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Tart Alsacienne

Dear chef Bourdain;

Today I made your tart alsacienne from the “Les Halles Cookbook”. It didn’t turn out so well. This is my first “miss” so far, so I’ll chalk it up to my inexperience – after all, I don’t know what I’m doing and importantly, don’t know what a proper tart alsacienne should look or taste like. So I’m just following your instructions as carefully as I can.

I started with your “basic pie crust” – because even though it’s a tart, your recipe calls for a “pre-baked pie shell.” (Note: you don’t say what “pre-baked” means in this context. Given that you’re so careful to explain what everything else is, this was an omission. Fortunately, google is my friend.) Here’s what it looks like when the dough is put together, chilled, and then rolled out:

I pre-baked it, and that’s where things started to go wrong. I planned ahead for Monday night’s dinner and also made a tart crust for the chocolate-hazelnut tart – and while the pie crust picked up and moved over to the pie plate with relative ease, the tart crust was an unholy mess. It shattered, fragmented, smooshed, ripped, you name it. I might as well have not rolled it at all, but instead just thrown the wrapped tart crust in the tart pan and pushed it to the edges with my fingers. I did my best – then I covered both with parchment paper and weighted them down with rice. This is allegedly to keep the bottom from puffing up too much and the sides from collapsing – but since none of this is in your cookbook (coughcoughoversightcoughcough) I’m just guessing it was the right thing to do. Both of them came out looking more “puffy” than “flaky”. Oh and burny.

After that, I cooked the apples in butter and sugar on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.

I covered these in the cream custard, and baked it for 20-ish minutes. However, the custard hadn’t set, and I had to take it across town to MLF’s brother’s 30th birthday party, so it really needn’t to not be sloshy. I left it in for another nine minutes, and it was set – solid but not burned, golden brown on top. I was pretty psyched to try it, especially since the gratin daupinois rocked my socks so much. But I couldn’t really sneak a slice without it being super obvious that I’d sampled it. So I waited.

Here is the finished tart. It was insipid and bland, though it had nice texture and looked quite nice.

But basically it sucked, Chef. It just had no flavor – the apples weren’t very sweet, and the custard was really bland. The pie crust was nothing to write home about. Now, one of the two of us is clearly not a pastry chef. Possibly both. I talked this over with MLF’s mother, who is a very accomplished chef d’maison herself – we agreed it need a little kick. Cinnamon and nutmeg may be painfully American pie spices, but there’s a reason, ya know? Alternatively, I might add some Calvados, though this would be mixing yer basic Brittany coast with yer basic Alsaice-Lorraine, and I’m not sure if that’s the sort of mongrel-ry up with which the French would put. So maybe rum? But then it wouldn’t be a tart alsacienne, would it – it would be like… a tart buccanier or something. Which, come to think of it, sounds better.

‘Cause this tart? It was nasty.

Regards,
Davy

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Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep
  1. Rachel
    November 8, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    If you want to give this recipe a go again, I have a good recipe for crust that I’ve used with success for apple pies.

    Also, during my pie making adventures, I’ve noticed that the variety of apple has a lot to do with the final flavor. I like mixing half Fuji with half gala.

    • November 8, 2010 at 12:50 PM

      Well, part of my challenge here is to follow the directions in the book. It specifically calls for golden delicious apples, so I used those. If I were making it again, I would, to be honest, probably just use a pre-prepared pie crust since they’re really usually pretty good. I might mix in a more piquant apple, but it really does need something to give it a little more zip.

      Either that, or I just did something wrong, which is always a possibility.

  1. February 2, 2011 at 12:29 PM
  2. February 25, 2011 at 7:21 PM

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