Apples, sugar, butter, vanilla and puff pastry + oven = delicious dessert. Add some whipped cream and a dollop of good vanilla ice cream and you have simply gone over the top. A few weeks ago I used several dozen green Macintosh apples in a buffet for my daughterâ€™s â€œmoving upâ€ ceremony. I took the extras home and had planned to make an apple pie. But the next lazy Sunday afternoon, some friends called at about 4 pm and instead of eating out we decided to cook something relatively quick at home. We decided on some Duck Confit that we had in stock in the fridge, an instant risotto Milanese augmented with fresh portabello mushrooms I got at the market the day before and a simple tarte tatin to finish it off. Our guests brought the red wine and the heavy cream and vanilla ice cream. I have made tart tatin several times before, often with mixed results. However, despite varying successes on the tarte, the taste has always been satisfyingâ€¦
Some points to consider before you try this recipe at home. The quality of the apples is simply IMPERATIVE. If you do not have the freshest, crunchiest, flavorful specimens you will probably have a slightly to very mushy tart tatin. Personally, I donâ€™t mind slightly mushy as the flavor is still there but it doesnâ€™t look as photogenicâ€¦ While I generally like green Macintosh apples in pies, other cooks have suggested using Fuji (worked well when I tried it) and other firmer apples that retain their shape. I like starting with tart apples as it adds to the character of the dish. I was thinking of trying to use some brilliant crisp royal gala apples that have been in the groceries lately, but I didnâ€™t have enough apples to make a whole tart.
To make, get a 9-10 inch large cast iron or ovenproof stainless steel pan. Spread about a cup or slightly more of granulated sugar on the bottom of the pan. Add about 5-7 tablespoons of butter in small dabs above the sugar. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of good vanilla extract over the butter and sugar. Peel and core 10-12 medium apples and slice in halves. Arrange the apple halves in concentric circles with the rounded side facing the outer edges of the pan. Pack them in tightly as they will shrink after cooking. Place this on the stove top and over medium heat. The sugar and butter will melt and slowly caramelize. Lower the heat if necessary to achieve a slight gurgling of syrup for about 45-50 minutes or until the liquid is a light caramel color. Donâ€™t overdo it as it has to go into the oven stillâ€¦ Take this off of the flame and cover with thawed commercial puff pastry (or make your own from scratch-royal pain in the neck) and brush with an egg wash. Stick in 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes or so until pastry is puffed and light golden brown. Take out of the oven, carefully invert on a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and or vanilla ice cream. The pastry will get soggy after a few hours in the tropical humidity so this shouldnâ€™t be made too far in advance. This tarte tatin is an easy, delicious dessert with a minimal amount of fuss. I did not invent this recipe, I know itâ€™s at least partially from a French cookbook but I canâ€™t remember which one as it has been years since I read the recipe.