These apple domed tartlets are composed of a cinnamon sablé Breton cookie topped with delicious caramel apples. This recipe adapted from renowned chef Christophe Michalak is a twist on the classic tarte tatin.
How to Make Domed Tartlets
Let’s quickly go through the process before we dive into the details:
- Cook the apples until tender.
- Prepare dry caramel.
- Add hot heavy cream and gelatin to make caramel sauce.
- Combine with the apples.
- Pour into molds and freeze.
- Prepare the sablé Breton.
- Bake and cool down at room temperature.
- Assemble the domed tartlets and thaw in the fridge until serving.
We’ll start by cooking the apples with butter and honey until tender. You’ll need about 4 medium sized apples that have been peeled and diced into 1/2 cm (0.2 inch) pieces. I prefer to weigh the apples (500 g/17.6 oz.) after I’ve diced them to make sure I get consistent results.
The choice of apples used will depend on availability in your country and your preference. The main thing to look out for when choosing apples is that they keep their shape when cooked and don’t become mushy.
Some examples of apples suitable for cooking are: Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn. If you’re not sure, ask the grocer for advice. They will generally be able to recommend the best apples for cooking. Depending on the sweetness you are looking for, you can use sweet apples or a combination of sweet and tangy apples. I use Starking Delicious.
We’ll be making dry caramel which consists of cooking the sugar (without water) in a thin layer until melted and caramelized. I like to use a large saucepan so that I can pour all the sugar in one go and still get a thin layer. If you use a smaller saucepan, you’ll have to pour part of the sugar, wait for it to melt before sprinkling some more on top.
Cook the sugar over low heat so that it caramelizes evenly. The caramel is ready when it turns amber. It will have developed complex flavors without becoming bitter.
The sweetness of the caramel will decrease as the color darkens and intensifies. The darker the caramel, the more bitter it will become.
The sablé Breton is a rich cookie with a sandy texture and a subtle salty kick. It is composed of:
- Egg yolks: For richness, flavor, color and structure.
- Sugar: The sablé Breton is generally sweetened with white granulated sugar. I chose to use a combination of white sugar and brown sugar which pairs nicely with the apples. But you can easily replace the brown sugar with white sugar for a crispier cookie (so use a total of 75 g/2.6 oz. white sugar).
- Butter: French recipes will generally call for salted butter. I’m using unsalted butter (which is what I generally use for baking) and adding a little bit of salt. Use European style butter if possible which has a higher fat content (at least 82%) and less water than American brands.
- Flour: All-purpose flour for structure. I like to add a little bit of ground cinnamon to the flour since it goes so well with apples!
- Baking powder: It will make the cookies airier and give them a characteristic texture. Decreasing the amount used will make the cookies softer.
This dough contains a large amount of butter and has to be chilled before baking. It is sometimes baked in a mold so that it puffs up and remains tall without spreading. Since I’m guessing a few of us don’t have the molds, I chose to bake it like a cookie by simply placing it on parchment paper.
Cooking the apples
- In a large saucepan, heat the butter with the honey on medium-high heat until melted.
- Add the diced apples and cook until tender and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the caramel sauce. You can check if the apples are cooked enough by inserting a fork. They should be soft but not mushy.
Making caramel sauce
- Soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water and set aside for about 10 minutes. Tip: Make sure the sheets are not stuck together so they are fully hydrated.
- In the meantime, pour the sugar evenly on the bottom of a large saucepan. Use a saucepan wide enough so that you get a thin layer of sugar. Otherwise, you’ll have to add the sugar progressively, waiting for the first (thin) layer of sugar to melt before adding more.
- Place over medium-high heat. As soon as the sugar starts to melt, decrease the heat to low. Keep cooking until all the sugar has dissolved and turned amber. Lower the heat even further if the sugar is changing color too quickly. Tip: It’s best not to stir the sugar until it has almost completely melted. Carefully shake the saucepan instead, if needed, to even out the sugar layer. When there are just a few undissolved sugar crystals left, you can gently push them towards the melted sugar with a heatproof spatula.
- Remove from the heat and keeping the saucepan far from you, add the hot heavy cream in 3-4 additions, stirring immediately with a heatproof spatula. The extremely hot caramel will bubble up so please be very careful. Tip: Make sure the heavy cream is hot and add it very slowly to prevent lumps from forming. If you do end up with lumps, place over very low heat and keep stirring until the caramel is smooth again.
- Let it cool down slightly (1-2 minutes) then squeeze the gelatin sheets to get rid of excess water and add to the caramel sauce. Stir until fully combined.
- Add the cooked apples.
- Stir to fully coat the apples with caramel sauce.
- Divide evenly between 6 cavities (6.5 cm/2.6 inches) of a large semi sphere silicone mold. Use a large spoon to press the apples down and smooth the surface after filling. Tip: Place the silicone mold on a baking sheet so it’s easy to move around.
- Cool down at room temperature then cover and freeze on a flat surface for at least 3 hours (or until firm enough to unmold).
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugars (white and brown) until lightened in color (about 2 minutes).
- Make sure the butter has softened enough by pressing it with a spoon before adding it to the egg yolk mixture. If it isn’t, you can heat it in the microwave to soften it faster but be careful not to melt it. Heat it in very short increments and stir every time so it warms up evenly.
- Add the softened butter to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined. You can mix with a spoon (or a spatula) if you prefer.
- Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stop mixing as soon as you no longer see streaks of flour. The mixture will look very dry initially but will come together as you keep mixing it.
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 6 mm (1/4 inch). Chill for about 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie cutter about 6.3 cm/2.5 inches (or slightly smaller than the molds used for the apples), cut at least 6 circles. Tip: The cookies will spread during baking so it’s best to make them slightly smaller than the desired size.
- Transfer to prepared baking sheet and chill once more while you preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F), conventional setting. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly darker and firm.
- Cool down slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool down completely at room temperature.
- To assemble the tartlets: Unmold the apple domes about two hours before serving and place on the cookies. Thaw in the fridge then decorate with whipped cream or serve with ice cream, if desired. Enjoy! The longer you keep the assembled tartlets in the fridge, the softer the cookie becomes. Depending on your preference, you can assemble the dessert several hours ahead of time (for a soft base) or just enough to thaw the apple dome (for a crunchier base).