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Thursday, February 22, 2007

tarte tatin...old-fashioned, french fun

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For those in the know, the word "tatin" evokes images of a caramelized, buttery, apple tart. But for me, even though I'm somewhat 'in the know,' the word tatin has entirely different images.....

Tatin means France to me. When I was in my second year of university, I was toying with the idea of a third-year exchange overseas (I mean, who wouldn't want to live in France for a year???!!!??)....initially, I had thought about going to Nice, where there was an established exchange program, with over 35 Canadian students going.

But then M. Tatin stepped in. And I was no longer going to Nice. M. Tatin was a charismatic, compelling speaker...he milked emotion through his words, and conveyed enthusiasm like no one I've ever spoken to. And M. Tatin was there to promote the town of Tours. And so I went to Tours. M. Tatin was a 'dixhuitièmiste" (French literary specialty involving the enlightenment period in the 1700s) of course I took all courses I could find in this era.

M. Tatin was SUPPOSED to be our exchange advisor, yet magically could almost never be found. M. Tatin, while compelling, was also elusive, frustrating and absolutely the worst administrator I've ever met. But I still look back SO fondly at this man whom I'm certain doesn't remember me, but due to this tarte, whom I can't ever forget.

And I thank him. Tours was way better than Nice would have been...though Nice is still nice. ;)

And back to that tarte.....

I have never made this before. It was a bit of an adventure....but one that I'll happily indulge in again and again....and it was also a fabulous way to break in my brand new cast iron skillet. WoohoO! I based this on Mark Bittman's recipe (I love that man) with a few north-americanised the addition of a little sacriligious cinnamon and vanilla bean....not authentic, but I like it.

7 large tart apples (I used 3 granny smiths and 4 royal galas)
1-2 T lemon juice
8 T butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped clean

Tart Crust
1.5 cups flour (plus more as needed)
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
10 T butter (cut into 10 pieces)
2 egg yolks
3 T ice water, plus 1 T if needed

1. Make tart crust - combine flour, salt and sugar in the container of a food processor. Pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine. Process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds. Add the egg yolks and process another few seconds.

butter flour egg crumble

2. Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle 3 T of water over it. Use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to gradually gather the mixture into a ball; if the mixture is dry, add another T of ice water. When you can make the mixture into a ball with your hands, do so. Wrap the plastic, flatten into a small disk and chill the dough for 30 minutes. Ostensibly, this will ease rolling but it's still a HUGE pain.

round dough disk

4. Unwrap the dough and place it on the work surface. Sprinkle the top with flour. Roll with light pressure, from the centre out....if it seems extraordinarily sticky, add a little flour, but if it becomes sticky DURING rolling, just chill it a little bit. I actually tossed mine out in the snow (I had it on parchment paper) so I could peel the little bugger off.

(I let the dough chill was I was dealing with the apples, and then rolled it out while the apples were bubbling away!)

FOr the apple part of the whole deal....

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Peel core, and quarter the apples; toss with the lemon juice.

3. Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet, and stir in the sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Oooooooo....yummy golden goodness.
Mmmmmmm....butter and sugary goodness

4. Press the apple slices into the sugar, arranging them in concentric circles and making certain to pack them as tightly as you can (they'll shrink).
raw naked apple slices

5. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the butter-sugar mixture has turned a very deep, dark brown. While it is cooking, roll out the pastry. When the apples are ready, remove the pan from the heat. Lay the pastry on top of the apples, bringing the dough to the edges of the pan to seal it. Prick the dough with a fork and bake about 20 minutes or until the pastry is a luscious golden brown.

6. Remove the tart from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Shake the hot pan to loosen any apples that might be stuck. Invert the apple tarte onto a large serving dish, taking care not to burn yourself (the juices will go EVERYWHERE). Trust me. I got hubs to do this part....cast iron pans are freaking heavy. And not one of my apples stuck! :)

tarte tatin

I served this with a spiced whipped cream - 3/4 c whipping cream, 2 T sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cardamom. Make sure the cream is well chilled and whip away. :)

tarte tatin with spiced whipped cream

This should be served warm and pretty much right out of the oven....I made it earlier and just reheated so I could keep my sanity....

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for camping cooking adventures!


Rach said...

I went to Tours on a three week exchange when I was 16. I love that city!

How I wish I had half the cooking talent you do. In the future, when my life doesn't revolve around Grad school, I will have to try some of your recipes.

Jenn said...

I think I see a tarte tatin in my weekend plans :) Have you ever made it with pears? Also super yummy
Thanks for yet another great yummy recipe

Brilynn said...

I lived in France for 3 months on exchange back in high school. I was closer to Lyon is a tiny little village. Tarte tatin has a special place in my heart too...

Jenn said...

mmmmm.... I'm eating a piece of my leftover tarte tatin from Sunday right now... It didn't turn out as nicely caramelized as yours, but it still tastes pretty darn yummy :)

Just how brown did you let it get on the stove top?! I kind of thought it would continue getting more caramelized in the oven, but it didn't really change much.

raegun said...

Hi! This tarte looks amazing, but alas, I don't own a cast iron skillet. Could you get away with an oven-safe All-Clad one? Do tell! I may have trouble justifying the purchase of a new skillet for one dish. :(

Kevin said...

This looks really good. I am bookmarking for apple season.

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