Ina Garten's Go-To Trader Joe's Dessert Makes Entertaining Too Easy

Being a dinner guest at the Hamptons, New York home of The Barefoot Contessa would be a dream opportunity on any foodies' bucket list. The meal would no doubt be beautifully presented and undoubtedly delicious — but as any fan of Ina Garten's various cooking shows knows, there's a good chance it wouldn't be 100% homemade.

Garten's brand has become synonymous with the catchphrase "store-bought is fine," a sentiment she has echoed countless times on her Food Network series. Garten's philosophy encourages home cooks to purchase a dish or ingredient if the store makes it as good (or better) than they can; for example, it's why she doesn't make vanilla ice cream from scratch. Garten often uses quality store-bought substitutions and makes them look and taste homemade by adding extra touches, like mixing in sour cream and Parmesan cheese to frozen or boxed mashed potatoes.

Her tip is perhaps the most useful over the holidays when meals are true feasts, and hosts often get stuck in the kitchen all day, missing out on key moments with their guests. The chef brought this up while appearing on a "Today" show segment about simplifying holiday dinners. In fact, Garten shared that, when she recently hosted dinner with some friends, she served a warm Trader Joe's French apple tart, which was "absolutely delicious."

Whether you are hosting or just love apple tarts, here's what you can expect from Garten's go-to dessert that makes entertaining easy.

Trader Joe's French apple tart is great for dinner parties

According to Trader Joe's website, its French apple tart was created by a master pastry chef who once prepared the same recipe for the president of France. TJ's version is a favorite of Ina Garten who likes to place it in the oven before her guests arrive so the intoxicating aromas greet them as they walk into her home for her dinner parties.

Unlike a traditional double-crust apple pie, this French apple tart is made with apricots, vanilla, Northern Spy, and Granny Smith apples laid out on a buttery shortbread crust. The naked apples are arranged in a fan shape and glazed with apricot preserves to leave the exposed filling glossy.

Trader Joe's retails the 20-ounce tart for $7.99, which feeds four people comfortably, especially when you serve it a la mode like Garten does; she serves the tart warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (likely Häagen-Dazs) and then drizzles it with caramel sauce. 

Sadly, Trader Joe's French apple tart isn't available year-round. The popular grocery store sold its now famous French apple tart around Thanksgiving last year, and we're crossing our fingers it returns again this year. If you can't find one, there are some easy apple desserts you can quickly make at home instead.

Semi-homemade apple dessert recipes

If you can't find Ina Garten's favorite Trader Joe's treat, there are other options to create a nearly homemade apple tart or pie. Store-bought refrigerated crust is delicious and enables home cooks to prepare and serve apple pie in under an hour. Purchasing the dough in a roll like Pillsbury's gives more freedom to create an impressively-designed top crust, too. Sold two pie crusts to a package, it's fast to whip up a traditional double-crust apple pie or individual tarts using this grocery staple.

Then, create the filling using a combination of Cortland, Russet, and Granny Smith apples flavored with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cinnamon. This mixture gives you a slightly sweet and tart apple flavor that won't turn mushy in the oven.

Since you have purchased the pie crust and saved time on making it yourself, invest in creating a braided or lattice top by weaving half-inch strips of dough. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and cover the filling with a motif like leaves for an autumn dessert, or get cheeky and spell out a word or phrase. Similarly, small cookie cutters can stamp a pattern on the top crust before draping it on the filling. You can use the cutouts to decorate the crimped edges, too.

Individual apple pies can be made by cutting the pie crust with a large round cookie cutter. To do so, fit the circles along the bottom and sides of an ungreased muffin tin topped with a homemade apple pie filling. Bake until the crust is golden and the apples are bubbling. Then, follow Garten's lead and serve the pies warm with ice cream.