Springtime in Tuscany is perhaps best enjoyed on a sidewalk café in Florence. But if you can’t make it there, you can get a bite of it with Giulia Scarpaleggia’s fantastic Apple Tart.
By Guilia Scarpaleggia
I’ve always lived in the Tuscan countryside, between Siena and Florence, near the Chianti area, in the same house where my father was born and my grandma was born. I am a country girl to the core: I love my quiet village, the woods changing colours as the seasons change. I love to be awakened by the birds singing jolly tunes. I even love the hard side of the country life, cold mornings in the winter and 10 km to the nearest shops.
I see autumn coming when the leaves change colours, putting on fire the woods. I smell the winter coming: the smell of burnt wood in the fireplace welcomes me home more than a steaming cup of tea. I hear the summer coming from the relentless buzz of bees and insects in the fields. What about spring?
In spite of my passion for the countryside, I recognize spring coming in the city centre of Florence! In an lazy late winter afternoon you are there, walking with friends and chitchatting, casting a glance at the shop windows and commenting on the nice sunny weather when you are suddenly captured by a flower smell and you recognize that the air is changed. The air takes that indefinable colour that makes you say that, yes, there we are, we’re living the sweetest time of the year.
Spring to me is flowers, the warm and scented air and the picnics in the garden. Enjoy a slice of fragrant apple tart and feel yourself plunged in a warm, lazy spring Tuscan afternoon.
Making the shortcrust pastry
- 10,5 oz (300 g) white spelt flour
- 5,5 oz (150 g) caster sugar
- 5,5 oz (150 g) softened butter
- grated peel of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and put it on a working surface, make a well in the middle and add the sugar, the salt and the grated peel of one lemon. Beat the egg in a bowl and pour it in the well. Mix the egg with the sugar using your fingers to make a soft dough. Add the softened butter and mix it to the egg and sugar mixture.
When it is totally mixed, rub all the ingredients with your fingertips and make crumbles, then start kneading until you have a nice and smooth ball of dough. Roll it out roughly between two foils of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Making the custard
- 17 fl oz (500 ml) milk
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbs caster sugar
- 2 tbs plain flour
- lemon peel
Heat the milk on medium with the lemon peel: heat until the steaming point. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and flour. Remove the lemon peel from the hot milk and pour it over the egg mixture and bring back to the heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. As soon as the custard is thick and veils the spoon, remove from the heat, cover with cling film and let cool down.
Assembling the tart
- 7 oz (200 g) apricot jam
- cinnamon powder
- 2 Golden delicious apples
- caster sugar
Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 24 cm round baking tin. Take the shortcrust pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll it out. To help roll the dough, keep the dough on top of the parchment paper and dust with the flour. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan.
Flip the dough over the baking tin and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Spread evenly the bottom of the tart with the apricot jam, then cover the jam with a thick layer of custard. Sprinkle the top with a pinch of cinnamon.
Peel and core the apples and slice them into 5 mm thick slices. Cover the tart surface with the apple slices, arranging them as you prefer. Slightly overlap each apple slice, as to cover completely the tart. Sprinkle generously with caster sugar.
Put the tart in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until the tart is of a nice golden hue and the apples are golden brow. When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool completely.