You can judge the success of a dessert using the official passerby-grazing-and-nibbling measurement. That is, how fast does your dessert mysteriously disappear left unattended on the kitchen counter?
My first attempt was gone within a day.
My second one basically vanished.
An Apple Tarte Tatin is a classic French dessert I first saw Julia Child make a long time ago. The theory is simple enough: apples caramelized in butter and sugar, covered in pastry, and then baked.
I mean, c’mon, how can that be bad, right?
You see, the apples looked so good at the local farmers market that I had to bring an armful home. True, granny smith apples would be the more traditional choice, but pretty much any good apples will do fine.
So, first time out of the gate, I used six apples, half a stick of butter, a cup of sugar, and a box of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry. I’m telling you this because the pictures were beautiful.
But the end result was too syrupy and the pastry wasn’t right. Edible, even tasty, but not what I wanted.
First step was the pastry. I can make my own, I’ve done it many times, but I wanted something easier. As it turned out, Pepperidge Farm was not the answer.
I didn’t read the ingredients label. Yes, I know better, I just assumed.
UNBLEACHED ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), WATER, VEGETABLE OILS (PALM, SOYBEAN, HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED), CONTAINS 2 PERCENT OR LESS OF: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, TURMERIC AND ANNATTO EXTRACTS FOR COLOR.
Ugh, that’s disappointing. Okay. But I’m stubborn. So after a bit of research and I discover Dufour Pastry Kitchens. A chef whose work I follow says she rarely makes her own puff pastry anymore if this is available.
Great. Where can I find it?
The nearest Whole Foods is a long drive. Sprouts has it, that’s not too bad…but it’s kind of expensive. They say it’s worth it. By now, I don’t care. Let’s give it a try.
USDA grade AA butter (cream, natural flavorings), unbleached unbromated flour, water, salt, lemon juice.
Much better. Before I start let me tell you this: I baked the trimmed-away scraps and we devoured those plain still hot from the oven. That’s a good sign.
The second change I made was to reduce the sugar and butter by 25 percent. So, instead of 1 cup sugar I used 3/4 cup and instead of 4 tablespoons of butter I used 3. Simple enough.
Be sure to move the pastry package from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw. The package says two or three hours. I also put a few tablespoons of butter on the counter to let it come to room temperature as well.
Four ingredients. You can’t get too much simpler than that. I’ve seen people add all sorts of other ingredients, and that’s fine, maybe even really good, but I wanted simple.
I wanted to taste the goodness of the apples more than anything.
First, get the apples ready.
- Trim the tops and bottoms.
- Peel them.
- Quarter them.
- Trim away the cores.
Spread the butter over the bottom and sides of the pan.
Spread the sugar over the butter.
And arrange the apples over the sugar.
Over medium-high heat on the stove, caramelize the sugar. This takes about 10 minutes. No stirring, just watching to make sure it doesn’t burn.
However, I remembered watching Julia use a turkey baster to baste the apples with the caramel, so I did just that every few minutes. I could’ve used a small spoon too.
Meanwhile, I used the pan to trace a circle on the sheet of pastry and then trimmed the excess away with a sharp knife.
Once nicely caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and tuck the pastry over the top and into the oven it goes for about 20 minutes.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes. Then cover the pan with a platter and flip it over. (Remember doing that with the Spanish Tortilla?)
Before you panic let me tell you: some will stick to the pan. Even a non-stick pan turns out imperfect. Just use a spoon or a spatula to put it all back together pretty.
Everyone does it and no one will be any wiser.
It’s okay, I promise.
Let it cool to room temperature and the caramel will firm up. (Right out of the oven it’s still gooey.)
I served it with some ice cream.
If you have teenagers at home, you might also post a guard.
Apple Tarte Tatin
The simplest technique along with the best ingredients allows this classic dessert to shine. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 6 apples, medium-sized
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 sheet puff pastry
Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions.
Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
Peel and quarter the apples.
Spread butter evenly over the surface of a 11-inch oven-safe skillet.
Spread the sugar evenly over the butter, shaking and tilting the pan as necessary.
Arrange the apples in a single layer in the pan.
Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Using either a spoon or a baster, occasionally baste the apples with the caramelizing butter-sugar liquid during the cooking.
Remove from heat. Arrange puff pastry on top of the apples in the pan. Place into 425°F oven for 20 minutes.