Today is all about celebrating my favourite time of the year: Sunny autumn days that are cooler but still warm enough to be outside and enjoy the leaves turning red, orange and yellow. And if you’re not outside you might feel an urgent drive to finally turn that oven back on and start baking. Because finally one of the most versatile fruit is in season: apples. I personally didn’t start apple season with pie, I started it with these cute and elegant vegan apple tartlets with pâte sablée.
These tartlets or tartelettes are made with a crispy shortbread crust (the pâte sablée) that is very versatile, easy to make, and quite foodlproof. It’s the perfect container for a warming sweet and sour apple filling. And if you want to be a bit fancy, you can top these apple tartlets with a serving of vegan whipped cream substitute.
For the filling I used my favourite kind of baking apples: Boskoop (sometimes also called Boskop or Belle de Boskoop). Every year I am looking forward to them. In my mind these apples are the ones with personality: they are tart and they often have a brown-greenish peel. The peel doesn’t make them super attractive. But they are so aromatic! In Germany these apples are traditionally used for baking because of their tartness and their great texture. If you cannot get your hands on Boskoop, you can of course choose a different apple. It should be a so called baking apple, which means: it will hold its shape during baking. Personally I’d also recommend apples that are slightly tart but that’s just a personal preference.
Now lets talk about the crust: I chose a shortbread crust for these mini apple tarts because it is very easy to work with and I love the crisp texture. Unlike pie crust, a shortbread crust shouldn’t be flaky. It is more delicate and has a lovely tender texture that immediately melts in your mouth.
How to make pâte sablée
Pâte sablée is an easy to make and versatile dough. Usually it requires the addition of an egg or egg yolks. But you can make these mini no egg apple tarts with a tiny bit of cold water instead. If you work quickly, this won’t make a difference.
To achieve a great vegan shortbread crust, it’s important not to overmix the dough. If you do, too much gluten will form and your crust turns out chewy. To avoid that, it’s important to mix the ingredients in a certain order: First you sift together flour and powdered sugar. Then, with your hands, you work in the vegan butter. Mix until the butter and the other ingredients are combined really well. Unlike with pie dough, you don’t want bits of butter still sticking out. Only after everything is combined properly and your dough has turned into fine crumbs, you add a tiny bit of water. Now you have to be quick and knead the dough until it sticks together and you can shape it into a ball.
Also, always cool the dough. It needs to rest for about 60 minutes before you will be able to proceed with your recipe. If this dough gets too warm while shaping and cutting it, it starts to crumble. So whenever that happens it’s a good idea to put it back in the fridge and let it cool down again.
This vegan shortbread dough is not only great for tart shells, you can also use the basic recipe to make sugar cookies or use the crust as a base for shortbread bars. For these apple tartlets, you need to blind bake (pre-bake or par-bake) the shells. Usually it is a great idea to use baking weights for this, so that the dough won’t puff up during baking. Since I don’t own these kind of weights, I simply pricked the dough bottoms with a fork, so that the air would be able to circulate. This prevents the dough from puffing up as well.
How to assemble the apple tartlets and how to use perforated tart rings
For these tartlets you will need a special kind of equipment: perforated tart rings with a diameter of 7 cm. These are great for an evenly baked shortcrust and they are also easy to handle. After you’ve rolled out the dough, you can use one of the rings to cut out 8 circles, which are the bottoms of your apple tartlet crusts. Once cut out, transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Now place the tartlet rings on top of the dough you just cut out. After that you have to cut out 8 long strips which will be the sides of your tartlets.
If at any point the dough gets too warm to work with, place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. It is important to work with a dough which is cold enough to handle (it should not be sticky). But it should not be too cold or it might break. Carefully press the strips to the sides of the rings. Trim any overhanging dough with a sharp knife. Now use a fork to poke holes into the shortbread bottoms. Pre-bake for 25 minutes at 180°C. Let cool and remove rings. The tartlets should have contracted a bit during baking and removing them usually isn’t very difficult.
P.S. This was quite challenging to explain in English! I sweat making these tartlets is easier than reading the recipe. I included a couple of pictures for help, but if you have questions about the method, don’t hesitate to ask!
For the topping (optional)
- ½ recipe vegan whipped cream substitute See recipe notes below for recipe link.
For the pâte sablée
- 210 g all-purpose flour
- 60 g powdered sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 100 g margarine, cubed
- 1 tbsp cold water
For the filling
- 2 tart apples for baking, finely chopped (eg Boskoop)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 2-3 tbsp water
- The night before, prepare half a batch of vegan whipped cream substitute, if using. (See notes for link.)
For the shortbread crust:
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
- Add cubed margarine and knead with your hands until the margarine is incorporated.
- Add water and knead into a smooth dough.
- Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic foil.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 160°C.
- Remove dough from fridge and roll the dough out thinly. (About ½cm.) It's easier to roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap but you can also sprinkle it with flour.
- Use the tart rings to cut out your tartlet bottoms. Put the dough disks on the baking sheet and place the rings on top. Make sure they fit precisely.
- Now cut out 8 long strips which will be the sides of your tartlets.
- Carefully press the dough strips into the tartlet ring sides and cut off any excess dough.
- Use a fork to poke holes into the bottoms so the dough will keep its shape during baking. You can also use baking weights for blind baking.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until the dough has a light golden-brown colour.
- Let cool and remove from the rings. (If the dough is baked prperly, it should fall out right away.)
To make the filling:
- While the tartlets are baking, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the apples are soft and start to fall apart a bit (about 15 minutes). Let cool.
- Put the filling into the tartlets.
- If using, transfer the vegan whipped cream substitute into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe on top of the filling.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge. The tartlets will keep for up to three days. (Although the vegan whipped cream substitute tends to dry out quickly.)
If you are looking for a simple but still stunning apple cake recipe, I recommend this Santana Apple Cake.