, which make these purchases unnecessary.

Method: The making of the pastry is all-important here, and it should be mentioned that I made mine on the Monday, and left it in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm overnight, before rolling it out and using it to line the case. Now, as apprehensive as I was before, I am now a passionate convert! The process was so easy, and simply involved dicing the fat into cubes and adding it to a bowl with the flour, and then popping this mixture into the freezer for 20 minutes, popping it into the food processor and processing until the mixture resembles oats, adding tablespoons of iced water (with a dash of lemon and pinch of salt) until the mixture looks as though it may be coming together, emptying the processor, kneading into a ball, pressing down and finally popping into the fridge. Now, as mentioned, I made this on the day before, and when I came to take the pastry out to roll it, I was absolutely breath-taken with the ease with which the pastry rolled out – it was like a dream! I was amazed that I could pick up the pastry, and drape over to perfectly line the case without a crease or join! Thank you Nigella! The rest of the method was tremendously easy, and merely involved chopping, peeling and coring some apples, laying them into the perfect pastry case, stirring together the ingredients for the sauce and spreading over the apples. I feel that I must mention cooking times here. Our oven had been on for a good while prior to putting the tart in, and so was blisteringly hot. However, the tart still needed at least 30 minutes, not the specified 20, and probably could have done with slightly longer. Obviously, all ovens are very different, but best to be advised now, if you have reason to believe that yours is a particularly slow oven.
While the tart was in the oven, I poured the leftover cream into a bowl and whisked with my electric whisk, to make whipped cream. To say it was perfection with the tart would be an understatement!

Result: There are so many levels on which to describe this tart, so I shall do so by describing each “layer” as it were. Firstly, for me, the pastry was the crowning glory of the whole tart. The pastry was both light and flaky, and truly, truly more wonderful than any pastry that I thought I was capable of making. The first bite of pastry was like an epiphany moment for me, when I realised that I had made *the* perfect pastry! Secondly, the slight sharpness of the apples worked so well with the fudgy and dense butterscotch sauce. The muscovado sugar was really pronounced in the sauce, and worked so well with the other flavours. In fact, it reminded me rather of that glorious toffee, fudgy, and sharp flavour reminiscent of a toffee-apple!
However, I must remark here that the consistency of the butterscotch sauce rather worried me. Around the edges of the tart, the sauce had almost set to a moussey consistency, as I had expected. However, in the middle of the tart, the sauce was indeed that; a sauce proper. I couldn’t have left the tart in the oven for any longer, as some of the apples were beginning to go black in places, so it really had to come out when it did, which, I must say, was 10 minutes longer than specified. This wasn’t so much of a problem, but it did make the tart rather difficult to cut into neat slices, as, to repeat myself, in the centre the sauce was a sauce; runny and only slightly more solid than liquid. I did mention this on a post, on Nigella’s website (

www.nigella.com), and admin asked Nigella about this personally and reported back that Nigella said “that sounded right to her.” So, not only was this tart, fudgily delicious, but it seems to have Nigella’s seal of approval!

Other person’s perspective: My mum absolutely loved this tart, especially the pastry. She also took a slice home, and told my dad, who is cruelly unable to eat the pastry due to Coeliacs, that is was the best pastry she has ever tasted. My OH also said that the whole tart was very nice, and commented that the pastry was easily the best part of the tart. He also, somewhat worryingly, said that he wouldn’t want to revert back to shop-brought pastry now he has tasted the real thing!

Future Changes: Now, I will definitely make this again, as I just loved the pastry, and the interplay between the dense toffee of the sauce and the sharper notes of the apple. I like to think that I would try to work on the texture and consistency of the sauce next time, and by this, I think that when I spread the sauce over the fruit, I will do so more sparingly in the middle, so that there will (hopefully) be even coverage of the sauce, which will (also hopefully) lead to the sauce being set throughout. Watch this space, as there is also a blackberry and rhubarb version of this tart in HTE, both of which I am planning to make.

Rating: 4 ½ / 5. My OH and mum, both say that this should get 5/5, but I, perfectionist that I am, just *know* that I can improve upon perfection, and therefore, am reserving my top mark for the next time that I make this wonderful dessert.

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