A whistlestop tour of delicious French tarts25-08-2017
Every French region boasts at least one tart that is part of a whole tradition kept alive by passing precious recipes down through the generations. Read on for a taste of what France has to offer:
Still rated as one of the great classic French tarts, tarte Tatin boasts unique history.
Legend has it that tarte Tatin originated in Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne towards the end of the 19th century. The Tatin sisters ran a very popular hotel-restaurant opposite the station. Caroline, the elder of the two, provided front of house, while Stephanie commanded the kitchen. Food lovers travelled from far and wide to taste the house speciality, apple tart, which was served caramelised and melting in the mouth. So was the famous tarte Tatin victim of a simple cooking mishap? Did the Tatin sisters drop the tart before deciding to turn it upside down in an attempt to salvage their oeuvre? The truth was in fact a very different story: the “upside-down” tart made from apples or pears was in fact an ancient speciality from the Sologne region and found across the whole of Orleans, simply made famous by the Tatin sisters.
Perfect pairing: AOC Blanquette de Limoux from the Languedoc or AOP Quarts de Chaume from Anjou-Saumur would be a great match for this dessert.
This traditional dish from Alsace or Lorraine originated among the farming community after the second world war. Very simple to make, it has always consisted of rolled out bread dough in a rectangle, topped with local “Bibeleskas” soft cheese and/or fresh cream and garnished with lardons and onions and oven-baked. Tarte flambée is great for sharing and is traditionally enjoyed as finger-food surrounded by a throng of friends and family.
Perfect pairing: try with a lovely, white wine from Alsace, such as Gewurztraminer or Sylvaner, an Alsace rosé made from Pinot Noir, or a local Alsace beer.
Over to south-west France now to discover this star act created by Alexandre Micka. On launching his first patisserie in 1955 in Saint-Tropez, he created a cream brioche inspired by his grandmother’s recipe, which still remains a deeply-guarded secret to this day. It takes a unique set of skills to make this subtle mix of two different creams, nestling inside a rich brioche pastry, and sprinkled with a generous dusting of crunchy sugar crystals. But the story doesn’t end there. Brigitte Bardot discovered this deliciously creamy brioche when filming Roger Vadim’s famous film And God created woman. An ardent food lover, the actress fell in love with the sweet delicacy, which is how she became its devoted ambassador, suggesting that Alexandre Micka promptly rename his speciality Tarte Tropezienne.
Perfect pairing: tarte Tropezienne is a heavenly match with a young, sweet white wine such as AOC Rasteau from the Rhone Valley or AOC Blanquette de Limoux from Languedoc.
Tarte aux pralines
Praline tart is a speciality from the city of Lyon, created by renowned chef Alain Chapel. Yet it seems the delicacy has always existed on dessert menus on every bistro and eating establishment, and adorning patisserie shelves. This gastronomic capital produces many different variations, which take centre stage in a great number of patisseries. But the most famous patisserie of all, and certainly the most popular, is Chez Jocteur, on the island of Ile Barbe, surrounded by the river Saone.
Top tip for making this tarte (see recipe below), opt for super fine pralines made with almonds and avoid bitter almonds, which are effectively apricot kernels.
Perfect pairing: Go for a relatively young white wine from Languedoc-Roussillon. Think a delicious PGI Sable de Camargue sparkling white wine.
Apples are synonymous with the French region of Normandy. The region is known not only for its high-quality fruit, but also its delicious gastronomy. The two go hand in hand. This Normandy tart alone is an essential part of the cultural identity of the region, and the two regions of Basse and Haute-Normandie each believe they produce the finest examples. Basically, tarte Normande is an apple tart with a delicious frangipane filling made from flour, eggs, cream and sugar, and a dash of local calvados for good measure. For it to be really good, the key is to use a liberal quantity of sliced apples, perfectly arranged in an overlapping spiral pattern. The apples should be deliciously caramelised on the surface when baked.
Perfect pairing: this tart is crying out for a sweet wine. From the many delicious dessert wines made in France, seek out an AOC Savennières from Anjou in the Loire.
Recipe : tarte aux pralines
Proposed by Richard Seve, one of France’s top 10 maitre chocolatiers, based in Lyon.
– 250g pink pralines roses made with chopped almonds
– 250g single cream
– 200g flour
– 30g ground almonds
– 120g softened butter
– 70g icing sugar
– 1 egg
First make the pastry:
Mix the butter, sugar and ground almonds, together with 50g of flour. Mix well, add the egg and mix again before adding the remaining flour to make a dough. Knead the dough with your hands, form a ball and flatten slightly. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Heat the oven to 180°C. Remove the pastry from the fridge, and using a rolling pin, roll out to a thickness of 3mm and carefully line a tart tin. Prick with a fork and bake blind for 18 minutes.
Next make the praline cream filling:
Place the cream in a pan and heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and add the pralines, stirring vigorously.
Then carefully pour the filling into the pastry case. Transfer back to the oven and bake until the praline cream is bubbling merrily. This should take around 8 minutes.