Monday, June 7, 2010

Je T'aime, Tarte Tatin.

I can't believe that in just a few weeks, I will be on a plane to Europe!!! I'll be visiting a few countries, staying with friends along the way; taking in different cultures and (most importantly) different foods. I will be spending a few weeks in Paris- and although it will be my first time, I know the moment that I lay eyes on all of those oh-so-Parisian buttery croissants and pâtisseries it will most certainly begin a love affair that I've suspected of having my whole life. I've been preparing myself by brushing up on my French, reading books like Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France (which is so amazing and inspiring by the way, if you haven't read it yet), and last but certainly not least, I've been having a go at some of my favorite French dishes, like this wonderfully delicious tarte tatin.

Tarte tatin is one of those classically French desserts that everyone, and I mean everyone, cannot bring themselves to resist. Perhaps this is why, when I retrieved my bubbling, caramel and apple creation from the oven, and left the room for a total of 5 minutes, I came back to a tarte tatin with one slice suspiciously missing from it.

I looked around the kitchen for likely suspects; Sammy, my labrador retriever, gazed innocently into to my eyes and I knew that although he was capable of many food-related crimes, he was not related to this one. And that's when I saw John. Or rather, the back of him. He was facing the stove, and seemed oddly quiet. He turned around, and with one look at his sticky and pastry crumb covered fingers, I instantly knew he was the tarte tatin culprit.

Well well well, somebody got his hands caught in the cookie jar!

So if you haven't noticed, that's why one of the photographs below is missing a slice. And you know what, it still looks delectable. So now, if you don't mind, I think it's my turn to dig in and give John a run for his money. À votre santé!!

Tarte Tatin

This recipe comes from a collaboration of three or four recipes, that I tweaked and meddled with until I was finally happy with the result. It's such a fun and easy dessert to make, as long as you have an oven-safe skillet and some fearlessness when it comes to flipping the tart onto a plate after it finishes baking. And honestly, if some of the apples end up sticking to the pan during this process, don't panic- just gently loosen them and place them back on to the plate- remember, no one's looking! Other than the flipping-of-the skillet trick, this recipe is mostly about caramelizing a bit of butter and sugar with apples and then finishing it off with a bit of pastry dough. Anyone can do it, I promise, and if you really want to take this baby to the next level, do as I did- and add vanilla bean to the butter, sugar and apples while they are caramelizing. The granny smith apples will be left speckled with the vanilla's sweetness, balancing out their tartness. Perfection. C'est Magnifique.

One final note: This recipe is pretty forgiving, which is one of the reasons I love it. You can add more apples depending on the size of your pan, and it will probably come out still tasting phenomenal. You can also, evidently, do as I did and start off this recipe with a bang by placing the apples peeled side up instead of peeled side down. Yup. You heard me, I messed up my own recipe. Just look down at the photographs below. There's the proof. But you know what? Right before I placed the pastry
round on top (which is when I realized my mistake), I gently and oh-so-carefully flipped the apples onto the right side and through the whole damn thing in the oven. And it came out tasting divine. So there.

Tarte Tatin Ingredients:

  • a frozen puff pastry sheet OR homemade puff pastry dough (recipe follows)
  • 4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled quartered length-wise, and cored
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • extract from half a pod of vanilla bean
  • 1 beaten egg, for brushing the pastry
  • Special Equipment: an oven-safe skillet, 8 to 8 1/2-inches, or whatever you have that is closest to that.

Homemade Puff Pastry:

  1. Place one cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, one tablespoon sugar in large bowl. Mix together.
  2. Add 1 stick (1/2 cup) of chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, and using your fingers work the butter in the mixture until it makes fine crumbs. Just don't let it become completely smooth, though.
  3. Set aside three tablespoons of water, and add it until the dough is just pulled together.
  4. With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough, until it is about 3/4-inch thick, and then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Directions for Tarte Tatin:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take homemade pastry dough or defrosted (already bought) pastry sheet and place on a floured work surface.
  3. Roll out the dough to a round that is slightly wider (on all sides) in diameter than the skillet you will be using. I like to find something that is the same measurement as the skillet, and then leaving myself a little extra room around the sides, I cut out my round from this. It works nicely, but you can do whatever works for you.
  4. Transfer pastry round to a baking sheet and chill.
  5. In an oven-safe skillet on moderately high heat, melt butter and vanilla bean (if using), swirling around so that the butter coats on bottom and all sides of the pan.
  6. Pour sugar evenly on bottom.
  7. Add apples, peeled side down, in concentric circles, arranging as many as can fit inside your skillet.
  8. Cook apples over medium high heat, undisturbed, untill juices are deep golden and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Remove skillet from heat and lay pastry round over apples, gently tucking in it's sides so that the dough curls a bit into the apples and caramel.
  10. Lightly brush pastry all over with egg wash.
  11. Poke a few holes with a fork or wooden skewer on the top of your pastry, so that as it puffs, the steam will be released and your pastry will not be misshaped.
  12. Place skillet in oven on middle rack. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the apples feel cooked when inserted in the center with a wooden skewer.
  13. Remove from the oven and let chill for just a few minutes. Okay folks, here's where your fearlessness comes into play: place an inverted plate on top of the pan, and using potholders (it should be really hot so be careful!), hold skillet and plate tightly together and invert tart onto platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet.
  14. Serve immediately (as if you could wait! ha!). This recipe makes about 6 servings, depending on how hungry you are.

1 comment:

  1. SPECTACULAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!.....i CANT WAIT TO SINK MY TEETH INTO THIS DISH and it will be fun making it...i might even feel like a real pastry chief which ive never been that good at my claim to fame is one bowl chocalate chip cookies......THANK YOU!!!!!!!