With autumn upon us and apple season in full swing, it is time to think about hearty, warming desserts. Tarte Tatin is a simply French dessert, using few ingredients and requiring almost no effort … best of all it is scrumptious and comforting.
8-10 apples (granny smith apples are best but any apple which will hold its shape if cooked)
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon calvados (apple brandy) – optional
1 sheet puff pastry
1. Peel and quarter the apples and remove the centre core from each segment before placing into a bowl of water so they won’t discolour.
2. Take a frypan which can be placed into an oven and baked (ie no plastic handles). If you don’t have such a frypan use a standard frypan for initial cooking phase and then a spring-form cake tin for final assembly and baking phase.
3. Place the frypan on a stove top and give it medium heat. Add sugar and water, mix well to combine and then cook until it commences to caramelise and turn a light to medium brown. It should take around 5 minutes.
Tip – Do not stir sugar – water mixture after the initial combining action as it will hamper the caramelisation of the mixture
4. Add the butter to the hot liquid and stir it in so it melts and develops a creamy liquid.
5. Remove the apple pieces from the water bowl and place into the caramel liquid. Allow them to poach and cook, turning them every so often so they get coated on all surfaces with the liquid. Cook them for approximately 15 minutes, so they soften but DO NOT begin to go mushy and break apart.
Note – If you intend to add the optional brandy, this should be done 2 or 3 minutes before the apples are fully cooked – say the 12 minute mark approximately.
6. After the apples have cooked sufficiently, the liquid in the pan should have reduced and there should be very little in the bottom of the pan. If there is an excess, you may have to remove the apples temporarily and reduce the liquid further.
7. Arrange the apple pieces so the curved outer surface of the apple is on the base of the frypan and the cut core side is facing upwards.
NOTE – If you do not have a heatproof frypan – simply arrange apple pieces in a spring-form cake tin and then pour excess caramel over the apple pieces.
8. Take a thawed sheet of puff pastry and gentle place it over the apples making sure to tuck in the edges so it fits the shape of the pan. Then place into a pre-heated oven at 180° C and bake for 40 – 45 minutes so the puff pastry is golden in colour.
9. Once baked, remove from oven and allow pan to cool for 15-20 minutes before turning it upside down onto a plate.
10. Allow the tarte to cool to room temperature, then slice into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Note – You can substitute pears in this dish if you prefer and I know in summer versions of the dish are made with apricots and peaches. This dish is named after the hotel where it was said to have been invented Hotel Tatin.