Apple season – I don´t know about you, but for me, it starts in September and lasts more or less until the end of August. Except for a few weeks in midsummer, when peaches and apricots, nectarines and cherries step in, you´ll always find a pile of apples in my kitchen. But it´s now, this time of year, that I start to look at them with other eyes, thinking of ways to make more of them than `just` a healthy snack: Apple baking is fall baking, let alone if we´re talking about this tart with its speculoos crust. Albeit this cookie has a certain connotation that prevented me from baking it much earlier.
Let me explain: When we moved to France, I was surprised to see speculoos cookies everywhere in supermarkets throughout the year, even in the shape of pre-made crumbles specifically destined for baking and desserts (French mums are so practical!). Speculoos cheese cakes, speculoos tiramisu, speculoos spread – the possibilities are endless, and, I might add, truly delectable. But deliciousness aside, to some extent I felt a bit reluctant against speculoos in summer, and it has to do with the German breed that I am, incapable at times to take things the easy way.
In Germany, speculoos are decidedly Christmas cookies, and you won´t find them in stores, let alone bake them, unless Christmas is, well, at least somewhere in sight. It´s like lametta in June – it just doesn´t fit. Yet right now that the days are getting a little chillier, and Parisian morning fogs last a little longer than I´d like them to, I finally baked this tart that had been on my mind for some time. For when if not now is the time to pair a crunchy salted butter speculoos crust with crisp, cinnamon-y apple slices… and not to forget that drizzle of ever-so-good salted caramel sauce.
A variation of the good ol´ apple-cinnamon (and apple-caramel) liaison, this tart is the edible proof that old loves never die… and while some fruit may not have a season, some cookies do.
Speculoos apple tart with salted caramel sauce (makes 6 slices or one 8 inch/20 cm tart):
For the tart:
5 medium apples, about 750 g (1 ½ pounds)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
a dash vanilla seeds powder or 1 pck vanilla sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
175 g spéculoos cookies
65 g salted butter, melted
2 generous tbsp crème fraîche
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sugar
For the caramel sauce:
100 g sugar
120 g cream
50 g salted butter
Peel, quarter and slice apples (about 16 slices per apple). In a medium sized pan, melt unsalted butter and cook apples, seasoned with sugar, cinnamon & vanilla seeds, for 5-7 minutes over low to medium heat until somewhat softened, but still with some crunch.
For the dough, fill cookies into a plastic bag. Crush with a rolling in until you obtain a fine, sandy crumble – alternatively, blitz in your food processor if you´re lucky to own one.
Mix with melted salted butter until the butter is completely incorporated.
Line a small (8 in/20 cm) buttered tart pan (I use one with a removable bottom) with the spéculoos dough and bake in a preheated oven for 7 minutes at 180°C. Take pan out of the oven, keep the oven hot.
In a small bowl, mix crème fraîche with an egg yolk, sugar and about 2 tbsp of the apple juices from the pan.
Neatly arrange apple slices in a circular pattern onto the speculoos base, working your way to the center. Pour crème fraîche mixture all over. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden.
For the caramel sauce, melt sugar in a high sided pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, warm cream gently. When the sugar has almost all melted and turned amber in color, reduce heat to low (or take pot off the heat), add warm cream, stirring vigurously with a wooden spoon. Take pot on and off the heat a few times if necessary. Add salted butter. Leave to cool.