Please please please follow the directions on this recipe. I promise it will turn out for you. I know because it is smittenkitchen’s recipe, and they always turn out. I also know because half of it (the pastry) turned out for me. The other half was clearly my fault, and due to my lack of proper utensils. I know, I know. A bad cook always blames her tools, right? But in this case, it was so true. And I was having a bad day. So despite the awful-looking, burnt pictures of this classic French tarte tatin, please make this. It is yummy and apple-y and caramel-y.
Not burnt and broken, like mine.
Here’s what went down: I knew I didn’t have the right pan, but I decided to MacGyver the thing anyway. I was in France, I wanted to make something French, ok? My heart was set.
I cut up the butter, and subsequently cut in the butter and made the pastry. After I had arranged the apples in the pan and set it on the stovetop, I got somewhat distracted by this, the other half of our dinner. There was also a whole chicken involved in the mix.
You too? It’s ok.
So there it was, bubbling away, when I noticed a funny burnt smell coming from the stovetop. 30 seconds was the difference between a dark caramel and a half-burnt caramel.
It took three hours, two knives and a heart full of remorse to fully remove the burnt caramel from that Pyrex. I was also potentially motivated by the fact that this was not my flat and that I would pay the damage deposit on it were there any, ahem, damage to the flat and the baking utensils therein.
For rainy days,
Apple Tarte Tatin
Adapted from smittenkitchen
1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter (5 ounces), cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cup flour
3 to 6 tablespoons ice water
7 medium apples
1 stick (4 ounces) salted butter
1 cup sugar
Prepare Crust: You can definitely use a food processor for this, but I used knives as I didn’t have a food processor. Pre-mix the flour and sugar in the food processor container, and cube the butter on a plate. Then put the dry ingredients and the butter in the freezer for a while. This will get everything, including the blade and container, nice and chilled. The colder everything is, the flakier and more tender your crust will be. Prepare about 1/3 cup ice water and refrigerate.
After you’ve chilled everything for at least 20 minutes, add the cubes of butter to dry ingredients and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than tiny peas.
Add the ice water a little at a time, processing just until the dough starts to come together into a mass. Don’t overprocess it. Turn out onto well-floured surface and pat together into a ball. Don’t handle the dough too much, or the warmth of your hands will start to melt the butter. Flour the top of the dough and use rolling pin to quickly press and roll the dough out into a 10 to 11-inch circle. Keep turning the dough as you do this to make sure it doesn’t stick to the rolling surface. Throw more flour underneath the dough if necessary. Check the crust to make sure it’s just big enough to cover the top of your tarte tatin pan. Move the crust onto a piece of parchment paper or onto a floured rimless baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Prepare filling: Preheat oven to 375° F.
Peel, core and quarter the apples. Don’t cut them into smaller pieces than quarters–the quarters shrink considerably during cooking. You can squeeze a bit of lemon on them, but it’s not necessary.
Over low heat in a heavy, ovenproof skillet measuring 7 to 8 inches across the bottom and 10 to 11 inches across the top, melt the stick of butter. Remove from heat, add the sugar and stir until blended.
Shake the pan so the butter-sugar mixture distributes evenly across the bottom. Arrange apple quarters in pan, first making a circle inside the edge of the pan. Place them on their sides and overlap them so you can fit as many as possible. Then fill the center of the pan; you may have some apple left over. Keep at least one extra apple quarter on hand–when you turn the apples over, they may have shrunk to the extent that you’ll need to cheat and fill in the space with an extra piece. This one piece won’t get quite as caramelized as the other pieces, but don’t worry–it will still cook through and no one will notice.
Return your pan to the stovetop on high heat. Let boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until the juices in the pan turn from golden in color to dark amber. Remove from heat. With the tip of a sharp knife, turn apple slices over, keeping them in their original places. If necessary, add an extra slice of apple to keep your arrangement intact. Return to the stovetop on high heat once more. Let cook another 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
Place the crust on top of the apples and brush off excess flour. Tuck edges under slightly, along the inside of the pan, being careful not to burn fingers. You can use your knife.
Bake in oven until the top of the crust is golden-brown in color, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack about 30 minutes.
Run a sharp knife along the inside edge of the pan. Place a plate or other serving dish on top of the pan and quickly flip over the whole shebang so the tarte drops down onto the plate. The pan will still be hot, so use potholders and be careful! Don’t burn yourself or drop stuff! If you are feeble and clumsy, get someone stronger and more coordinated than you to do this. Peek under the edge of the pan to see if the Tarte came out. If there are any pieces of apple left behind in the pan or otherwise out of place, carefully put them back where they are supposed to be.
This keeps well for about a day at room temperature; if you have to refrigerate it, warm it up slightly before serving.