Serving individual desserts is a nice way to make the people around your table feel special. Especially after a big, family-style dinner when everyone is sharing large platters of food, a little something sweet plated just for one is a nice touch at the end of a meal.
I love the simplicity of this apple tartlet – it looks bakery-special, but it’s easy to put together. I like to use a high quality prepared all-butter puff pastry that I can buy frozen at Whole Foods, but use whatever pastry dough is your favorite.
The only real project with this recipe is making the caramel, which can be made days – and up to 2 weeks – ahead. It just needs to be warmed to a pourable consistency just before serving. (You could (shhhhh) use a prepared caramel sauce to make life even easier)
But do try to use flaked salt such as Maldon - it adds a delicate crunch that doesn’t really happen with regular or coarse salt.
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 sheet all-butter frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted in the refrigerator (I like Dufour brand)
2 apples, peeled
1 tablespoon melted butter
4 teaspoons sugar
Flaked sea salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling
- To make the caramel sauce, put the sugar in a 2 -3 quart heavy saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the sugar until it melts into syrup, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon (NOT a metal spoon, which will get very hot and burn your hand).
- Once the sugar is completely melted, let it cook undisturbed until it’s amber-colored. Lower the heat and very slowly dribble the cream into the pan. The mixture will bubble up intensely so be careful. When the bubbling subsides, bring the caramel to a simmer, whisking until any hardened lumps melt back into the sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and butter until smooth. If you end up with a few stubborn pieces of hardened sugar, you can strain the sauce into a heatproof glass measuring cup.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to flatten slightly. Cut out 4 5-inch diameter circles with a pastry cutter or use the upside-down rim of a small bowl.
- Transfer the circles to an ungreased baking sheet. Cut the apples in half and remove the core. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices, keeping them together as you slice. Unfurl the slices onto each pastry circle, fanning them in a circular pattern to cover the dough. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon sugar.
- Bake 15 – 20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the edges of the tarts are puffed and golden.
- Reheat the caramel to pouring consistency if has cooled, and spoon some sauce over each tart. Sprinkle with a little flaked salt and serve warm.
- You’ll have more caramel sauce than you need for the tarts, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks to use in any way you like.