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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Tarte Tatin + The Pixies "Wave of Mutilation"

The last time it was this Cherry & Blueberry Tart and The Clash's "London Calling".  This time? Apple Tarte Tatin and The Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation". It seems I have found a formula that works for salvaging whatever bad mood may hit.

Apple Tarte Tatin, a classic french dessert with apples, caramelized sugar and a flaky crust, falls nicely into my recent category of culinary fascination: butter heavy french dishes. Also, it really isn't fall without some baked apple desserts, right? Besides requiring a careful watch, and sometimes nearly 3 hours of time from initial prep to final presentation, this is a very simple and easy dish to make. The key is allowing the sugar and liquid to cook down enough to reach a caramelized stage, without loosing track and allowing it to burn to the bottom of the pan.

Basic Apple Tarte Tatin:
This recipe is a very basic outline, quantities are not specified as you can easily adjust this to your taste/size of your tarte. The ingredients and technique are based on that taught to me by Chef Pierre Jennaton in a recent cooking class.

Note: it is very important to use apples that will keep their shape and remain firm during the baking process. Mushy apples in a dish like this are just no good. Believe me, I learned this the hard way. So make sure to pick out firmer, eating apples such as Gala or Granny Smith. Let's just say I had to make it a second time with different apples in order to take worthwhile pictures.

Melt butter and a quarter cup of sugar in a nonstick pan. Quarter and core apples and lay them in concentric circles core side up in the pan. Use smaller pieces to fill any holes. I also sprinkled some of my favorite baking spices over the apples at this point: cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice- though it should be noted that this is not traditional. Keeping this dish simple without the spices may actually be preferable.

Top the pan with a circle of frozen (thawed) puff pastry or homemade pastry crust. I actually had a pastry crust I had made ahead of time in the freezer I planned to use, but forgot to thaw it in time to roll out. Lucky the frozen puff pastry is easy to find, and is sold in sheets so there is no rolling required.

Place pan in oven at 375 degrees until crust is browned and flaky.
You will noticed a lot of liquid has formed as the apples cooked. the next step is to cook off this liquid. This is best done somewhat slowly over medium heat, as once the liquid is gone the sugar will burn quite quickly. You can watch and see the liquid bubble away around the edges to keep track of this.

 As this reduces, you can assure the apples and sugar have not stuck to the bottom of the pan by slowly spinning the tarte tatin inside the pan- press your fingers down on the crust and rotate slowly.

Once the liquid is no longer apparent on the edges (You can check by tilting the pan and seeing if more liquid appears) continue to cook a few minutes until you can smell the sugar caramelizing.

When the cooking is complete, place your serving dish over the top of the pan, and flip. Allow the Tarte to rest in the upside down pan for a few minutes, and it will free itself. Then just remove the pan from the top to reveal your Tarte Tatin.

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