I was bombarded with freshly picked, juicy, sweet and tart apples from Big Bossman’s garden today. My first reflex was to dodge the attack and jump under the kitchen table to resist the change of season, but that didn’t make the apples go away. Eventually my rumbling stomach forced me out of hiding and i had to face the mountain of apples. What French chefs do when given an apple? Tarte Tatin, of course…. Duh!
This is your guide to a perfect tarte tatin my friends, so easy – a caveman can do it (and that’s no reference to my hairy legs). In fact, I am so confident in this recipe that I’m about to do something I’ve never done before. For the first time in the history of this blog I’m giving you the zen personal guarantee: if your attempt at making Tarte Tatin fails after following the instructions given on this post and you can provide the proof, I will find some creative way to humiliate myself on this blog. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want to do. I’m crossing my fingers that nobody screws-up on me, but you wouldn’t do that to me in a malicious way.. err… would you!? Read until the end of this post for great wine recommendations by Kirstin from Vin de la Table.
3/4 cup sugar
6 ounces butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 medium-size apples (your favorite baking kind)
1 sheet high-quality frozen puff pastry (Dufour..)
Place the sugar in a 9-inch skillet (2 inch-deep) and put the butter in long thin slices over the top. Turn the heat on to medium-high and cook until the caramel turns a dark amber color. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and whisk to emulsify preferably without burning your fingers. The caramel should look smooth and shiny.
The secret to a beautiful tarte tatin is in packing an outrageous amount of apple wedges in the pan lined with caramel. Tarte Tatin is just a fancy name for a caramelized upside-down apple tart after all. After looking at the picture above you might be thinking ‘zen went nuts on the apple!’. Well, it that’s what it takes… You have to take into consideration that apples shrink.. the same way your clothes will look like they have shrunk after you eat a few of these. It’s not your fault by the way, it’s the clothes…
The pastry should be the same diameter as the tart pan you’re using. Making puff pastry from scratch is fun but high quality brands like Dufour are now widely available frozen and save a lot of time. Try making your own when you feel adventurous but don’t forget to stab.
I then placed the tart pans lined with caramel and apples in a 375″F oven for an hour. Now in a perfect world i would be equipped with nonstick tart pans that are 1 1/2 inch deep and 4 inches wide. They would create the perfect environment for self-basting and none of the delicious bubbly caramel would go over the sides. Unfortunately this is not a perfect world and my tart pans are very much like Mayor Bloomberg, a little bit short. I was still determined to make perfect tarte tatin so i basted the apples like a turkey with the overflowing caramel. Don’t these apples look happy?
This step takes the precision and dexterity of a surgeon. Okay, not really. Pick up a stabbed round of puff pastry and place it on top of the caramelized apples. Bake for another 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and after 5 minutes invert onto a plate while holding your breath. Be careful as hot caramel might be dripping from the sides of the pan during the operation. This blog is not insured, just so you know!
A note on wine: I asked the talented Kirstin over at http://vindelatable.blogspot.com in Oakland California what to drink with this classic dessert, she quickly replied and suggested two wines that i thought were brilliant choices. The first is a Clos Lapeyre, a southwestern French dessert wine from the Jurancon region, made from Petit Manseng. The second is called Clos Uroulat from the same region. She noted that sweet wines from these region have a spicy vanilla, tropical character that love pastry but tend not to overpower the fruit. She also suggested to make a reduction sauce from the bottle’s remnants to be poured over any remaining vanilla ice cream the next day. Damn, she’s good!