Long before my trip to Peru last summer I had already read about El Pan de la Chola, a bakery in Lima’s Miraflores district opened by a British guy called Jonathan Day. Trying to absorb as much as possible about baking sourdough bread, I kept on coming across people writing about El Pan de la Chola – it is after all one of the few well-known bakeries selling sourdough bread in South America.
By the time I made it to Lima last summer, I was at the end of our 2 week whirlwind tour of Peru. With departure time inching closer and closer I was,’t all that keen on tracking down a bakery when I could spend my final hours eating ceviche and downing pisco sours. But then El Pan de la Chola happens to be just a few blocks down from Gaston Acurio’s La Mar, where I had my final lunch. So in the end I wandered over to see what the fuss was all about. And I was not disappointed.
The loaves at El Pan de la Chola are nothing but really impressive. Stuffed as I was I quickly decided that I could not leave Peru without trying their bread. So I ordered a sandwich to go to have on my flight later that evening and bought a loaf of sesame-crusted sourdough to take bake home. While there, I also briefly sat down for a coffee and a tiny apple tarte.
As good as the bread at El Pan de la Chola is (and it is really really good), what has stayed with me all these months is the memory of this tiny apple tarte I had at El Pan de la Chola. It looked really unassuming. And the only reason I ordered it was because it was tiny enough I figured I would just about have space for it on top of the massive seafood feast I had just had at La Mar. And then I was totally surprised by how delicious it was.
It had this beautifully crisp shell that was full of hazelnuts. And then I was totally surprised by the filling – it was like a beautiful light and fluffy hazelnut cake topped with just enough apple slivers to stop the tarte from being too try. I knew I had to try and recreate this hybrid apple tart-cake as soon as I got back home.
This apple-tarte cake hybrid is a real crowd-pleaser. Whether you prefer apple cake to apple tarte (or the other way around) or are nuts about nuts, this apple tarte is basically for everyone. Just like at El Pan de la Chola, there is a firm and crunchy base full of ground hazelnuts. Then there is a soft and fluffy filling, made with plenty of hazelnuts, browned butter and cinnamon. Not unlike a financier really. And to top it all off there are lots and lots of apple pieces nestled on top (and I will let you in on a secret: this is the perfect kind of tarte or cake to use up apples that are starting to show their age a little bit).
An apple tarte that is a real crowd pleaser
Note: The apple tarte we had at El Pan de la Chola was made with hazelnuts but I suspect this would work equally well with other nuts. Almonds and apples would be lovely I am sure. I can also imagine a pear and walnut version of this tarte.
For the tarte base
Pinch of Salt
For the filling
3 egg whites
90g browned butter
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2 apples, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into 1/5cm thick pieces
25g chopped hazelnuts
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Add the hazelnuts, flour, sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the hazelnuts are finely ground and the mixture is starting to come together. Don’t worry if the mixture seems very dry – this will all even out in the oven. Add the mixture to a 23cm tarte pan with a removable bottom and, using the back of a spoon, evenly press the mixture into the tarte pan. Prick all over with a fork, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tarte base is starting to colour.
Remove the tarte base from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 180 degrees Celsius.
For the filling, pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until fairly finely ground but with a few larger chunks remaining. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg whites with the sugar, ground hazelnuts, flour, salt, cinnamon and browned butter. Pour onto the tarte base.
Scatter the apple slivers all over the top of the tarte and sprinkle with the demerara sugar and chopped hazelnuts. Bake for a further 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the filling comes out clean and the top of the apple tarte is starting to colour.
Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing the tarte from the tarte pan.
Serve as is or with lightly whipped cream.