Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the apple uptake

I’m a bit late on the apple uptake, I know.

While I’m giving you recipes for tarte tatin, the recognizable orchard bags full of the season’s best Macouns and Empires are slowly being replaced by mounds of their less fresh, less crisp cousins.

You know the ones – they kind of disappointingly dissolve instead of that emblematic crisp on first bite, the fruit equivalent of a wet dishrag. Think the few apples you always got in your Halloween pillowcase (no one ever gave out the good ones, as if too precious to pass out to the ghost and the pirate on the front stoop), the ones that you dreaded getting and that your parents wouldn’t let you eat. Think red delicious, dining hall style.

But you can still find the good ones, you can. So let’s get on with it then, here is your tarte tatin – not fresh from the oven, but not far off – as promised.

To be perfectly honest, you could probably make this with the less-than-fresh apples that will soon take over; you’re cooking them quite a bit in this dessert, carmelizing them until they are at their very slouchiest. But try for the good apples, at least try; there’s nothing wrong with a little apple snobbery, especially this time of year.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: This recipe makes you chill the butter, the flour, and the food processor blade in the freezer before you make the crust. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But I advise you to do it: I followed the directions and this was probably the best pastry I have ever made. Also, after you’ve arranged the raw apples in your pan, make sure you’re not too shy to crank the heat after you return it to the heat. If the heat isn’t high enough, your apples won’t carmelize; otherwise, they will start to disintegrate on you.

1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cup flour
3 to 6 tablespoons ice water

7 medium apples
1 stick salted butter
1 cup sugar

For the crust: Pre-mix the flour and sugar in the food processor container, and cube the butter on a plate. Then put the dry ingredients and the butter in the freezer for a while. Prepare about 1/3 cup ice water and refrigerate. Chill everything for at least 20 minutes, then add the cubes of butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than tiny peas. Add the ice water a little at a time, processing just until the dough starts to come together into a mass. Be careful not to over-process it.

Turn out onto well-floured surface and pat together into a ball. Don’t handle the dough too much, or the warmth of your hands will start to melt the butter. Flour the top of the dough and use rolling pin to quickly press and roll the dough out into a 10 to 11-inch circle. You want the circle to be about the size of the pan you’re cooking the apples in. It will seem a little thick, thicker than your average pie crust. Move the crust onto a piece of parchment paper or onto a floured rimless baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the filling: Preheat oven to 375° F. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Don’t cut them into smaller pieces than quarters–the quarters shrink considerably during cooking.

Over low heat in a heavy, ovenproof skillet measuring 7 to 8 inches across the bottom and 10 to 11 inches across the top, melt the stick of butter. Remove from heat, add the sugar and stir until blended.

Shake the pan a bit so the butter-sugar mixture distributes evenly across the bottom. Arrange apple quarters in pan, first making a circle inside the edge of the pan. Place them on their sides and overlap them so you can fit as many as possible. Then fill the center of the pan; you may have some apple left over. Keep at least one extra apple quarter on hand–when you turn the apples over, they may have shrunk to the extent that you’ll need to cheat and fill in the space with an extra piece. This one piece won’t get quite as caramelized as the other pieces, but it will still cook through.

Return your pan to the stovetop on high heat. Let boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until the juices in the pan turn from golden in color to dark amber. Remove from heat. With the tip of a sharp knife, turn apple slices over, keeping them in their original places. If necessary, add an extra slice of apple to keep your arrangement intact. Return to the stovetop on high heat once more. Let cook another 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

Place the crust on top of the apples and brush off excess flour. Tuck edges under slightly, along the inside of the pan, being careful not to burn your fingers. Bake in oven until the top of the crust is golden-brown in color, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack about 30 minutes.

Run a sharp knife along the inside edge of the pan. Place a plate or other serving dish on top of the pan and quickly flip over the whole pan so the Tarte Tatin drops down onto the plate. The pan will still be hot, so be careful while doing this. It’s not as hard as you think, but you may have a few stragglers left in the pan after the tarte flips over. No worries, just put them back in their rightful tarte tatin place. Serve warm or at room temperature.

1 comment:

Lauri said...

I sent this recipe to a friend and she went bananas!