Apples, je t’aime.
This classic French apple custard tart recipe (tarte Normande) offers all the deliciousness of apple pie with the classy satisfaction of a silky French custard tart. This is the apple dessert you’ve been waiting for.
Say “bonjour” to this French apple tart recipe!
I’ll open by saying how much a love a classic apple pie. In fact, I love apple pie so much that I have it on my birthday instead of cake. So other apple desserts have to meet a pretty high bar. And this does.
Meet this tarte Normande, or Normandy apple tart. Rather than a double-crust apple pie, this apple tart combines a sweet butter pastry crust with tart apples and a creamy vanilla custard for a truly special dessert.
What is Tarte Normande?
Tarte Normande, or Normandy tart, is a classic French apple tart. The tart combines a butter tart shell, a cream-based vanilla custard, and sliced apples, all of which are baked until golden.
The Normandy region of Northwest France is known for both its apples and its dairy products. (Anyone who has been lucky enough to enjoy cult-favorite Bordier butter from neighboring Brittany knows what I’m talking about.) This apple custard tart combines the best of both.
This recipe varies slightly from a très correct version.
French Apple Custard Tart: Recipe Steps
Unlike an apple galette, in which fruit is rustically enveloped in a pie crust, a French apple tart has a little more structure and finesse.
- First, make your butter tart dough, or pâte sucrée. Though intelligent minds can differ (David Lebovitz’s version does not par-bake the crust),
- I blind bake the tart shell to ensure maximum crispness. But to kill two birds with one stone, blind bake the pie shell with the apple slices in it. This may sacrifice a bit of crispiness, but the result goes a lot more quickly. Bake until the apples are golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- While the apple-filled tart shell bakes, prepare your custard. Pour the custard over the cooked apples, and bake an additional 30 minutes or so, until set.
- When cool, glaze the top with apricot jam for that classic French tart gloss.
The most authentic French apple tart recipes do not call for cinnamon. However, I do add a little because I think it is a naturally perfect flavor complement to the apples.
What are the best apples for an apple tart?
I wrote an entire article about the best apples for baking apple tarts and pies. It is important to choose a crisp baking apple with sweet, tart flavor and enough structure to not turn to mush when baked.
My favorite baking apple are:
- Granny Smith; but if a very tart apple is not for you, I also love:
- Pink Lady
Avoid super sweet or mealy apples like Fuji (too sweet and too much water content) and Red Delicious (just, no).
How do you cut the apples for this French apple custard tart?
Cut the apple slices (peeled, please) into 1/4″ thick slices. I like a 1/4″ slice for this because it is thin enough to shape into the tart shell and look elegant, but wide enough to maintain its structure.
Should the apple tart be served warm or cold?
Love an apple dessert recipe? You’ll also love:
- Caramel Apple Pie
- Deep Dish Apple Crisp With Oatmeal Streusel
- Homemade Chunky Applesauce
- Hot Mulled Apple Cider
French Apple Custard Tart (Tarte Normande)
For the Tart Shell (Pâte Sucrée)
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon (or so) cold water
For the Tart Filling
- 3 tart baking apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus an additional teaspoon or two if you have particularly tart apples
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup apricot jam
For the Tart Shell (Pâte Sucrée)
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until crumbly. The texture will be like lightly-moistened sand.
- Add the egg yolk and water. Mix in the food processor until the dough comes together in a large ball. It is ok if there is a little loose dough, but it will basically be a whole ball. You may need an additional teaspoon of water.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly-floured surface. Knead it a few times into a smooth ball. Do not overwork the dough. Using the palm of your hand or a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a flat, even disk about eight inches in diameter. Lightly dust both sides with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to about 11" diameter, so that there is enough dough to lay into the tart shell and cover the sides, plus a little overlap.
- Gently drape the tart dough in a 9" tart pan, and gently press the dough into the sides and bottom of the tart pan. Just patch up any tears or holes with a little extra dough.
- Run the rolling pin or a paring knife over the rim of the tart shell to remove the excess dough. This should leave a neat, clean rim. Dock the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Cover the tart shell loosely in plastic wrap or a clean dish towel, and chill for at least one hour, preferably two hours or even overnight.PRO TIP: Chilling the tart shell is an essential part of the technique. The chilling time allows the gluten to relax. This will prevent the tart shell from shrinking when baked, and keeps the texture tender.
For the Apple Tart
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Peel and slice the apples into 1/4" slices. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Arrange the apple slices however you like. I like a circular diagonal pattern, but you can do an overlapping rose pattern working from the outside rim toward the center, or keep it casual and just toss them in.
- Bake the tart shell for about 35 minutes, until the apples and crust are golden brown and the apples have softened a bit.PRO TIP: Set the tart shell on a baking sheet. This makes it much easier to take in and out of the oven.
- While the apples are baking, whisk together the cinnamon, eggs, sour cream, sugar, milk, and vanilla.
- Remove the apple-filled tart shell from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Pour the custard over the apples almost to the rim of the tart shell and apples, leaving a very slight lip and letting the top of the apples show.
- Place the tart back in the oven and bake until the custard is set, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool at room temperature.PRO TIP: You will know the custard is set when it doesn't jiggle or slosh. If you'd like a little more color, you can throw the tart under the broiler for a minute or so (keep an eye on it) to toast the top of the apples.
- When cool, use a fork and a little splash of water to whisk the apricot jam to a smooth texture. Use a pastry brush to brush the tart all over with a thin layer of apricot jam to give it a gloss. You may not use all of it. Chill as needed, and serve at cool room temperature. This tart can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated, covered. Remove the tart from the fridge an hour or so before serving.