Dessert of the Month- Tart Tatin

To start off my Dessert of the Month posts I wanted to try something new.  I’ve done cakes, cookies and pies in the past but I haven’t had much experience with pastry dough.  After flipping through my cookbooks I decided on Tart Tatin, in other words an upside down apple tart.  Looking at the recipe it seemed pretty simple, a short list of ingredients and only 6 steps.  Well, let me tell ya, I need to keep working on my pastry dough.

I split the recipe over two nights.  The first night I worked up the dough to let it chill in the fridge over night.  First things first, I slightly softened the butter by pounding it with a rolling pin per the recipe.

Second, I sifted the flour into a pile and made a little well in the middle to hold the rest of the dough ingredients.

I separated the yolks from the whites of two eggs.

Then added in sugar and a table spoon of water.

And then put in my butter after splitting it up into chunks.  Then the fun started when I got to mix it all up with my fingers:)  I love working with dough like this.

Once it reached a crumbly consistency, I started to knead it until it all held together and came off my board in one piece.

Then I formed a ball, wrapped in in two sheets of plastic to be safe, and put it in the fridge overnight.  I think this might be where my problems started…according to the recipe it only needed half an hour so it may have been in there just too long.

Night two, I got started peeling 5 pounds of Minnesota Honey Crisp Apples.  Because of their size I didn’t have the 14-16 called for in the recipe, but I wanted to try and keep them local.  I used a vegetable peeler to keep from taking off much of the fruit flesh, chopped them in half, cored them, and rubbed them with half a lemon to keep them from browning.

I also checked to see how it would all fit in my skillet.  My apples looked much bigger than the apples they used in the cookbook.  Sure enough, I ended up not needing an apple and a half.

With the apples done and set aside, I started on the carmel sauce.  I melted a stick of butter and added a cup of sugar and let it cook on medium until it reached a dark golden brown color.  I had a little trouble getting to this point.  For some reason I kept adding a stick and a half rather than a stick of butter…I ended up making it three times before I had the right ratio, ugh.

Once the carmel was done and slightly cooled I arranged the apples back in the skillet and brought it up to a medium high heat and let them caramelize.  I did about 10 minutes on each side to keep an even color.

With the apples done I turned my attention to the crust.  I had pulled the dough out of the fridge when I started peeling the apples to let it warm up a bit before I started to roll it out.

I learned two things really quickly. 1- I need to work on keeping the dough round when I roll it out and 2- The consistency was off.  It was crumbly and splitting on me.   I tried adding just a bit of water, didn’t help, added some flour, got worse, so I took a deep breath and just went for it.

I kept working with it to try and get the size I needed.  To fix the shape, I used the lid of my skillet as a guide to cut and patch the dough so it would cover the bottom and we would have a full crust.  It was working OK until I tried to move it from the counter to the pan.  It split up into several pieces the second I moved it.

At this point the dough was really warm from me handling it.  I formed it back into a ball (which it didn’t want to do) and popped it into the freezer to firm it up for 10 minutes.  When I took it back out, it was cool but still a bit crumbly. I repeated the same technique as above using the lid as a guide.  This time I rolled it on the saran wrap so I had a little bit of help moving it to the skillet.  It worked but looked nothing like the photo in the book…..sigh…

I put the tart in the oven for about 25 minutes and once the crust reached a golden color, took out the tart to cool.  Once the pan was cool enough to handle I went for the flip.  The skillet was pretty heavy with roughly 5 pounds of carmel soaked apples.  I wasn’t quite quick enough and lost a lot of carmel sauce to the stove top when I flipped it.  On the plus side it looked great!

The hubs and I had a piece for dessert on Friday and as much as I was disappointed with the consistency and visual appeal of the crust, it tasted pretty good.  The crust helped balance out the sweetness of the carmel sauce and was sturdy enough to hold up to the big pieces of apple.  It was a great fall/winter dessert, especially served warm.  I would have loved a small scoop of vanilla ice cream along with it.

Tart Tatin
from The Illustrated Step-by-Step Cook
DK’s classic Look and Cook series

Dough:                                                                   Filling:
5 Tbsp unsalted butter                                   14-16 apples, total weight about 5 pounds
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour                          1 lemon
2 egg yolks                                                           1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar                                                1 Cup sugar
pinch of salt                                                         creme fraiche, to serve (I skipped this)

1. Using a rolling pin, pound the butter to soften it slightly.  Sift the flour on to a work surface, and make a well in the center.  Put the egg yolks, sugar and pinch of salt in the center of the well, then adde the softened butter and 1 Tbsp of water.  using your fingertips, work the ingredients in the well until throughly mixed.

2. Work the flour into the other ingredients until coarse crumbs form.  If they seem dry, add a little more water.  Press the dough into a ball.  Lightly flour the work surface, then knead the dough for 1-2 minutes until it is very smooth and peels away from the work surface in 1 piece.  Shape into a ball, wrap it tightly, and chill for about 30 minutes until, firm.

3. With a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the apples, then halve and core them.  Cut the lemon in half and rub the apples all over with the cut lemon to prevent discoloration.

4. Melt the butter in a heavy-based oven-safe frying pan.  Add the sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, until caramelized to a deep golden brown.  Remove from the head and let cool to lukewarm.  Arrange the apple halves over in concentric circles to fill the pan.  They will shrink during cooking so pack them firmly.

5. Cook the apples over high heat for 15-25 minutes, until caramelized.  Turn once to caramelize on both sides.  Take the pan from the heat, and let cool for 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius)

6. Roll out the pastry to a round, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) larger than the pan.  Roll up the dough around the rolling pin, then drape it over the pan.  Tuck the edges down around the apples.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool to lukewarm, then set a plate on top, hold firmly together, and invert both.  If any apples stick to the pan, replace on the tart.  Spoon some caramel over the apples. Serve with creme fraiche.

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