Confession: I had never made caramel before I made it for this salted caramel apple tart.
That could be the reason why my first attempt was a flop. I followed Adrianna’s instructions exactly, but ended up with clumps of hard caramel protruding like icebergs from a puddle of smooth-ish caramel. I didn’t take a picture (for obvious reasons), but the sight made me laugh.
Then I cleaned my pot and whisk, grabbed my copy of Joy the Baker’s cookbook, measured new ingredients, and tried again. I slightly adapted Joy’s recipe for “Almost Burnt Salted Caramel Sauce”. It took a bit longer than my first attempt, but I ended up with beautifully smooth, salty-sweet caramel that was totally worthy of an apple tart.
Note: If you’ve never made caramel before either, don’t let it scare you away from trying this tart. It really wasn’t hard at all, though it does require several minutes of constant attention. Do make sure that all of your ingredients are measured and ready before you start.
For the pastry:
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (6.5 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
For the caramel:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1½ teaspoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream, slightly warmed
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (I don’t have Maldon, but I used my Himalayan pink sea salt :))
For the filling:
3 Gala apples, peeled, sliced into ¼-inch slices, cored
1 Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (I didn’t use this, because my nutmeg seemed to be hiding, but if you can find yours, by all means add it!)
¼ teaspoon allspice
First make the pastry. Beat the butter until smooth. Cream the sugar and the butter until fluffy. Beat in the egg. On low speed, mix in the flour and salt until the dough holds together. Gather the dough into a ball with your clean hands, and set it on a piece of plastic wrap. Pat the ball into a disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
To make the caramel, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in the pot and whisk occasionally while it heats. Cook the sugar until it turns a, well, dark caramel color. At this point, turn the heat down to low and whisk in the butter. The mixture will bubble. Once the butter is melted and completely incorporated, whisk in the cream. It will bubble up again. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Pour the caramel into a glass cup and allow it to cool.
Lightly coat a removable-bottom tart pan with cooking spray. Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a well-floured surface. Roll it into a circle large enough for the tart pan you’re using. I have a 10-inch pan, and rolled my crust to about 12-inches. If it is too cold and wants to crack, just leave it for 10-15 minutes, or until it is soft enough to roll out easily, but still cold. Roll the dough over your rolling pin and ease it into the tart pan and up the sides. Gently press (but don’t stretch) the dough into the pan and trim the edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent the crust from bubbling when it bakes. Cover with plastic and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For the filling, toss the apples with lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), and allspice in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the apples and toss to coat.
Arrange the apples in the tart shell. Pour any juice from the apples over the top. Now you’re going to pour some caramel over the apples, but by this time the caramel might be too thick to pour. If it is, just heat it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Then pour about ¼ cup evenly over the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are soft. Allow the tart to cool for a few hours before serving, with extra caramel drizzled over each delicious slice :)