How to make the prettiest apple tart you’ve ever seen

Apple season is so close, I can smell it.

Every fall, I try to go back to Missouri to buy fresh apples from the orchards near my hometown, and although those apples aren’t quite ready yet, the change of seasons is upon us.

Apples from Marionville, Missouri, are one of my favorite things about going back to my hometown in fall. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

If you’re celebrating the Jewish New Year right now, you’re definitely thinking about apples, and even if you aren’t, it’s a good time to celebrate the sweet things in life.

I was so impressed by this apple tart from Irvin Lin’s new book, “Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), that I wanted to run it ahead of a weekend when you might have time to play around with making the apple roses.

Instead of making a traditional apple pie, you can make an apple tart filled with “roses” made with thinly sliced apples. Contributed by Linda Xiao.

Lin gives detailed instructions about how to roll up thin slices of apples, and although yours might not look quite as good as his, it’s still a fun technique to practice, especially with the fall holidays coming up.

RECIPE: Maple Apple Walnut Crunch Pie

If this recipe feels too difficult but you still want to bake something with apples, might I suggest these applesauce muffins or this apple strudel. This double layer apple crisp is probably the easiest apple dessert I can think of, but here’s a recipe for caramel apples, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Apple Roses and Spiced Brown Butter Tart

When I know I have to bust out an impressive dessert, I opt for something like this show-stopping tart, which only requires a little bit of dexterity. Despite the way it looks, this recipe isn’t too difficult, but it’s always a gorgeous presentation dessert for dinner parties. The best part is that it looks like you spent a lot of money at the fancy-pants local bakery. Act all indignant when your guests ask you where you bought it, but secretly know that it actually didn’t take too much effort.

— Irvin Lin

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup dark rum
For the browned butter filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 large vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the apple roses:
2 1/2 pounds (about 5 medium) red-skinned firm apples, such as Braeburn, Gala or Jonagold
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the crumble topping:
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Make the crust: Combine both flours, the sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Toss the butter cubes with your hands to coat, then squeeze until they flatten out, squeezing and tossing until the dough starts to resemble crumbly cornmeal with bits of butter still in flattened chunks. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the rum, then drizzle the liquid over the flour-butter mixture and fold together. As the dry ingredients become moister, work the ingredients together with your hands until they come together and form a dough. If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour into it. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more rum or cold water. The dough should be soft. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a 14-inch circle, but don’t worry if isn’t perfect. This dough is really forgiving. Fit the dough into a 10-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. This recipe makes a little more dough than necessary, so if you need to, use the extra dough to patch up any holes or tears. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork all over, then line with a piece of parchment paper and fill with dried beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights. Freeze the lined pan for about 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until very lightly golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack, and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make the browned butter filling: Combine the butter, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the vanilla pod as well. Add the nutmeg and orange zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts and starts to brown and turn fragrant. Once the butter starts to brown, turn the heat off and let the residual heat bring the butter to the right point. You don’t want to burn the butterfat, you just want it golden brown. Discard the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and vanilla pod. Let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the butter, scraping the brown bits at the bottom of the pan into the bowl. Pour the filling into the crust.

Here’s how to make the apple roses: Cut the apples by placing the apple on its bottom and slicing down near the core, but not close enough to get any seeds. Rotate the apple 90 degrees and slice down again. Repeat two more times until you have a rectangular core, which you can discard, and 4 apple chunks with skin on them. Place the apple chunks flat side down on the cutting board and cut thin lengthwise slices with a sharp knife (or use a mandoline). Each slice should have one flat edge and one rounded edge with a thin piece of red skin. Place the apple slices in a large microwave-safe bowl with the lemon juice. Toss to coat to prevent the apple slices from turning brown. Slice all the apples, continuing to toss the apple slices with the lemon juice as you go. Add the sugar and butter and toss to coat.

Microwave the apple mixture for 1 minute. You don’t want to completely cook the apples, just soften them enough to make them pliable. If they are still too crisp and break when you bend them, cook in additional 15-second increments, testing until they are bendable. The amount of time will depend on how thick you cut the apples and how powerful your microwave is.

Starting with the thinnest, smallest piece you can find, curl the apple slice, with the skin side at the top, into a spiral, forming a rose-like shape. Wrap another, larger slice around the first slice. Build a rose with as many slices as you can. Use a spatula (or the side of a large chef‘s knife) to move the apple rose to the filled tart crust. The filling should help hold the apple roses together. Repeat with the rest of the apple slices, until you have tightly filled the entire surface of the tart. Any gaps in the tart where the roses don’t quite fit can be filled with extra apple slices and smaller roses.

To make the crumble topping: Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and stir together with a fork. Drizzle the butter over the dry ingredients and toss until crumbs start to form and stick together. Sprinkle the crumble in a ring, about 1 inch wide, around the edge of the tart on top of the apples.

Bake until the apples are a rich golden brown and the filling has set and looks puffy and slightly golden, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before releasing the tart from the sides of the pan. Serves 10.

— From “Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More” by Irvin Lin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)