In Western popular culture, apples are the food of temptation. They crop up as objects of seduction from Snow White to American Pie. Until Call Me By Your Name came along, they consistently topped Time Out’s “Sexiest Fruits” list. The origins of their tantalizing reputation lie, of course, in that ill-judged Garden of Eden picnic. Despite being a big apple fan, I wonder whether this fruit was really worth getting kicked out of paradise for? If the Tree of Knowledge had been a wine rack, or it was forbidden to suckle the animals, I would’ve been more tempted. One twelfth-century fresco depicts Adam and Eve next to a tree of psychedelic mushrooms, which has a lot more appeal than a Golden Delicious.
Hallucinogens are just one of the alternatives that have been proposed for the couple’s fateful snack, which is never specified in the Bible. Other candidates include pomegranates, apricots and olives – all worthy causes of Original Sin. Surely even Christ couldn’t resist a juicy kalamata? Apples may have earned their status as the “official” forbidden fruit because of a pun. The Latin word malus can mean both apple and evil. This might have had St Jerome slapping his thigh but frankly my Granny Smith could do better. Another explanation for why the fruit became synonymous with sin is an Old English description of Eve: “she hath them apple-bottom jeenes, boots with the fure.” This is harder to verify.
These days, food-related transgressions are more prosaic – late night eclairs, out of date salami, milk stolen from a colleague. Whilst a plain old Cox might not have the seductive pull it once did, a proper French apple tart is hard to resist. Even the most puritanical Bible basher is putty in the hands of a boozy frangipane. On which note, I present my apple tart recipe. It’s so good that it must be a sin.
Apple, almond and rum tart
For the pastry:
125g cold, unsalted butter, cubed
a pinch of salt
6 eating apples
30g unsalted butter
a cinnamon stick
60g soft butter
60g icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
115g ground almonds
1 tsp cornflour
3 tbsp rum
- To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Gradually add 2-3 tbsp of cold water until it comes together. Shape it into a disk and wrap it in clingfilm. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
- Peel and core half of the apples and cut them into small pieces. Put them in a saucepan with the butter, cinnamon stick and a splash of water and cook over a gentle heat until soft. Mash into a puree.
- Beat together the butter, icing sugar and almond essence until fluffy, then gradually whisk in the egg. Gently fold in the ground almonds, cornflour and rum, then finally add the pureed apple.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (170 fan). Grease a shallow pastry tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line the tin with it, pressing it in carefully into the edges and leaving some overhang. Prick the base all over with a fork. Place onto a preheated baking sheet and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush lightly with egg, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Trim off the edges of the pastry and fill the tart tin with the apple and almond mix. Core and thinly slice the remaining apples and arrange them in concentric circles on top of the filling. Bake for around 30 minutes, until golden brown.