recipe by Cynthia Wong, photograph by Chris Court
Known by pastry chefs as beurre noisette (i.e., hazelnut butter), brown butter has a nutty color and a flavor that only tastes complicated. It's what makes our Spiced Bundt Cake and Brown Butter Apple Tart so delicious. Here's how to make it.
THE BUTTER - Rule #1: Don't try to do anything else while you brown butter! It can go from perfectly nutty to basically black in an instant, leaving you at least $5 angrier.
THE BURNER - Melt butter in a saucepan set over medium heat (the edge of the pan should be at least 1″ outside the flame), swirling pan occasionally until foaming subsides.
THE BROWNING - Stirring often, watch until solids turn nut-brown and butter smells toasty, 3-5 more minutes. Not sure it's browned enough? Pull the pan off the burner and check.
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BROWN BUTTER APPLE TART
- 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
- 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
- An 11-inch-diameter or 11x8x1-inch tart pan with removable bottom
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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.)
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.
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