Well winter has hit Toronto. I knew it was too good to be true, almost half way through the month and not a trace of snow, well until this morning. Once we get the first snowfall the summer days of just a couple of months ago are nothing but a faint and distant memory. I would post a picture of the first snowfall, but it actually looks pretty nasty outside. You see first it snowed, then it rained, and now it’s nothing but a slushy filthy mess. Yep, that’s pretty typical of the first snowfall….nothing pretty about it my friends.
I really don’t mind the snow, when it’s the nice fluffy kind reminiscent of a country road painting. It’s the darn cold that I have an issue with. Aside from what it does to my hair, it’s just unbearable. And it doesn’t even get that cold here compared to other parts of the country. It days like this that I find the most comfort in baking, especially on days when venturing outside seems like mission impossible. Enter the Tarte Tatin in all its buttery goodness. Have you ever had a slice of warm tarte tatin? No, well you absolutely must. It’s pretty much the French version of apple pie, just with a heck of a lot more butter.
I know you’re thinking that it’s probably more butter than your arteries can handle, but looking at the positive it also has fruit and we all know fruit is good for you even if they are swimming in a sea of butter and caramelized sugar. Now if that doesn’t peak your interest I would really be at a loss for words.
The tarte tatin was another first attempt for me. As you can see it’s not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest tarte tatin, but the taste was all there. The recipe I used was Dorie Greenspan’s from her book Baking: From my Home to Yours. For the crust I went with her recipe for sweet tart dough which came together rather quickly. I didn’t change anything else and tried to follow the recipe as best I could. I should have been more generous with the amount of apples I put in the pan; I underestimated how much shrinkage there would be.
Another mistake I made was not tucking the dough snuggly on top of the apples in the pan. Had I done that I think the apples would have sat a little more nicely once the tarte was turned over. My biggest fear was turning over the tarte tatin onto a plate. I’ll admit I couldn’t do it, I solicited the help of my husband who has mastered the skill of flipping an omelette and now a tarte tatin. And there it was, the most amazing amber colour I had ever seen only to be outdone by the warm scent of caramilized baked apples.
After taking a bite of this goodness I almost forget about the skin stinging cold outside. Then the bitter reality sets in as I find myself outside shovel in hand ready to tackle another Canadian winter.
Sweet Tart Dough
Makes one 9-inch crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely blended, there will be some pieces that are bigger and other pieces that resemble oatmeal flakes – this is what you want. Using a fork break up the yolk in a glass, and add it a little at a time to the butter mixture, pulsing after each addition. When the egg has been completely added, pulse in 10-second intervals until the dough looks almost granular. Keep an ear on your food processor as it will work a little harder as the dough comes together. Once the dough has reached a stage where it’s still somewhat clumpy turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it until it comes together. At this point you can roll out the dough so it is an inch bigger than the pan you’re using for the tarte tatin. Once rolled out place on a lightly floured cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cover your apples.
Preparing the Apples
1 unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
About 8 sweet firm apples cored and quartered (I used Golden Delicious)
Place oven rack in the middle and Preheat oven to 3750
Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or foil. Chose a pan or skillet that is at least 9-10 inches in diameter, make sure that it is oven proof.
Put the skillet over medium heat and add the butter. When it melts, tilt the pan so that the sides have a thin coating of melted butter, I used a pastry brush. Sprinkle the sugar over the butter. Remove from the heat.
Fit a layer of apples into the skillet, putting the apples into the pan rounded side down and making circles. Pack those apples in, like I mentioned there will be shrinkage so make sure they’re nice and snug. Once the first layer is done, quarter the remaining apples and scatter them over the first layer. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty, this is really the bottom of the tarte that will be covered with dough.
Put the pan over medium heat and cook, until the sugar turns a deep caramel color. The sugar will start to bubble up the sides of the pan. If you want a deeper colour without burning the sugar, lower the temperature and let the apples cook a little longer. This step took me about 20 minutes or so. Please stay close to the stove when the apples are cooking. and To get the color you want without burning the sugar, you may have to lower the heat after a while. Once the sugar has reached a light amber colour take off the stove and place pan on the covered cookie sheet.
Before you place the pastry dough on top, take one last look at the apples. If you see there are gaps gently nudging the apples into place. Take the pastry from the fridge and place over the apples. You will notice that by now the dough has hardened quite a bit and it may not be very easy to tuck in the edges, if you wait about a minute or so the heat from the apples will soften the dough making it easier to work with.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is baked through and has a light golden colour.
Here’s the part that terrified me: Cover the skillet with the large, rimmed serving plate and, acting quickly turn the tart out onto a rimmed plate and remove the pan. Please don’t forget to wear good oven mitts. If there are any apples that remain stuck in the pain remove them with a small off-set spatula and gently press back into place.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.