October 22, 2008

Tarte Tatin

I've fallen in love again...with Tarte Tatin.

It's not surprising that Tarte Tatin, one of the quintessential French desserts, is so celebrated.
Any dessert that combines buttery, sticky, caramelized fruit nestled in a cushion of buttery, golden, flaky pastry (and hopefully topped with vanilla bean ice cream) deserves to be worshiped.

quartered and ready to go

caramelizing slowly

Each rich mouthful of Tarte Tatin it is sheer, unadulterated bliss.

it could have been prettier, but it was so good we didn't care!

Want to know another great thing about Tarte Tatin? It is dead easy to make.
(and even easier if made with pre-rolled, pure butter French pastry)*

Tarte Tatin
Serves 8

1 recipe for pâte brisée (see below) or a frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17-18 ounce box), thawed, or 1 pre-rolled pastry
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
about 3-4 pounds of firm apples, peeled, cored and quartered

You'll need either a 10 inch tatin mold or well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet (I use a sauté pan then transfer the apples and caramel to a ceramic baking dish before topping with the pastry and going into the oven because I don't have either a tatin pan or a cast iron skillet. But I don't let that stop me)

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Roll the thawed puff pastry sheet out on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Cut out a 10-inch circle of pastry with a sharp knife, using a plate as a guide. Transfer the pastry round to a baking sheet and chill.
Spread butter thickly on the bottom and sides of your skillet and pour sugar evenly over the bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit in the pan, packing them tightly in concentric circles.
Cook apples over medium to medium-high heat until juices are deep golden and bubbling and the apples are golden and cooked through. The caramel might be unevenly colored at first, don't worry. And make sure they aren't burning! I often need to turn the apples a few times to create an even, golden color.
Either transfer the apples and caramel to a ceramic pie dish or leave them in the oven proof skillet and lay the pastry round over the apples, tucking the edges down around the apples. Watch your fingers, caramel is HOT!
If using homemade pastry, roll the pastry dough to a round just larger than the mold. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and transfer it to cover the apples. Tuck the edges down around the apples, working quickly so their warmth does not melt the dough.
Bake until the pastry is browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer skillet or baking dish to a cooling rack and cool at least 10 minutes.
Invert a platter with a lip to catch any juice over the skillet and, using potholders to hold the skillet and plate tightly together, swiftly invert the tart onto the platter. Replace any apples that stick to the skillet and brush any excess caramel from the skillet over the apples.
Serve immediately.
With vanilla bean ice cream if you're feeling extra naughty.

*If the urge strikes to make my own pastry, (which isn't often) I use a recipe from From My Château Kitchen by Ann Willian.

Pâte Brisée
1-2/3 cup/200 grams flour
7 tablespoons/ 100 grams butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons/45 mls water, more if needed

Sift the flour onto the work surface and make a well in the center. Put the egg yolks, salt and water in the well. Pound the butter with a rolling pin to soften it, add it to the other ingredients in the well, and work them with the fingers of one hand until thoroughly mixed. Using a pastry scraper, gradually draw in the flour from the sides and continue working with the fingers of both hands until coarse crumbs are formed. If the crumbs seem dry, sprinkle with another tablespoon of water, it should be soft but not sticky. Press the dough together into a ball, but don't overwork it; the dough will be uneven and unblended at this point.
Blend the dough quickly so the butter doesn't become too warm. Put the dough in front of you and use the heel of one hand to push away a bit at a time and flatten it against the work surface; this flattening motion evenly blends the butter with the other ingredients without overworking the dough. When the entire ball of dough has been blended in this fashion, gather it up with a scraper into a rough ball, and repeat this process of blending with the heel of your hand until the dough is pliable and pulls away from the work surface in one piece, 1 to 2 minutes. Shape it into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Walt's recipe is also excellent.

Tarte Tatin. What better way to celebrate apple season?

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