Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Agony and the Ecstacy of Tart Tatin

Many years ago, while wasting spending my time as a Ski Instructor in France, I took my class to a restaurant at the bottom of the ski station for lunch. We were all hungover from the night before and feeling decidedly fragile. Obviously, we were in need of the hair of a dog, or in our case, the hairs of a large kennel full of hairy dogs. I noticed a large platter of Tart Tatin, made with whole apples, by the front door. It had been placed there to cool. To cut a very long and painful story short, we ate the whole lot. Sated, we sat back and licked our fingers clean, contented that we had used up our ski school time for a worthy cause. I have, since that fateful day, been searching for a recipe that could match the heavenly delights of that first encounter.

As far as quests go, this has to be one of the most tasty, yet frustrating things I've ever done. I've tried every recipe I could find, including the original one from the Tatin sisters, but none have revealed the true delight of this incredible desert. My most recent attempt was close, but still not perfect.

So, here's a challenge if you are up for it. If you have a Tart Tatin recipe that is fool proof, delicious and repeatable, send it to me and I will post them all in a large Tart Tatin edition.

In the meantime, here is my latest attempt.

Organic Apples

Peeled and quartered

Sugar and a drop of water

Bring to a boil

Rich caramel color
Add butter
Arrange quarters in pan and infill with extra apple (cut in half or thirds)

Sweet short crust

Remove from oven

Invert onto flat serving dish and wait to cool (if you can:)

You will need a flat bottom skillet that can be put in the oven and the following ingredients:

  1. 8 Golden Delicious apples (or Granny Smith)
  2. 1 cup castor sugar
  3. 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold)
  4. 50ml of water (Cold)
  5. Plain flour for dusting
Pastry (you can use puff if you like, but the original recipe calls for sweet short crust)

  1. 1 cup of plain flour
  2. 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  3. tbls of castor Sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. Pinch of salt
  6. Enough  cold water to fill a 1/4 cup with the egg yolk already in it

Pastry (Make this first)
  1. Put the flour, salt and sugar into a Cuisinart, or similar brand of processor, and pulse for a second or two.
  2. Cube the cold butter and add to the flour. Pulse until the flour crumbs until you get pea sized pieces of butter.
  3. Add the egg and water and pulse again until the pastry clumps.
  4. Leave to rest in a cool place until you have completed all of the filling prep
  1. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Don’t worry if they turn brown – you won’t notice in the finished tart. Put the sugar in a 20cm ovenproof frying pan (measured across the base) with 50ml water, then melt the sugar slowly over a low heat. Once the sugar has melted, turn up the heat and bubble for 5 minutes or so to give a golden caramel (don’t let it get too dark – see photos above).
  2. Take the caramel off the heat immediately and stir in the butter – it will foam quite vigorously. Arrange the apple quarters on top, cut-side up, so they fill the pan – slice any leftover apple into wedges to fill in the gaps (the apples will shrink as they cook). Put the pan back over a gentle heat, then cook for 5 more minutes. Turn the heat off and let the apples cool completely.
  3. Heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness sufficient to cover the apples, then lay over the cooled apples in the pan. Trim the pastry using the edge of the pan as a guide, then carefully tuck it inside the edge around the apples, making sure they don’t move. Bake for 30 minutes until dark golden. Remove from the oven, stand for 5 minutes, then carefully invert the tart onto a flat serving plate (larger than the pan) being careful not to slop any hot caramel over your hands. Let it cool before serving.
Get cracking and send me your results