I have a soft spot for Julia Child. The first cookbook I ever got, for my 11th birthday, I think, was her Baking with Julia. This recipe is adapted from that cookbook. It's really very easy, and looks stunning, so do give it a try!
French Apple Tart (serves 8)
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup flour
4 oz. cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice water
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a your fingers (or a pastry cutter, if you prefer), cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient—this takes a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times—don't get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refrigerator.
Flatten into a disk, wrap in wax paper, and chill for at least two hours.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and fit it into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the extra along the sides of the tart pan, so that most of the sides have a double wall of pastry. Use the back of a knife to decorate the edge by pressing it diagonally at each flute or at 1/2-inch intervals around the tart.
Chill the tart for at least 30 minutes. Line with foil, fill with pie weights (or beans), and then bake in a 400 F oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool, lower the heat to 375 F, and proceed with the filling:
6 Granny Smith apples
1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh, fluffy bread crumbs
2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice
Peel and core the apples, cut each one in quarters, and cut each quarter into 6 pieces. Put the apples in a large bowl and toss with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and bread crumbs. Add just a squeeze of lemon juice to start—you'll be able to adjust the flavor later. Spread the apples on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the apples give up their juices, start to form a sauce, and are soft enough to mash. Scrape the apples into a bowl and mash with a potato masher or a heavy spoon. Don't be overzealous—a few small lumps and bumps will add interest to the filling. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it, then cool the filling for about 15 minutes.
Spoon the puree into the cooled tart shell and smooth the top with an offset spatula. The filling should come to just below the rim of the shell. Make the topping:
2 large Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Peel, core, and quarter the apples (cutting from end to end), then cut them into slices that are 1/8 inch thick. As you work, toss the slices with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Save the smaller pieces from the ends of the apples—they'll make good packing and "even-outers."
Working slowly and carefully and starting at the edge, arrange the apples in a circle on the puree. The slices should overlap and the points should just touch the shell. Since these will shrink, make a well-packed circle. Lay on another circle overlapping the first by just about 1/8 inch, tucking a few small pieces under the circle to level it and trimming the slices as necessary so that they fit. You'll probably have enough room for two circles and a center rosette. For the rosette, choose a large, thin slice of apple, cut it into a round, and place it, propped up slightly, in the center of the tart.
With a light hand, evenly brush the apple slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
Put the tart on a parchment- or foil-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the 375 F oven, or until the top is beautifully glazed and the apple slices are edged in black, a stunning effect. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack. Just before serving, remove the tart from the pan and dust its edges with confectioner's sugar.