There are many ways to bake an upside-down apple pie. As with everything that claims to be a traditional, classic dish, there are a lot of discussions about the rights and wrongs. Even I have baked many different versions of an upside-down pie which I have carelessly called “tarte Tatin” and now I am so ashamed. I will never call any other preparation way a tarte Tatin: An upside-down savory pie is easy and delicious (onions!) and even the sweet version can be made with many different fruits (figs! pears!), but if you are baking a real tarte Tatin all you need is sugar, butter, apples and a sweet short crust pastry. And as Rita had specifically and very nicely asked for a tarte Tatin recipe, I decided to go the classical way this time.
Of course I couldn’t help myself and had to tweak it some. For one thing, I wanted to use the lemon and lime sugar Lil had sent me for EBBP #6. And since my discovery of salted caramels in Paris, I have an
insatiable understandable craving for the divine combination of salt and burnt sugar.
I made this tarte Tatin for a dinner party this past Saturday, hosted by our friends A. and K. in Munich who cooked up a delicious Mediterranean menu (best spaghetti bolognese I ever had!) and where we drank (as always) inhuman amounts of wine. But that is another post. The tarte was received well and I also thought that it tasted pretty good, the salt from the salted french butter and the dash of lime went very well with all that sugar. Next time I will reduce cooking times in both phases by 5 minutes so that the color of the caramel and apples is more uniform, I have altered the recipe below accordingly. Also I might use bigger apples, the “König’s Luiken” I used were very good (slightly tart) but so small that in the end you could think there were apricots, not apple quarters, on the pie.
We drank a Moscato from Lombardy from K.’s cellar with this. Traditionally I would recommend a Sauternes. You can substitute any semi-sweet wine, even a bubbly one.
(almost) classic Tarte Tatin
adapted from the classic recipe at the official tarte Tatin website
prep: 20 mins
cook: 25 mins @ medium heat
bake: 25 mins @ 170°C (Gas 6)
apples, 1kg (Reine des Reinettes or other slightly tart and firm sort)
salted butter, 125g (or regular butter with a pinch of salt)
lemon and lime sugar, 1 tbsp (or 1 tsp grated lemon peel)
for the crust
butter, 100g, cut to pieces, cold
salt, one pinch
water, 4 tbsp, cold
Start with the crust. Using your hands or two spatulas, mix the butter and the sugar till it is paste like. Add the flour and the salt, knead till the dough comes together. Add cold water slowly till you have a uniform, not sticky dough; you may not need all of the water. Form a ball, wrap it in shrink wrap and put in the fridge to rest.
Rinse, peel and quarter the apples. Discard the cores.
Preheat the oven.
Take a big (28 cm) non-stick pan that you can use stove-top as well as in the oven. If your pan has a plastic handle it is not an obstacle: Wrap the handle completely in 5 or 6 layers of aluminium foil. Over medium heat, melt the butter, sprinkle the sugars evenly on top, wait till the sugar dissolves/melts as well. This will look like too much butter, do not worry. Put the apple pieces with the (formerly) skin side down in circles in the melted butter/sugar mix. You may want to fill in gaps with some smaller cut pieces. Let the sugar and the apples caramelize in 25 mins, still over medium heat, do not stir. You can shake the pan if you have a feeling that the caramel is not uniformly distributed.
Take the dough out of the fridge, roll it out slightly bigger than your pan. Take the pan from the heat, carefully transfer the dough to the pan (use the rolling pin as help). Tuck in the dough around the edges. If you are preparing the tarte ahead of time, you may now put the pan, covered, in a cool place to rest. 30 mins before serving, proceed with the oven phase.
Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 mins, until the crust is golden-brown. Take the pan out (don’t forget to use oven mitts, a pan handle has a way of spoofing you to grab it without thinking), cover with a bigger (serving-) plate and holding both the bottom of the pan and the covering plate on two sides without the handle, turn it upside down very quickly. If your pan is heavy and/or the handle is in the way, you may want to have someone help you by holding and turning the handle at the same time.
Serve warm but not piping hot.
Notes: The classic recipe calls for short crust pastry, despite all the discussions to the contrary. At times I have also used puff pastry but in the mean time have also become a believer in the short crust pastry. Puff pastry flakes and puffs too much, if you are not eating the tarte a.s.a.p. it gets soggy and it is harder to make it yourself, too. I always use this 1-2-3 recipe (1part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour) when I need to roll out the pastry and move it around (as is the case with an upside-down cake or a double crust pie), as it is easier to handle. When you are making only a pie-bottom, you can also use the 1-1-2 formula, you can just shove the dough around in the pan with your fingertips, no need to roll out! If you need a short cut, use store-bought short crust pastry (Mürbeteig in Germany), it is easily available and inexpensive. And it is not traditional to eat ice cream or plain cream with the tarte tatin, although I admit they do taste good! But with this salted and limed version you won’t need the extra scoop to cut through the sweetness, believe me or try it for yourself.