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.

 

Pumpkin makes the girls go crazy

It’s funny because it’s true.

I’ve spoken of my…struggles…with pumpkin.  Savory gourd I can hang with.  Sweet, not so much.  However, if Trader Joe’s is to be believed, I am in the very slim minority.  Not sure if anyone caught this but nearly every single item in their latest frequent flyer news letter was pumpkin-ified.  Pumpkin yogurt.  Pumpkin macarons.  Pumpkin body butter.  Now I know those guys at TJs like to have some fun but they wouldn’t make it if it didn’t sell.

And this is why I have not one, but two pumpkin recipes this month.

Everyone’s favorite fall spice profile marries with pumpkin, oatmeal, white chocolate and pepitas.

While these aren’t exactly healthy, I bet you could eat half a dozen for the same number of calories in in tall pumpkin spice latte.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

adapted from Chow.com

Ingredients

for the cookies

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 C rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pie filling; about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 C white chocolate chips
  • 1 C pepitas (I used the roasted pumpkin spice from TJs)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to  break up any lumps; set aside.
  3. Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla, return the mixer to medium speed, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the pumpkin and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and pumpkin.
  6. Fold-in chocolate chips and pepitas.
  7. Drop 8 dough rounds per baking sheet by the scant 1/4 cup, staggering them 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.
  8. Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back and continue baking until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom and around the edges, about 12 minutes more.
  9. Place the baking sheets on wire racks and let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool completely.
  10. Repeat with the remaining dough using cool baking sheets.
  11. Place all of the icing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined. (You may need to add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon if the glaze is too thick to drizzle.)
  12. Place all of the cooled cookies on cooling racks or parchment. Dip a fork into the glaze and drizzle it over the cookies in a zigzag pattern. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the glaze has set, about 20 minutes.

Any excuse

While gathering inspiration for ways to rid my house of Nutella, I came across an absolutely lovely blog called The Cake Merchant. Oboist by profession, baker by passion, this author’s gorgeous photography and creative verve for desserts quickly pulled me in.

Of course, out of all the fancy and colorful creations she highlighted, the brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread caught my eye first.  As you know, I’m always looking for excuses to make shortbread and sable cookies.  And, reading the ingredients for a brown sugar and cinnamon variety had be wondering, “why did I think of that?”

Simple and elegant, what sets these cookies apart is a sprinkling of turbinado sugar that has been doused in cinnamon.

Like cinnamon toast, only a smidge more refined.

While the smell of cinnamon rising from the kitchen on a May morning felt a little bit anachronistic,  these would be a happy treat on a cool fall afternoon with a cup of tea.

 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Shortbread

adapted from The Cake Merchant

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C turbinado sugar
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted temp, at room temp but still cool to the touch
  • 1/2 C packed golden or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and first tablespoon of cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift in flour then whisk-in salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. Using a standing or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add-in flour, mixing until just combined.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and work slightly until dough comes together.
  6. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log (I like to use the cardboard round from paper-towels, split length-wise to help hold shape).  Wrap tightly in plastic and either refrigerate for an hour or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Slice logs into 1/3-1/2 inch rounds (depending on desired thickness).  Please on cookie sheet and sprinkle with turbinado and cinnamon mixture.  Press down just slightly so as not to change the shape of the dough, but help the sugar stay in place (you could also brush the cookies with an egg-wash first, then sprinkle the sugar if you didn’t want to press the sugar into the dough).
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes if using from fridge, add-one 3 minutes or so if from frozen.  The cookies should be golden brown on top but not around the edges.
  10. Cool on wire racks.  These will freeze well if tightly wrapped.

Cake Apple

I ran across this recipe on Sunday morning while perusing Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.

Simple and rustic, the batter in this recipe serves only to keep the apples together.  Dorie suggests using a variety of apples and, so I did, throwing in a granny smith, fuji, braeburn and even a honey crisp.

The only spring form pan I have is fit for a giant at about 10 inches.  For a deeper cake, I’d reccommend going with an eight-inch pan.

Perfect with a scoop of ice cream or drizzle of cream anglaise and caramel sauce, this gateau would be lovely for Thanksgiving.  Or a brunch. Or, just because.  One word of caution: this cake is so full of apples that the moisture begins to transform this baked good into a pudding by the next day.  So, I think it is best served that same day it is baked.

If you like this, you might like these

Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie Cake

Misanthropic Hostess Apple Pie

Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake

as appeared in Around by French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples of mixed variety
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 TBS dark rum (or sub-in 1 TBS vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (omit if not using rum)
  • 8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter melted and cooled

Directions

  1. Center rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Butter 8-inch springform pan.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set springform pan on top of baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Peel and core apples.  Cut into 2-inch chunks.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy.  Pour in sugar and whisk for a minute to blend.  Whisk in rum and vanilla.
  5. Whisk in half the flour mixture until just incorporated.  Whisk in butter.  Repeat these two steps with the remaining flour and butter.
  6. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold-in the apples making sure each piece of fruit is covered in batter.
  7. Scrape mix into prepared pan and push around the apples until you have an evenish layer (evenish is Dorie’s word…this is why I love her so much).
  8. Slide the pan (still on the baking sheet) into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife, inserted deep into the center, comes up clean.
  9. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Carefully run a blunt knife around the perimeter of the cake and remove springform, making sure to open it slowly so that no apples stick to it.

 

 

Pumpkin Blondies

Pumpkin it seems, is all the rage this fall.  So much so that I’m surprised Pinterest hasn’t added it as a category.  The funny thing is that I kind of think it’s actually the spice profile people love about pumpkin and not the actual gourd itself.  Of course, I’m basing this off of the fact that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latter doesn’t actually have any pumpkin in it.  Or maybe it’s my well documented  “not love” for all things squash coloring my belief that anyone could love pumpkin as a food.

But what can I say, I’m a sell-out and felt obligated to include at least one pumpkin-based goodie in my baking line-up this fall.

]

This pumpkin blondie, while not exactly healthy, is a little less indulgent than, say, a regular blondie.  The pumpkin replaces about half of the butter and eggs without missing a beat.

And while these are just fine as is, I think this recipe begs for additions.  How about some roasted pepitas?  Extra white chocolate chunks…ooh…or maybe some butterscotch chips?  If nothing else, I recommend a dusting of powdered sugar before serving these very autumnal squares.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Blondies

this is a Misanthropic Hostess recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 scant TBS cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you can)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 + 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C golden brown sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 C granulated sugar (depends on how sweet you want these)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can (usually about 14 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 11 ounces white chocolate chips or chunks

Other things to add-in:

  • Roasted, salted pepitas
  • Spiced pecans
  • White chocolate chunks
  • Dried fruit (cherries would be the bomb)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 9X13 inch baking pan with parchment, butter pan and parchment.
  2. In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan melt butter over low heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, remove from heat, add white chocolate, swirl to cover and let sit for 3 minutes.  Whisk butter and chocolate together until smooth and allow to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together first 6 ingredients.  Set aside.
  5. In a larger bowl, whisk together sugars and eggs until combined. Whisk-in vanilla.
  6. Whisk-in pumpkin.  Then whisk-in cooled buter and chocolate mixture.
  7. Switch to a spatula and gently fold-in flour mixture.
  8. Transfer batter to prepared pan and cook for 30-40 minutes (they were done at 34 minutes in my oven) until an inserted skewer comes up clean and sides start to pull away from pan.
  9. Allow to cool completely.  Cut into squares.

You know it must have been a bender when…

…you black-out that apple cake you made.  Apples!  I’m talking about apples…what did you think I was talking about?  So frenzied and absorbing has my baking with apples been in the last few weeks that I actually forgot about this apple cake.

This is the last apple recipe.  I promise.

I have to admit, what first drew me to this recipe was the opportunity to shred things with my food processor.

The shredded apples get set aside for a bit in a colander.  Then, you get to abuse them further by squeezing them with a towel.  In addition to being incredibly satisfying, the shredding and squeezing helps to remove excess liquid (yeah, I know, also known as apple juice).

This is a spice-based cake.  Cinnamon, all-spice, clove, nutmeg and because I couldn’t resist, just a touch of cardamon.

The batter is substantial.  The apples form a sort of matrix that locks-in the moisture.

The cake would be lovely if you just stopped here.

But why?  The glaze comes together with brown sugar, butter, a bit of whipping cream and lemon.

Let it bubble for a while.

And then douse the cake in it.

The flavors in this cake taste like autumn to me.  Rich, complex and nearly irresistible a la mode or a dollop of gently sweetened whipped cream.

This cake would also make a nice edition to Thanksgiving dinner (and you could easily make it ahead…bonus!).

Apple Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

just slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2007

Ingredients

Cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 3/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Drain grated apples in strainer. Using hands or kitchen towel, squeeze out excess liquid from apples. Measure 2 cups grated apples.

Using electric mixer, beat butter, both sugars, and lemon peel in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla and lemon juice. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in grated apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:
Stir all ingredients in small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Reduce heat to medium; whisk until glaze is smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Invert cake onto rack set over baking sheet. Using small skewer, pierce holes all over top of warm cake. Pour glaze over top, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more. Cool cake 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.