Home > All recipes, dessert, dessert > Tarte Normande (apple custard tart)

Tarte Normande (apple custard tart)

In high school both Maressa and I went on a student exchange to Geneva – home to Lac Leman, Gruyere and about 13 of my ex-boyfriends .  At 16, I was anything but easy to take care of, and I think that sometimes my short, cheerful and extremely friendly host mother (Isabelle) had no idea what to do with me. I was a semi-vegetarian who dated older guys, had a lose nut over those little containers of pre-packaged chocolate mousse and did not understand why it would not be acceptable to go out late on weeknights. Like, every weeknight. Isabelle kept a constant store of Swiss junk food in the house which was to be consumed in small quantities and shared among the family – and my pantry raids were a source of constant chagrin. I would sneak up to my room with a giant Swiss chocolate bar stuffed with hazelnut paste and a package of dark chocolate covered biscuits and devour my contraband without sharing a single piece. It was heaven.  And since the drinking age in Geneva is 16 years of age – I was having the time of my life. I began to appreciate the nuances of a good red wine and still remember my Christmas eve introduction to Calvados – another of my great loves. Which is how it came to be that five months after my arrival I found myself chain-smoking in the departures gate  of the Geneva International Airport with a broken heart, tears streaming down my face as I said goodbye to one of the few places on earth that understood that bread with high quality chocolate was a balanced breakfast.

As I began the trek back to rural Ontario there were a few things I took home with me that were more long-lasting than my relationship with my then French-Italian-Spanish speaking boyfriend (older, of course). While the 25-30 chocolate bars in my suitcase and large vat of Nutella barely made it through customs (and amazingly, the five bottles of wine also made it through customs, given I was still 3 years under the drinking age in Canada) – what I did not know then that I do now, is that my tastes were permanently changed that year. As I left Switzerland for the first but not the last time, thanks to Isabelle I understood the value of a good pureed soup made fresh every day, had begun to truly appreciate the beauty that could be created by simply combining tomatoes and mozzarella, and could bake what I now know is a pretty close approximation of a Tarte Nourmande (Julia Child, Essentials of French Cooking).

 I did not make it for about 5 years, until I found myself one day in the kitchen wishing I had more than a couple apples so that I could make a proper crisp. I looked in my freezer, saw puff pastry and thought back to that day in the kitchen when Isabelle threw it together in about 3 minutes flat – talking me through it all the while in an attempt to make me closer to a nice Swiss girl. The results were not perfect – and I never did become that nice of a girl —  but it was the easiest thing to make.  I kept making it whenever I was in a hurry and short on ingredients– substituting Bartlett pears or plums on occasion with stellar results.

Every time I make this tart it is different – but none of my concoctions have ever trumped the simple beauty of Julia Child`s recipe – which is more work than  I might like sometimes but still very easy. The only catch with using puff pastry is that it must be eaten the day it is baked in order to prevent sogginess from setting in. I can usually manage.

 Mom – O – Meter           4 out of 5

This tarte is fast and easy to make – but cutting and peeling apples is not easy while holding a baby who is just starting to reach for things. Other than that, the prep is quick and it dirties almost no dishes if made with frozen puff pastry. Usually, it disappears quite quickly – which is the downside.

Tarte Nourmande: Adapted from Julia Child and Simone Beck’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking


1 sheet frozen puff pastry – thawed
3 or 4 large apples – I use whatever I have around
Half cup of sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Half cup of cream
¼ cup flour
3 tablespoons calvados
2 tablespoons of Icing Sugar (approximate)

The proper way to do it:

Preheat the oven to 375. Roll out your puff pastry to fit into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Press it gently into the pan being careful not to stretch it too much as it will shrink back while in the oven. Patch any rough areas with excess pastry and then if you have a classic pan with a sharp edge along the top slide your rolling pan over it to remove any excess pastry. Throw in some pie weights (dry beans also work) and put it in the oven at 375 to bake for about 10-15 minutes if time and patience allows.

Peel and thinly slice your apples – no need to go to crazy over uniformity or appearance here. Toss on some sugar and arrange them in a roughly circular pattern with extras mounded in the middle, and continue baking the tart for another 20 minutes or so. Pull it out, allow to cool slightly while you quickly whisk together the rest of the ingredients (start with the egg and whisk until it forms a ribbon, then add sugar, then cream, then flour and finally Calvados) – and pour them overtop. Back in the oven, and after a few minutes you can sprinkle on some icing sugar, as the tart begins to puff up. Continue cooking until tart is done – around another 20 minutes.


The lazy way to do it:

I often just throw the pastry into the tart pan and put it in the oven, then do the apples and toss them on as soon as they are ready, followed by the custard I have just whipped in a 2 cup measuring cup with a small whisk. The custard bakes a bit long but then you can just forget about it once it is in the oven. Truthfully, it is not quite as good – but sometimes I am craving tart and am willing to settle for less.


Julia Child’s is the lighter one, the quick version is the “more rustic” one at the bottom.

  1. Sarah
    November 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    This sounds amazing! I have a question for you: I currently live in Honduras (Peace Corps) and I am constantly asking foodie bloggers to help me out. I have been looking for a recipe adaptation of some kind of tart/crisp/pie (my boyfriend’s favorite) however I don’t have access to frozen pie crusts or puff pastry –I wish… Oh, and apples are kind of expensive here too.
    Any ideas for a crisp totally from scratch made with mangos? Those are super-cheap here.
    I’d appreciate your thoughts!

    • November 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm


      Mango crisp is an awesome idea. I saw your posting when I got up this morning and thought…oatmeal…I don’t think so! I actually had a mango sitting on the counter…so I had a mini mango crisp for breakfast. It was fantastic. Here is the recipe I used – but you could use any crisp recipe and just pull out the cinnamon and use something that goes better with mango. For a full sized crisp I would use: 5 cups diced mango sweetened to taste with sugar and lemon, and combine 1/2 cup each of melted butter, brown sugar, flour, rolled oats and chopped nuts in another bowl with 1/3 tsp of ground ginger. Pack it on top of the fruit in a baking dish and bake at 350 for about an hour – depends on how ripe the mangoes are and how brown you like it. I like the top a bit crunchy. Also – use any type of nut that you have locally – I used walnuts and they were good but I have seen a recipe that uses macadamia nuts for mango crisp and it looks fabulous. Also – you can put some cornstarch in with the mangoes to thicken them if you like but I prefer them straight up.

      I took a picture but can’t figure out how to put it in a comment:) I will try to figure it out…

  2. November 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Mmmm..have been craving Normande apple tart for awhile. Lovely to find your page, now I need to go make some Calvados caramel sauce to put on top….

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