There are two things I enjoy almost as much as being on holiday: the anticipation before the trip and the afterglow when you get back. One of my favourite ways to continue the adventure back at home, is to bring foodie souvenirs and to cook typical local dishes.
And at the moment my mind is still in France: the fabulous winding roads and the beautiful villages of the Loire valley…the rilletes, pâtés, baguettes, croissants and glasses of Saumure-Champigny wine ….I could go on and on (although I don’t think I will try pig’s ear again….)
So this weekend I decided to bring a little of the Loire region into my kitchen by baking a Tarte Tatin; the well known upside-down apple cake from the Orleans region that achieved fame through the ladies Tatin.
There are many different variations for making Tarte Tatin. Some cooks just throw some caramel sauce and apples together, cover all with pastry and shove it in the oven. But I find that this just does not deliver those soft rich caramel flavoured apples that make for a spectacular Tart Tatin. So I take that little bit of extra time and cook the apples in the caramel sauce first. The secret is to keep spooning some sauce over the apples and to shuffle them around a little in the pan to ensure even cooking.
If you are in a rush you could save some time by using store-bought puff pasty. I do however prefer the crumble of a quick home-made short crust; especially when you are planning to eat the tart at room temperature.
I should warn you though: it really is very hard to resist the scent wafting out of your oven and allow the tart the time it needs to bake all the way through.
One 25cm tart
6 apples (use a firm, fresh-tasting apple like Jonagold, Cox)
90g butter (room temperature)
Optional: 1 vanilla pod
150g all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
- Use a mixer to beat together the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the egg and combine until pale.
- Quickly add the flour, salt and vanilla (if using).
- Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
- Melt butter in a round 25cm oven-proof pan.
- Add sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has turned a light caramel colour.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half length-ways.
- Place the apples in the pan, cut side up. Cook the apples on a medium-low heat for about 25 min or until the apples have softened and the sauce has browned a little. Spoon some caramel over the apples about every 5 minutes. If the outside apples are cooking slower than those at the center carefully shuffle them around.
- When the apples are cooked arrange them in neat circles. Turn off the heat.
- On a floured surface quickly roll the pastry into a disk that is a little larger than your pan. Fold the pastry over your rolling-pin and transfer to the pan.
- Use the blunt end of a knife handle to tuck the dough around the apples. Do not tuck the edges of the pastry in though, but allow them to curl up against the sides of the pan.
- Bake the tart 25-30 min or until the crust is golden.
- Allow the tart to cool at least 10 min before covering the pan with a plate and turning it out.
Tips & Variations
- Ready-made puff pastry can be used instead of the home-made crust
- the apples can be replaced by pears
A dollop of ice cream, crème fraîche or vanilla yoghurt