Tarte Tatin is a butter-heavy, caramel-coated, sugar-drenched delicacy. Basically I thought my dad would love it and it would challenge me to make better pastry. I’d seen recipes that called for a simple pie crust for the dough and how could that possibly end up layered and flaky?
So, yeah, it burned a little because I suck at multitasking. The recipe also called for too few apples and they kind of fell apart in the sauce, and I used some agave nectar, which I think burned faster.All in all, though, great success because I made the pastry using a mx of gluten-free flour and spelt (yes, I know spelt is not gluten-free, but I needed more flour and my options were wheat and less wheat – aka spelt).
The tart is traditionally cooked in an oven-safe skillet (cast-iron or stainless-steel) so that the caramel cooks on the stove and coats the apples before being covered in puff pastry and baked to a golden brown in the oven. You can also transfer the contents of the skillet to a 9-inch round baking dish for the final step, and you can use frozen puff pastry if you prefer not to make your own, but the home-made, slightly time-consuming pastry will be so much better.
Oh, and even though I over-cooked my caramel a little, it was still delicious…
3/4 cup cold butter, divided (or Earth Balance. Add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted butter)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup cake and pastry flour, or all-purpose (you can also use a gluten-free flour blend, but it won’t be as light and flaky as the cake flour or even the all-purpose. It will still be delicious, and I haven’t found gluten-free puff pastry yet)
5-6 tablespoons ice water
5 medium apples (Gala, Golden Delicious, or other firm baking apples)
½ cup butter (or earth balance)
1 cup sugar (you can also use agave nectar, or a mix of agave and sugar, but it will cook faster and burn more easily)
The trick to puff pastry is to keep everything ice-cold says Irma: your hands, the bowl, and the rolling pin. If using frozen puff pastry, thaw a piece and roll it out to a circle larger than the diameter of your oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Place the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.
1. Sift the flour. Wash the cold butter under cold running water (skip this is you use earth balance. It should become soft but stay ice cold. Massage it in your hand until it’s creamy and waxy. Knead it briefly with cold hands until no water flies off it. Place a quarter of the butter in a cold bowl and shape the rest into a flat square and place in the refrigerator (with earth balance just measure the butter and add 2 1/2 tablespoons to the bowl and put the rest in the fridge).
2. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the butter in the bowl. Cut in using two knives or your fingers until the pastry looks like small peas. Add 5 tbsp of the ice water and combine. Add the remaining 1 tbsp water if the pastry is dry or a pinch of flour if it sticks to the bowl.
3. Refrigerate 15 minutes and start chopping the apples (see below). Roll the pastry out to a square shape on a clean, floured counter, rolling out from the centre only, not back and forth. Put the refrigerated butter in the centre of the dough and fold the four corners to the centre to cover. Refrigerate 10 minutes and start making the caramel (see below).
4. Roll out the dough again into a square and fold the corners to the centre as before. Chill again. You can repeat this process up to 4 times if you have the time, but if not, work quickly and fold 3 more times immediately. Roll the pastry out to a circle slightly larger than the diameter of your oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.
5. Remind yourself that home-made pastry is better than frozen and this will all be worthwhile.
Caramel Apple Filling:
6. Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut the tips off the apples so that they will fit more snuggly against the side of the skillet. The apples will discolour a little but it doesn’t matter. You can sprinkle them with lemon juice if you really want to.
7. Melt the butter over low heat in a large skillet. Remove from heat, add the sugar, and stir until blended. Arrange the apples on their sides in the pan so that the front of each piece touches the back of the next. Continue the fan pattern, starting from the outside of the skillet and working your way in. Fill in the gaps with the removed apple tips. If you are transferring the apples later to a baking dish, it’s not necessary to do this beautifully.
8. Return your pan to the stovetop on high heat. Boil 10 to 12 minutes, or until the pan juices are lightly golden but not dark or burnt.
9. Preheat oven to 375° F.
10. Remove the skillet from heat. Being careful not to burn yourself, turn the apple slices over with the tip of a sharp knife, keeping them in their original places.
11. Cook 5 more minutes, then remove from heat. If not baking directly in the skillet, transfer the apple slices to the buttered baking dish. (Now you may want to be artistic with the fan shape of the slices.)
12. Place the pastry on top of the apples and brush off excess flour. Fold the edges toward the centre of the skillet or baking dish. The folds don’t have to be pretty. Bake in oven until the top of the crust is golden-brown in color, about 25-35 minutes. Remove and let cool 25 minutes.
13. Place a plate or other serving dish on top of the pan and quickly flip tart over onto the plate. Check to make sure the apples aren’t sticking to the bottom of the dish before removing it completely. Slice and serve with ice cream, and pat yourself on the back.