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Searching For Simca
Looking through the Google Statistics, which seem almost impenetrable to me, I am always fascinated to see what shows up as a popular post or recipe in KD. And in the runes of the graphs and numbers, I was surprised to see so many searches for Simca Beck’s recipes. One of the high ranking searches is for her recipe for a cake she titled Diabolo in her first cookbook written for the US market. Another winner is her flat chocolate soufflé credited to one of her students in another book, which to my mind is just the ticket if you are afraid of failed soufflés.
A Power Couple
Mary Bond, who taught me much about French cooking and had earned a Paris Cordon Bleu Grand Diplôme, was acquainted with all three founders of L’ecole des Trois Gourmands. She, along with other cooks in that circle, felt that Simca was unmatched as a recipe developer and creator. She, too, had a husband who loved good food and had a very refined palate. Anyone who has read any of the memoirs or seen the TV series knows that Paul Child was a “bec fin.” But not a lot is known about Simca’s spouse Jean Fischbacher, a chemist for a perfume company and a lover of chocolate – Paul Child was a lover of bananas – who also had a great palate which his wife catered to throughout her recipe exploration.
This recipe from my tattered and splattered copy of Simca’s Cuisine is not one of her chocolate creations for Jean, but rather an apple one for James Beard. He was a frequent guest at the Beck-Fischbacher retirement digs in Provence, and she created this unusual apple tart for a dinner in honor of him. According to Evan Jones, the food writer whose wife Judith shepherded both writing careers of Julia Child and Simca Beck, the latter felt particularly indebted to James Beard, as he had been quite influential in promoting her writing and teaching careeer in the US.
A Very Different Tart
This tart can be made with apples that are not in prime condition – ditto the raisins. It’s one reason why it’s a great recipe for the post-holiday months, when local apples are not in great shape. I have made it in a 10 inch (25cm) tart pan, where the filling is more classically thin in the French style, and also in a smaller American style pie pan that creates a thicker filling. Both are delicious, as well as totally different from traditional apple tarts and pies. I am devoted to Cathy Barrow’s pie crusts and use them for this tart as well. Pulverized almonds can be purchased in most grocery stores under the term almond flour or almond powder. Instead of apricot jam, I currently use an organic Italian apricot fruit spread I purchase at MOMs. It has a fresher and less sweet flavor than the apricot jam I used to purchase for pastry work. Like many of Simca’s recipes, this is easy to put together, and I think you will be suruprised at how unusual this is as an apple dessert.
- Pastry crust of your choice
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) of apricot jam
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
- 1/2 cup (48gr) pulverized almonds
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup (53gr) raisins
- 2 large or 3 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated - should have 1 1/2 cups (355ml) loosely packed grated apples -you can mix them with a squeeze of lemon to keep them from discoloring.
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons (60ml) unsalted butter,melted
- Roll out the crust of your choice and line it in either style of pan - tart pans with removable bottoms make a prettier presentation.
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
- Paint the crust with the apricot jam and prick crust bottom with a fork, thne store in refrigerator while you make the filling.
- Beat the yolks in a bowl and slowly add the sugar and salt, beating continuously until the sugar is absorbed and the mixture is thick and lemon colored.
- Add the pulverized almonds and raisins
- Peel the apples (you may rub them with a lemon to keep them form discoloring) and shred on a large hole grater.
- There may be excess moisture when you add the apples, so get rid of that before mixing them into the yolk mixture.
- Add the cinnamon and thoroughly combine.
- Fill your pastry shell and bake in a preheated oven (350F) for 20 minutes.
- Remove the tart from the oven and raise the temperature to 375F.
- Prick the top of the tart in several places and pour the melted butter over so that it seeps down inside the filling.
- Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes - it should be golden and perhaps brown in a few areas.
- Unmold, if you have baked it in a tart ring or tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- It stores well in the refrigerator and can briefly reheated for later servings.
- Have served this with both ice cream and whipped cream as a garnish, but it is delcious just by itself.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.