Farm Foodie: The Glories of Tarte Tatin
Most of my cooking utensils are heavily used and serve multiple purposes. But there are a few that I wouldn’t be without even though they aren’t used often. With Golden Delicious apple season upon us, one of these is about to get some love. Not a fancy gadget, just a simply perfect pan for a magnificent dessert, Tarte Tatin. This sacred cast iron skillet spends most of the year hidden away to ensure no one sullies it with garlic and onions and is seasoned only with the deep, rich flavors of butter and caramelized sugar.
Golden Delicious apples are traditional in Tarte Tatin for good reason. Crisp and fragrant with a delicate flavor that is sweet with just a hint of tartness, it’s no wonder the Tatin sisters used these apples in their famous tart that started out as a mistake. Golden Delicious hold up well in cooking and their balanced flavor is majestically complemented by the rich caramelized sugar and buttery pastry. The Golden Delicious apples that we’ve been getting from the Nicholson family for years are grown with so much love and care they really are exceptional and perfect for this dessert.
Though this isn’t my usual “whip-it-up-on-a-whim” dessert, it’s not terribly complicated either — especially if you buy frozen pie crust or puff pastry. As long as you don’t let the caramel get too dark you’ll be fine. And if you do, remind yourself this tart began as an accident and serve it anyway.
As much as I revere Julia Child’s recipes, over the years I’ve come to like a slightly adjusted version of her rendition of this classic with just a touch less butter and sugar. And this time around, because I am currently trying out some frozen pie crusts, I used a ready made crust. It was a huge time saver and still incredibly delicious.
The directions for my adaptation are below. If you want to try the original, Food Network has it on their website. And if you want to really learn about this, the archive of Julia’s French Chef episode on PBS is 20 minutes well spent!
- 6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and quartered
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pre-made 9” pie crust chilled and gently removed from pan
- Vanilla ice cream, frozen yogurt or crème frâiche for serving
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss apples in a large bowl with the lemon juice and zest and 1/4 cup sugar. Let macerate 20 minutes before continuing.
- In a 9-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the remaining ¾ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar mixture from the bowl with apples. Cook until the syrup bubbles and caramelizes, and turns a light brown color. Remove the pan from the heat and arrange a layer of apple slices in a neat pattern, rounded side down, on the caramel in the skillet, then arrange the remaining apples neatly on top.
- Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Every few minutes press down on the apples and baste them with the exuded juices and caramel. When the juices are thick and syrupy and apples are tender, remove the pan from the heat.
- Invert pie shell so it is upside down and covering the pan of apples. Gently push the sides of the crust between the apples and the inside of the pan. If you manage to do this without cracking the dough on top, cut 3 small steam holes on the top of the dough. Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped, about 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes. Place a heat-proof serving plate on top of the pan and quickly and carefully invert so the pastry is on the bottom. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or crème fraiche.