Tarte Tatin

Tarte tatin is my favorite.  Hands down, no more to say, drop the mike, walk off stage and leave the building favorite.

The first time I had tarte tatin was from The Ivy.  A good friend  worked there after college and introduced me to the deeply flavored, almost burnt caramel and robust apple of this rustic french dish.  At The Ivy, it’s served hot and when that scoop of vanilla ice cream hits it, it turns into the best thing you will ever put into your mouth.

There is quite a bit of mythology around the origins of tarte tatin.  The stories agree that it was created at the Hotel Tatin run by two sisters in the picturesque town of Lamotte-Beuvron in central France.  From there things get a little hazy but my favorite version is that they were making an apple tarte, forgot to make the crust and so popped it on top of the apples.

While the ingredient list is incredibly simple: apples, butter, sugar (a pinch of salt) and puff pastry, it doesn’t seem to get as much love as apple pie.  I suspect it’s  because it needs to be served fairly quickly after it is done to get the full experience.  Left overnight, the pastry goes soggy (but the apples are still delicious.  ‘Aint no shame in taste tatin apples and a strong cup of black coffee for breakfast.

I’ve tried several tarte tatin recipes over the years and my favorite comes from the New York Times.  In this version, you peel and quarter the apples the day before and then refrigerate them.  This allows them to release some of their juices before cooking, creating less liquid to manage during the stove-stage and ultimately, a richer caramel sauce.

Tarte tatin can be made with all kinds of fruit, but apple is my favorite.  Just like apple pie, the kind of apple you use is up to you.  I like to mix some tart (usually Granny Smith) with something a little sweeter.  When shopping for this tarte tatin, I came across a new (to me) variety called envy.  They’re a really delicious eating apple and, because they’re a little crisper than some of the other sweeter varieties, they held up well.

This dish starts on the stove top in a cast iron pan.  First comes a layer of butter, then a layer of sugar.  The the apple quarters are arranged in a rosette. Pack them in as tightly as you can.  They’ll shrink.

The dish is then topped with either puff pastry or pate sucre.  I prefer puff.  And yes, this is what we’re doing with the first eight ounces of the rough puff from last week.

On goes the heat and in about five minutes your kitchen will start to smell insanely delicious.

The sugar and butter melt together to create a caramel that the apples cook in until everything is dark gold.

Then it all goes into the over so that the pastry can puff and crisp.  This is a great dinner party dessert.  Have everything ready to go before your guests arrive.  As you sit down to dinner, pop the dough on the top and start the stove.  Just as the group is finish their first course, it’ll be time for the oven.  Forty-five minutes later, you have dessert.

The scariest part of the whole endeavor is flipping the tart upright onto the serving platter.  And even that is no big deal.  If an apple or two sticks to the pan, just pull them off and pop them back into the tarte. NBG.

Serve warm with either vanilla ice cream or a healthy dab of whipped cream.

I swear, once you go tarte tatin, there is no going back.

Tarte Tatin

adapted from the New York Times, recipe by Julia Moskin

Ingredients

  • 8-10 large, firm-fleshed apples (buy a couple of extra–you want to pack the pan tightly)
  • 6 TBS (80g)  salted butter, very soft
  • 2/3 C (135g) granulated or light brown sugar
  • 1 sheet (8 ounces) puff pastry

Directions

  1. At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small sharp knife to trim the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter; don’t worry about being too neat. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. (This key step reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.)
  2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 if using convection). Thickly coat the bottom of a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.
  3. Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet. Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry around the apple pieces, hugging them together firmly.
  5. Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes (if the juices keep rising, spoon out as needed to remain level with pastry). If necessary, raise the heat so that the juices are at a boil. Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.
  6. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.
  7. Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

 

Piece of pie!

I’ve made my fear of pate brise no secret. I blame certain family members who suckled me on the crust of incredibly flakey and light pie crusts during my formative years.  As a result, I will generally do anything I can to avoid making pie crust.  This has included, using passable proxies like shortbread or graham cracker to just baking a cake instead.

But.

TD asked for an apple pie to go with the Gobbla’ Cobbla.’  And since I knew they he would be recruited to roll about 250 Schweddy Balls earlier in the day, I had no choice but to acquiesce.  I began with Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Anything Pie Dough.  Her recipe calls for a mix of very cold butter and shortening.

It also uses food processor…which made it a winner in my book.

I cheated just a little and when it was time to form the two disks of dough for refrigeration, I rolled-one-out, fit it to the pie dish and then put it in the fridge.

You know how reading a recipe the entire way through is like baking rule #1.  Well, I didn’t and so, when I went to prepare the filling I realized the Ms. Greenspan calls for quick-cooking tapioca.  Quite possibly the single baking-type ingredient I did not have in my pantry.  Undeterred, I jumped over to my cooking and baking bible, the Joy of Cooking and perused their apple pie recipes.  This is when I discovered a recipe that cooks the apples before putting them into the pie.  Intrigued (and having all the ingredients), I jumped in.  The core of the idea (ha) is to saute the apple chunks in butter until nearly cooked.   I like an apple pie with lots of apples and so, adjusted the filling recipe up.

Then they cool.

And only THEN do they go into the chilled pie-crust.

At this point, I still had very little faith in my pie baking skills and so, went rustic on the crust.

Oh but wait…what is this I see before me?  A pretty gorgeous pie with what certainly looked like flakey crust.

After enjoying our Gobbla’ Cobbla’ and martinis, the moment of truth was upon us.  A few cautious cuts and the resulting piece looked like a presentable piece of pie.  Then I took a bite.  My reaction was to employ an expletive involving a reflexive verb, a number larger than one and a day of the week beginning with T.  Was this it?  Had I finally stumbled across the holy grail of apple pie?  Just to be on the safe side, we conducted further research the next day.  In fact, the picture below was taken the next day.

I fully intended on making this pie again before posting the recipe.  Sadly, time has not been on my side.  And so, I leave it to you dear readers to vet what I think might just be a very excellent pie recipe.

Soundtrack

New Mumford and Sons

If you like this, you might like these

Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-Cake

Tarte de Pommes a la Normande

Misanthropic Hostess Apple Pie

adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough and Joy of Cooking’s Apple Pie II recipes

For the Crust

Ingredients (this is for a double crust)

  • 1 1 /2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 10 TBS frozen unsalted butter cut into 1/2 TBS sized-pieves
  • 2 1/2 TBS frozen vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pievs
  • 1/4 or so of iced water

Directions

  1. Place flour, sugar and salt in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse to just combined the ingredients.
  2. Drop-in butter and shortening and pulse only until both are cut-into the flour–think un-even bits ranging from to pea-to-orzo sized.
  3. Pulsing the processor on-and-off, add about 6 TBS a little at a time by pulsing and repeating.  Then, use a few longer pulses to incorporate the water into the flour.  Big pieces of butter in the dough, are fine (and encouraged).  If needed, continue to add water a few drops at-a-time until the dough sticks together when pinched.
  4. Scrape dough out of processor and onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough in half, form two disks (or cheat like I did and roll-out one and place it in a deep pie dish).  Wrap everything in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour before using.

For the Filling

Ingredients
  • 4 LBS apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Fiji)
  • 4 TBS unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 TSP salt
Directions
  1. Peel and core apples, cutting as desired (I used a rustic chop with pieces about the size of large almonds).
  2. In a very large skillet or pot, heat butter over high heat until sizzling and fragrant.
  3. Add apples and toss until glazed with the butter.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, cover tightly and cook, stirring often. until the apples are softened but still slightly crunchy.
  5. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  6. Increase heat to high and cook at a rapid boil until the juices become thick and syrupy (about 3 minutes)
  7. Immediately spread the apples i na thin layer on a baking sheet.  Let cool to room temperature.

To Assemble and Bake

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  2. On a floured surface, roll-out your bottom layer of dough.  Be sure to turn the dough often.  Gently place dough into the pan, do not stretch dough.
  3. Fill with apples and place in fridge while rolling-out second crust.
  4. Roll out second crust.
  5. Remove filled-pan from fridge and trim the edges of the dough so there is about 1/2 inch overhang.
  6. Center the second piece of dough over the pie and press it against the bottom crust.
  7. Trim the top crust to overhand just slightly over the bottom crust.
  8. Pinch the crust (or roll up) to create a sealed edge.
  9. Cut vents for steam and brush with egg wash if desired.
  10. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the crust is a rich, golden brown.
  11. Let cool and then sit for at least 4 hours before cutting.