For some reason during this winter season I've been craving apples in baked form. I had never made this dessert before but I knew I wanted to eat something with apples with a strong dose of caramel. After flipping through the dessert section of my cookbook France: The Beautiful Cookbook I fell upon the recipe for Alsation Apple Tart, and thought that would do, but a few pages further I found the perfect one combining both apples and caramel called Tarte Tatin.
Tarte Tatin was more simple to make than I originally thought, so I think I fretted too much over the pan I used, which was a cast iron skillet, as opposed to the called-for cake pan. I didn't want to put my cake pan over an open flame as the recipe directed to do, so I opted for the stove safe/ oven safe cast iron skillet (a joy to have by the way). Although I over complicated things with the pan, it is simple because of its cooking method. You cook the apples with the caramel first on the stove top, lay over the crust, bake it in the oven, and when you remove it, you invert it with ease on to a plate.
After doing this recipe, I will change a few minor things as is usually the case with recipes. I would like a taste of nutmeg or cinnamon with the apples, and I would opt for a little thicker crust. What I did love about the recipe was the way it called for sections of apples, rather than slices, because I think there is something unusually delectable about cutting into a whole apple when it is perfectly baked. I also loved the smooth texture of the caramel and the surplus of it too. The actual pastry was perfectly sweet too, not overly done, and although next time I'll experiment with making it thicker, the thinner crust was almost like a sweet crunchy shell. Maybe both ways are worth trying out.
The book gives a short history on Tarte Tatin which I would like to share with you:
"The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of this century. They created this tart, with its crusty golden pastry beneath a filling of soft caramelized apples. Being cooked upside down, it also goes by the name of tarte renversee or tarte a l'envers."
Time: 1 hr 30 min Serves: 4
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp sugar plus 2 tsp sugar
1 cup flour (I used White-Whole Wheat)
pinch of salt
2/3 cups butter (1 stick of butter plus 3 tbsp more), divided
1/3 cup sugar, divided
2 lbs apples (your favorite for baking, about 8 small apples- I used Gala) Peeled, Cored, and cut in two's or three's.
Make your Pastry:
1) Cream the butter with the sugar until color is pale and mixture is fluffy. Add egg stir until just mixed. Add flour and salt, and stir until mixture comes together.
2) Pour mixture on to clean surface and knead the pastry until smooth (for about 5 - 10 minutes). Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and set in fridge for about 2 hours or overnight.
3) Bring to room temperature, for about an hour. Knead again until smooth. Set aside.
Make your Filling:
1) Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place an oven-proof skillet over medium heat on stove. Add one stick of butter (reserve remaining 3 tbsp butter for later) plus a little more than half of the sugar to the skillet (reserving the rest of the sugar for later).
2) Arrange the apple halves in the pan with the cut side down. Sprinkle with remaining butter and sugar. Let the mixture caramelize for about 20 minutes.
3) Transfer skillet to the pre-heated oven. Bake for five minutes to brown the tops of the apples.
4) Roll out pastry to about a 10-inch circle or so that it overlaps the skillet just by a little.
5) Remove skillet from oven and place the pastry circle over the apples. Trim any excess overhang and let the pastry settle down over the apples and into the pan.
6) Return the skillet back to the oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
7) Carefully invert the tart on to a plate. Serve hot. Enjoy!