Few desserts I find as impressive as the transformation of some simple apples into this beautifully caramelised tart. The looks are already appealing, but the taste…is even better!It’s like a soft apple toffee (sour apple to me, I’m not a fan of overly sweet things) melting away in your mouth with the texture of a comforting compote…For those of you who haven’t experimented it, I guess you’ll just have to give it a try!
It really isn’t difficult to make, it’s just about getting the heat and timing right, so the apples get an even caramel colour as they cook.You can do it in the oven, you can do it in the stove (if you get the right pan, that is, for if it isn’t a thick bottomed pan to spread the heat evenly to avoid hot spots, you won’t get that luscious even look!) or you can use both. Also, you can do any size you like, from larger tarts to individual ones…so what are you waiting for!?;)
Also, choose the apple type according to your preference, as long as they withstand cooking, not like spanish reinetas that transform into a puréed compote (I already tried! believe me, they don’t work). I love sour granny smith apples the best, apparently in France the traditional apple to use is Reine des reinettes (I’ve read it’s the same as king of the pippings, in case you can find it by that name) a slightly tart apple, which I haven’t managed to find here. Otherwise golden is commonly used by most pâtisseries, but I don’t particularly like it here, “trop sucré” for me…it doesn’t equilibrate all that sugar and butter! If using it be generous with the lemon juice, I find it improves greatly!
I was inspired by a wonderful photo I saw some time ago by Meg Zimbeck about an individual tarte tatin that was more like a little gem than an edible tart, created by Fabrice Le Bourdat for his pâtisserie Blé Sucré. Amazing isn’t it? Well, I’ve made a really simplified version simply caramelising the cored apple halves and already they make a great individual tart! If I had roundish moulds that size, they’d look more even! (and considering my oven has been broken for a week now and I can only rely on my stove, it’s the closest approach I’ve got so far!Next time I think I’ll leave the stem out and then replace it back after the caramelisation is complete as the pectin will hold it in place!
It’s almost as simple as making the larger tart itself, and isn’t it cute? Anyway, read on for the recipes…You won’t regret trying it!
(for a 24 cm pan)
For the filling:
8 granny smith apples, that is about 1kg 750g (or your apple of choice that withstands cooking:golden,pink lady, fuji etc.)
150g granulated sugar (the amount of sugar can range from 125g up to 200g depends on how sour you like it. If you choose an apple that is not as sour, reduce the amount accordingly)
90g butter (it can be salted as it enhances flavour)(use 60g for a 24 cm pan)
a drizzle of lemon juice
optional: a little piece of vanilla bean open to release the seeds or some cinnamon ( I don’t use either as I like the pure sour apple toffee flavour!)
For the pâte sablée/brisée, you’ll have left over:
~200g of flour
100g butter, cold
50g of sugar
pinch of salt
~1 L egg
Let’s begin with the filling…You can prepare this tart all in one go, or over two days. I often do it over two days, I prepare the apple part first, leave in in the fridge until the next day and over the cold filling place the rested pâte brisée. But it is not necessary, you can do it all straight with equally good results. The main difference? organisation! If you plan to do it over two days, you prepare the filling first, if not, prepare the pâte first, so it rests in the fridge as you prepare the apples. As simple as that! So, in this case I’ll start with the apples, but you can do it the other way around!
First decide which mould or pan you’ll be using. You can make the caramel in a pan, then pour it in a mould and place the apples on top to cook in the oven, or do it straight in a pan that can go in the oven (that’s what I always prefer to do unless doing individual ramekins).
To make the caramel, you can do it adding a tbsp of water and a drop of lemon to avoid it getting grainy (and placing it over higher heat at first, which also helps prevent that from happening, also make sure the pan is clean from fat residues) or do it dry, without any water that is, but for this you need a thick bottom pan to avoid hot spots or some parts will melt and caramelise (and eventually burn) while others don’t. So, if using this method, which for small quantities of sugar is my preferred one, place it over very moderate heat until it starts to melt in some areas, then swirl the sugar around a bit for homogenous melting until it’s all a golden amber colour.
Meanwhile peel the apples, cut them in half and then fourths and core cutting the angle off. Drizzle with some lemon juice if the apples aren’t sour…This is usually done to avoid browning, but here it doesn’t really matter, as they’ll be used immediately and they’ll brown from caramelisation anyway! So I just do it to sour the sweeter apple varieties.
When the sugar is caramelised add the diced butter (or in small pieces) until melted and take off the heat (you can even do this step off the heat).
Then, arrange the fourths of apple over the caramel, start with the outer circle placing the rounded side down and one slightly over the other. It will look like it’s a lot, but the apples will cook down a lot, and this is one of the best ways to get a nice pattern and that the apple pieces are tight against each other and so they don’t fall apart when turned around. So, after the outer circle is done, fill the rest with some more fourths. If it looks like they wont fit, place the whole on the heat (medium-low) until they soften slightly, to fit the left over fourths in. They will fit, believe me, later on you can press them down to make them fit better!
Now you can either continue cooking and caramelising on the stove or take the pan to the oven (preheated to 175ºC or slightly lower, 160ºC). If you take it to the oven, at around 175ºC they’ll take about 40 minutes, at the lower temperature, about an hour. BUT…check anyway! You want the colour of the bottom of the apples (the part touching the pan) to be golden, but not too dark, as they’ll have to cook at least 20 minutes longer with the sweet dough! So, if you leave it the colour you want, they might get too dark after those extra minutes!
As the apples cook, you can take them out from time to time to baste them with a pastry brush, so the tops don’t dry too much (it’s better not to be tempted to cover them even if you see they colour on top, that’s normal…remember that will be the bottom side and won’t show, otherwise the moisture won’t escape and the caramel will get wetter instead of cooking down).
Note on 27/3/12: I recently discovered a very convenient way to caramelise the apples in Bernard’s blog “La Cuisine de Bernard”. I tried it this weekend, and it is definately worth a look! Makes life easier when trying to fit so many apples in the pan/mould!
After 40 minutes, it will look something like this…
If you are doing this with the straight, one day method, take it out and rest it for at least 10 minutes to stop bubbling and cool slightly. Meanwhile stretch out your dough and cut it (2 cm larger than the diameter of the filling, so it wraps around them and the sides can be folded it to hold the apples). Otherwise, let cool down and place in the fridge until the next day and prepare the dough.
Very easy to make, just remember to NOT overwork the dough to avoid gluten development and get a crumbly tart base.
If using a food processor it takes less than 5 minutes, without it little more… With the processor, add the sifted flour and the COLD butter diced and press a few times to integrate the butter into the flour until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.
If doing this by hand, I find the best way to do it it to coarsely grate the very cold butter (you can even place it in the freezer a while before) over the sifted flour and then lightly rub it together. Important to note that how much the butter is crumbled directly affects the resulting dough. If you want it to resemble a puff pastry, then leave pea-size pieces of butter without integrating so while cooking, these will melt and separate layers of dough, otherwise blend both ingredients more thoroughly!
Then, just lightly beat (mix, not incorporating air) the egg with the sugar and a pinch of salt) and incorporate that until it comes together. If it doesn’t add some iced water (a little at a time!). The less moisture, the crumblier, though the harder to work with when stretching!
By hand it’s the same, mix quickly the egg+sugar into the flour+butter without working too much, until it just comes together. After the rest, it will hydrate completely. Shape into a loose ball, wrap into cling film and flatten lightly and rest, either at least 30 minutes or until the next day.
Next day, the apples will look set. A note to make is that if you use this method, which other than doing it for whichever convenience reasons you may have, it’s done to improve the texture of the sweet dough as it cooks from cold; the apples can be cooked to a deeper amber colour than with the straight method as this second cooking they’ll be placed cold and thus will take longer to caramelise than with the caramel already melted and warm! This is how the apples may look…
Stretch the dough into a bit less than half cm and cut off a piece about 2 cm larger than the diameter of the apples, like I mentioned before. Ehem, since my oven broke, I had to take both apples and dough to my parents house to finish it off and since they didn’t have a rolling pin, I had to use what was at hand!
When stretching, make sure you flour the bottom side of the dough, or after it is perfectly stretched you may find it is completely stuck on the work surface!
Place the dough over the apples making sure you tuck in the sides to wrap the them.
Then pierce the dough so it doesn’t puff up…
With the dough, I had enough for two tarts and still left for cookies filled with jam!
Place in preheated oven (180ºC) for about 20 minutes, until golden and remove from the heat. Let cool slightly for about 5 minutes, so the moisture left is reabsorbed by the apples and you don’t spill it as you turn it. Also, it makes the apple hold better together once turned, and…turn onto a dish!! Ah, before you turn, shake or swirl slightly the pan, to make sure it moves around freely, otherwise indication that it is stuck and won’t turn out ok, you may need to warm it up over the stove lightly (unless it means it has burned, I doubt it if you’ve checked your apples)
And that’s it! Ready to serve! Best enjoyed with crème fraîche or even sour cream rather than the often used vanilla ice-cream, but it’s all up to you now! If it cools, it’s better to place it a few minutes in a warmish oven to get all it’s shine back and because it tastes better slightly warm, one of the reasons why cold crème fraîche or ice-cream make a great match!
Yummy close up, again with the only props at my parent’s, which I’d taken along: two sad granny apples!:)
And I didn’t get time to get a proper photo of a slice…the family cannot wait! So a quick shot…
Now, for the individual half-apple tarts! As I’ve said before, If I had roundish apple-sized moulds, I’d use that, but since I don’t I had to manage with a pan that would fit the amount of apple halves I was making, in this case 4…
First peel the apples, cut in half widthwise and remove the inner seeds and the skin around the stem (this is what I did, next time…I’d remove the stem and keep it fresh to stick back after caramelisation)
Make a caramel the same way as for the large tart (but for two apples, I used 50g sugar and 20g butter). Place the apples rounded side down at first and cook them until they get a light caramel colour, then turn them. Since my oven was broken I did it all in the stove basting often, but for sure it would be better in the oven, as the heat is more even and they collapse less…
Remove them onto a plate the right way around, after basting them a little more to create a shiny pectin layer.
To show you this is pure pectin, I placed the left over liquid on moulds to see how they’d set
Here they are unmolded:
I had to get it to the sun, to show the colour…
And of course the individual tarte tatin, over a sweet dough baked separately ( I think the blé sucré ones are over thicker sablé bretons, if you can tell from this photo
The next to try is Philippe Conticini’s amazing version of very finely layered apple rounds that together build up the same thickness of a traditional tart, slowly caramelised in a mould and then unmolded over a inverse puff pastry with hazelnut praline streusel…sublime!I still have to try it, but I don’t know if there’s a better tatin…I think they are all similarly incredible!Bon ap’!!!