One of the things that has struck me most about the start of our new life here has been the generosity of our neighbors.
The day I was moving in, I heard a loud knock knock! I ran to the door, nearly tripping over the boxes. Greeting me at the door were two unfamiliar but smiling faces: neighbors, just stopping by to say hello and give me a giant maitake (hen of the woods) mushroom they had foraged on local conservation land.
The next day, another neighbor stopped by. He had helped do some of the renovations on the inn several years ago and wanted us to know we could call him if we ever had a problem.
Then, just before our first wedding guests arrived, a friend (and now neighbor) dropped by with a beautiful arrangement for the bride she had made with the last of this year's flowers from her garden.
Since then, we’ve met many other neighbors. While the generosity hasn’t always been as tangible as mushrooms and flowers, it’s been just as meaningful—a warm welcome, an offer of time, shared stories over a cup of tea.
As we were driving north last weekend, we passed a farm with a sign that read: FREE APPLES. They weren't our neighbors, but the spirit was there.
We pulled over onto the side of the road. Stuart shook the tree while I filled a bag to the brim with apples. They were bruised and mottled. Good, I thought, they hadn't been sprayed. I took a bite—crisp, sweet, tart. Perfectly imperfect.
I knew as I was collecting the ugly apples that I would turn them into a beautiful French apple tart. I invite you to make this apple tart and share it with your neighbors, as I will with mine.
French Apple Tart
Crust adapted from Bouchon Bakery; tart adapted from the International Culinary Center
8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
3 ½ tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup almond flour
4-5 large apples
50 grams sugar
30 grams water
2-4 large apples
Melted butter, for brushing
100 g apricot jam
20 g water
For the crust: Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the almond extract and egg and mix until combined. With the mixer running, add the flours and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a circle about 1/6-inch thick. Roll the dough over the rolling pin then lay over a fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top to cut of excess dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Line the crust with parchment paper, then fill with beans or pie weights. Blind bake for 25 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and let cool.
For the compote: Peel, halve lengthwise and core the apples, rubbing with lemon as you go to prevent discoloration. Dice the apples and place them in a large saute pan. Add the sugar and water, then cover with a parchment paper lid with a hole cut out of the middle.
Cook over medium heat until the apples release their juices. Remove the lid and cook until the mixture softens, stirring frequently. It won’t be smooth and there will be chunks. This is OK. Let cool.
For the topping: Peel, halve lengthwise and core the apples, rubbing with lemon as you go to prevent discoloration. Slice the apples horizontally very thinly, about 1/8-inch thick.
For the glaze: Place the jam and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the jam melts.
To assemble and cook the tart: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Fill the curst about ¾ of the way up with compote. Arrange the apples overlapping around the tart. Be sure to keep them close together as they will shrink as they cook. Create a rose in the center of the tart.
Brush the apples with butter. Bake until the apples are soft and beginning to turn golden on the edges, about an hour.
Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and brush the top with the glaze.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.