There is no French classic that's more classic than an Apple Tarte Tatin. Seen all over the world, this stunning caramelized baked apples layered onto buttery puff pastry is a sure win at all dinner tables.
I've tasted it before and wow, amazing. Especially since it was during those cold winter days and I was sitting in a little Parisian bistro with a group of friends after school. We had some fantastic French cuisine which ended off with a lovely crumble and a Tarte Tatin. Slightly different story when it comes to making it. I've never made one and I figured I'd have a go at it today. It's safe to say I messed up the caramel at least 3 times before I was sure it was the right colour.
It's always the fun making something you've never made before. It can go two ways; either you messed it up real bad, or it miraculously turns out as it should be and you just glee ear to ear and jump in excitement. It was the latter today. Except I think I could have probably stuffed a few more wedges of apples in there but I couldn't sworn it was tight as hell before I popped it into the oven. So tight the apples were trying to get out of the skillet.
The colour of the caramel in a tarte tatin is crucial. You want a beautiful dark auburn instead of a blond caramel because by cooking it, you bring some acidity into the caramel and undertones of bitterness that won't result in an overly sweet tart. The flavours are balanced this way and it pairs wonderfully with the apples.
Everything about a Tarte Tatin is a great idea. Aside from that scalding 200 degree cooked sugar and all that apple peeling, coring and stuffing, I think it's worth everyone's time and effort. Besides, it was invented but two lonesome spinster French sisters. They poured their hearts and soul into creating this dessert, it must've been good enough to drown their sad sorrows. But no really, the French really know what they're doing when they have butter and sugar. Trust them to make something incredible out of these two humble ingredients all the time.
Oh God, how to you say no to butter, sugar and apples!? I can't even...
When you're lining the apples, you really want to press them into your skillet tight. Like real tight. Till the point the apples push upwards by themselves struggling to get out. I mean I would too as well. Claustrophobia.
And why? Because the applies shrink upon baking and you want it to remain compact even after it's out of the oven rather than have them fall all over the place.
I used my own homemade puff pastry but frozen works just as well too.
Everyone is always chasing time these days but the way to enjoy a Tarte Tatin is on a late Sunday afternoon when families lunch for the longest time and the atmosphere is beautiful, happy, warm and fuzzy and you end off your meal with a fantastic slice of it served warm with a dollop of crème fraîche or some sublime vanilla bean ice cream.
I had none on hand, so there. The weather hasn't been on good terms with me of late.
(serves 8 - 10)
homemade or frozen puff pastry - 1 sheet
golden delicious apples - 8-9 no.
caster sugar - 100g
water - 20g
vanilla pod (scrapped) - 1 no.
cold unsalted butter - 30g
Preheat your oven to 190C.
Cut your puff pastry into a circle slightly bigger than the diameter of your pan.
In an ovenproof dish/skillet or tatin pan, combine the sugar, vanilla beans and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes until it starts to caramelize and you can see hints of blond caramel. Swirl the dish about to get the caramel evenly coloured and reduce the heat to medium low. Let it cook till it becomes a dark auburn colour and whisk in your cold butter till it is emulsified. Set it aside to cool down but always keep it warm and not entirely cold or the caramel will harden.
Peel, core and slice your apples into half and begin arranging them on top of the warm caramel. Stuffing and filling in the empty spaces as much as you can. You know it is ready when the apples begin to rise upwards by themselves.
Place it in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35mins or until you see the caramel bubbling up.
Remove it from the oven and place the cut puff pastry over it, tucking in the excess dough. (Be careful as you do this as the pan is extremely hot) Prick the surface with a knife and place it back into the oven and switch on the fan mode. Bake for an additional 20mins or until golden brown.
Set aside to cool completely before unmoulding it and turning it upside down.
Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of very good vanilla bean ice-cream.