Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vive la France. Mangeons de la tarte tatin!

 Today is Bastille Day and it feels appropriate to celebrate with something French.

I used to live in France and many memories of my time there are of its wonderful food. The garlicky scent of snails wafting past me in a restaurant; queuing for Poilane sourdough bread in the mornings; a friend's mum demonstrating just how stringy the perfect aligot ought to be; choosing the freshest baguettes, the runniest cheeses and vegetables still encrusted in earth at Richard Lenoir and Rue de Grenelle markets in Paris...

I could go on (and, to be honest, I already have) but I'll stop there.

Instead, I'll share a recipe from Kerstin Rodger's Supper Club (a book I loved, as you'll see here). Tarte tatin is one of those quintessentially French recipes and there are many different versions. This is one of the best I've tasted and I can't think of a better day to celebrate Bastille Day.

Juice of two lemons
1kg (about 8 to 10) eating apples, such as Cox, Russet or Braeburn *
125g to 175g unsalted butter, softened
125g to 175g caster sugar
4 to 6 star anise
200g puff pastry, rolled to a disc the same size as your frying pan
Cream or ice cream to serve
You will also need a pan with a handle that can go in the oven.

* My frying pan wasn't big enough to take this amount of apples.  I only used half and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly.

  • Squeeze both lemons into a large bowl.  Peel and core the apples and then slice them before putting them in the bowl of lemon juice to prevent them going brown.

  • Smear the butter generously over the frying pan, including the sides.  Sprinkle the sugar over the top in a thick layer.  This will become your caramel so if you'd like it to be extra caramel-y, use more butter and sugar. 

    • Remove your apple slices from the lemon juice and embed them in the butter/sugar mixture.  Pack them in as tightly and as attractively as you can.  Tuck in the star anise too.  
    • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/425 F/Gas Mark 7.  
    • Put the frying pan over a medium flame on your hob and keep an eye on it while it caramelises.  Kerstin says this will take up to 15 minutes but I found it took longer, more like 25 minutes.  Perhaps my heat was too low.  But what you're aiming for is a deep golden caramel colour like this:
    • Once you've got this far, you need to let your pan cool before you place your pastry on top of the apples.  Tuck in the edges and don't worry if you've got extra pastry in places.  Imagine how good it will taste once it's dripping with caramel!
    • Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes or until the pastry has risen.
    • The tricky bit comes once you take it out of the oven.  Find a plate that is larger than your frying pan and lay it over the top.  Holding the handle firmly and keeping the plate pressed tightly to the pan, flip it over.  The plate will now be on the bottom and the frying pan on top.  Lift the pan off to reveal a golden, caramel-encrusted apple tart.  Don't worry if some of the apple slices become displaced.  You can always prod them back in place using a fork.
    • Serve hot with a scoop of cream or ice cream. 

    So, there you have it: a tarte that is sweet and caramel-y, gooey, fruity and delicious.  It's also inexpensive and easy to make.
    Happy Bastille Day!


    1. This looks so yummy. My sister is coming to town this weekend and my family is all getting together for dinner on Sunday afternoon. This would be perfect. I do have one question. When you are letting the pan cool before you add the pastry, just how cool should it be? Approximately how long did you wait? I can't wait to try this.

    2. Mandi,
      I agree that it would make the perfect dessert for your family get-together. I actually didn't let the pan cool down for very long. I left it for a few minutes (five or so) and then held the handle very carefully using a dry cloth while I turned the whole thing over. (Make sure that the cloth is completely dry as you'll get burned if it isn't.)
      You could probably leave it a while longer (10 more minutes or so) but the caramel will start to get chewy if you leave it much longer and it will stick to the pan instead of to your lovely tart! Let me know how you get on with it. I think it's lovely!

    3. I made this yesterday and it turned out nicely. One thing I noticed as I was making it is that you didn't have the amount of sugar you used. You would have thought I would have noticed it before since I read over the recipe 4 or 5 times. Ha! I just winged it and guess. Thanks for sharing this though. My family really liked it.

    4. OMG, Mandi!
      I can't believe I did that as I too read the post at least four or five times before putting it up! I've added the sugar now - you use the same amount as you do of butter.
      I'm glad your family liked it even though I let you down in the recipe department.