Brown Butter Apple Tart with An Emphasis on BUTTER

The apples are a supporting player in this tart. It's the butter that's the star.

Pretty rounds of apples arrayed all over the top of this tart catch your eye first.

So much so, you’d think they’d be the star of this dessert.

But that’s not the case.

The real hero of this tart is butter.

Browned until it’s nutty and oh-so fragrant.

I’m almost afraid to tell you how much butter there is. I know my family members almost fell over when I told them as I served them slices.

OK, don’t faint. But there are two sticks of butter in the crust. That’s not so bad, though, because you use only half of the dough and freeze the rest for another time. But — gulp — there are also two sticks of butter in the filling. Yes, two.

It’s not a dessert you should eat every day, believe me. But when you want to indulge in the taste of sweet, creamy butter, this is the dessert for you.

“Brown Butter Apple Tart” is from the November 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.’

The dough needs to be made a day ahead so that it has ample time to chill. It’s then blind-baked in a tart pan lined with parchment and pie weights before a filling of browned butter, eggs , sugar and vanilla bean get poured in. Apple slices get arranged over the top before the tart goes back into the oven.

The crust is like a shortbread cookie. The filling is soft, buttery and pastry-like. The recipe calls for an 11-inch diameter tart pan. I only had a 9-inch one, so that’s what I used. If you use that or an 11-by-8-by-1-inch rectangular tart pan, just know that you will have leftover filling.

Whatever pan you use, be sure to roll out your dough super thin. If it’s too thick, you will end up with a hard, cookie-like crust that will be hard to pierce with a fork. That was my mistake when I first made it. Thank goodness, my guests didn’t mind picking up the remaining edges of crust to eat with their fingers. Hey, we’re all family, right?

Embrace the butter. You just have to — every now and then.

Serve slices with dollops of whipped cream, if you like.

Brown Butter Apple Tart

(Serves 8 to 10)

For crust:

  • Nonstick  vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For filling and assembly:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 firm, tart apples (such as Pink Lady or Braeburn), peeled, cored, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rings
  • Whipped cream

Special Equipment

  • An 11-inch-diameter or 11x8x1-inch tart pan with removable bottom


For Crust:

  • Coat tart pan with nonstick spray. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix butter, sugar, and salt until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • Add egg, cream, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add flour all at once and beat until dough almost comes together. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Knead until dough just comes together, 4-5 times. Divide dough in half; form each half into a smooth ball. Flatten into disks and wrap each disk tightly in plastic. Chill 1 disk overnight; freeze second disk for another use.
  • Roll out chilled dough disk between two sheets of plastic wrap, lifting and adjusting plastic as needed, until 1/8-inch thick and 2-inch wider than tart pan. Transfer dough in plastic wrap to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove top piece of plastic from dough. Invert dough into tart pan; press onto bottom and up sides. If dough is soft, chill until firm enough for remaining sheet of plastic to be removed. Trim edges of dough (patch up any holes or tears with extra dough). Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line dough with parchment paper or heavy-duty foil, leaving a 1-inch-2-inch overhang. Fill paper with dried beans or pie weights. Bake tart shell just until dough has dried and does not look wet in any spots, about 20 minutes. (If center still looks wet, bake crust without weights until dried and opaque, a few minutes longer.)

For filling and assembly:

  • Whisk eggs and sugar in a medium bowl just to blend. Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Cook, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns (do not burn), about 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes; remove bean. Slowly whisk brown butter into egg mixture; whisk in flour and salt.
  • Line tart shell with apples. Pour filling over (if using rectangular pan, you may have 1/2 cup excess filling). Bake until apples are deep golden brown and filling is puffed, cracked, and set in center, 70-80 minutes.
  • Let tart cool in pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

From Bon Appetit magazine, November 2012

More Apple Recipes: Joanne Chang’s Apple Snacking Spice Cake

And: Apple-Stuffed Biscuit Buns

And: Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce

And: Apple Pumpkin Walnut Muffins

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