Fall season means baking with apples, and one of my favorite ways to bake with apples is to make a Tarte Tatin. I have posted this recipe before on TasteFood, but, dang, it’s so good, I have to post it again. The method of making a Tarte Tatin is classic to which this recipe stays true, except in its use of a sour cream based pastry which I discovered years ago in Bon Appetit. The pastry is delightfully easy and quick to make with crisp and flaky results. So far, this season I have made at least 4 Tarte Tatins. With each rendition, they have gotten even better, and I would like to share a few small tips with you to ensure delicious results.
Tarte Tatin is an upside down fruit tart. Traditionally, apples are used, however pears, apricots, nectarines and peaches work well, too. The beauty of using apples is that they are firm and do not release too much liquid while cooking and remain relatively intact. To start, the apples cook in boiling butter and sugar until the liquid caramelizes. Cook the caramel until it turns a deep amber color. It shouldn’t be too pale, nor should it overcook since it will quickly burn. Be sure to keep an eye on the caramel as it cooks, rotating the skillet to ensure even cooking. Once the right stage of coloring is achieved, remove the skillet from the heat and quickly top the fruit with the pastry. The pastry will begin to melt from the heat of the skillet, so be efficient, using a knife to push the pastry down between the sides of the skillet and the apples. Pop the skillet in the oven and bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown. It should be firm when tapped.
These simple tips, with a little practice and finesse, will transform apples, butter and sugar into a squidgy and caramelized fruit dessert. I can’t think of a more rewarding practice – can you?
Apple Tarte Tatin
For the Sour Cream Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup full fat sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in 4 pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and halved
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of peas. Add sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made one day ahead; refrigerate until use. Pastry dough may also be frozen up to one month in freezer before rolling. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight.) Remove pastry from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.
Arrange butter in bottom of large oven-proof skillet with sloping sides (preferably cast iron.) Sprinkle 1 cup sugar evenly over butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Arrange apples closely together, core-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. If necessary, cut remaining apples in quarters to fill in the spaces. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Set skillet over medium-high heat. Boil until a thick amber coloured syrup forms, turning skillet to ensure even cooking, about 30-40 minutes.
While the apple mixture is cooking on stove, preheat oven to 425 F. Roll out pastry on floured surface or parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. Remove skillet from heat. Lay pastry over apple mixture. Cut 3-4 slits in pastry. Brush pastry with some of the egg glaze.
Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and cool on rack one minute. Cut around edge of skillet to loosen pastry. Invert the tart onto a platter, using oven mitts. If any of the apples or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with a knife and arrange on top of tart. Cool tart slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.