Classic Apple Recipes From a Grand French Estate

Do as the aristocrats do, and serve up your garden delicacies with one of these fabulous recipes.
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Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

©2015, Bruno Ehrs

2015, Bruno Ehrs

A treat for formal garden fans, the magnificent French estate Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, featured in the handsome Rizzoli book A Day at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, is one of France's grandest estates. Considered a masterwork of classical architecture, the estate was commissioned by Louis XIV's finance minister Nicolas Fouquet and called the "first Versailles." Catnip to garden fans, the château features a broderie parterre (a parterre with a pattern resembling embroidery, as seen at famous gardens like Versailles) first designed by Andre Le Notre to "civilize nature" and recreated in 1923 by landscape architect Achille Duchêne. The 1,200 acre seventeenth century estate, whose family's crest boasts a very elegant and garden-apropos squirrel, is open to the public, so that contemporary garden fans can revel in the incredible vistas, statuary, fountains and flower beds.

Can't visit this sumptuous estate, but want to sample its riches back home? Countess Cristina de Vogüé, married into the family that owned the estate and has lived on its sumptuous grounds. She eventually helmed an on-site restaurant to serve visitors to the famous château. Inspired by family recipes and her own childhood favorites, de Vogüé created some of the chateau's historic confections for visitors like a recipe for Syster's Farmhouse Apple Tart, an elegant ode to that classic fruit named for de Vogüé's childhood nanny. Another lovely way to celebrate apple-picking season, or any special occasion, de Vogüe's recipe for Apples in Stocking Caps—baked apples with frothy meringue "hats"—brings a sense of whimsy to the table that children will love.

Elegant Apple Tart

Elegant Apple Tart

Photo by: Image courtesy of Flammarion

Image courtesy of Flammarion

The Syster's Farmhouse Apple Tart, featured in Decadent Desserts , gets its unique flavor profile from a mix of nuts, sultanas and apricot jam.

Syster’s Farmhouse Apple Tart

6 servings 
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Rest time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 stick (125 g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • 2 cups (250 g) flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons iced water
  • 4 to 5 apples, sliced
  • 1 handful of sultanas
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons apricot jam

Method 

Crumble up the butter and lard using a bread knife. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the lard and butter mixture and the whole egg. Pour the sugar over the egg and add a large pinch of salt. Start mixing with your hands, and add 3 tablespoons of iced water. Continue kneading to form a ball of pastry. (The butter must not melt). Place the pastry ball in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Remove, place on a floured work surface and roll out. 

Butter a tart dish and lay the pastry in it, drawing the edges well up the sides of the dish. Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes. Place the slices of apple on the pastry, sprinkle with sultanas, walnuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar. When the tart is baked, spread over the apricot jam. 

The tart is best when still warm, but it is also delicious the next day for breakfast. For some occasions the tart might seem too rustic, so I add a touch of sophistication by covering it with a layer of meringue toasted for several minutes in the oven and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds.

Note: This pastry can be stored in the freezer, either rolled out and uncooked in its tart dish, or baked and covered with apples. Reheat the pastry gently in the oven. 

Dressed-Up Apples

Dressed-Up Apples

Photo by: Image courtesy of Flammarion

Image courtesy of Flammarion

This charming recipe for Apples in Stocking Caps comes courtesy of Cristina de Vogüé and is featured in her book Decadent Desserts .

Apples in Stocking Caps

4 servings 
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 baking apples
  • 8 ounces (200 g) mixed dried fruit and nuts (dates, raisins, almonds, or hazelnuts)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 6 heaped tablespoons (80 g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Meringue

  • 2 egg whites
  • 6 heaped tablespoons (80 g) sugar

Chocolate sauce

  • 4 ounces (90 g) cooking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Core the apples and place them in an attractive oven dish. Mix the dried fruits with the orange juice and fill the hole in the apples. Sprinkle each apple with sugar mixed with cinnamon. Place 1 tablespoon of butter on each apple. Pour a drop of water into the dish and cook for just under an hour, basting the apples occasionally with their juices, then remove from the oven. Beat the whites into stiff peaks, adding the first half of the sugar, followed by the second half. Cover the apples in this meringue using a spatula, retaining the shape of the apple. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, until the meringue browns slightly. Keep a close eye on the meringues while they are baking.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla sugar and the egg yolk and mix well. Drizzle this sauce over the apples. Serve lukewarm or cold.

I have often replaced the meringue and the chocolate with much sweetened crème fraîche beaten into a whipped cream or lightly warmed honey. I have also replaced the chocolate with caramel. For the caramel, simply melt sugar to obtain a golden-brown caramel and drizzle it, still boiling, over the meringue.

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