Servings: eight to ten
This French caramelized upside-down apple tart is great to serve to guests, because they either know it and adore it, or they’ve never heard of it before and they fall in love with it right at your dinner table. It isn’t hard to make, but it is a bit of a project. A good time to make your pastry is while the apples are cooking.
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I decided I wanted to master tarte tatin to serve at a dinner party along with cassoulet and tested this recipe along with several others. Here's what I learned: (1) Regular butter pastry (9T butter to 1 1/2 c flour) works better than the pâte brisée suggested. The egg in the pâte brisée makes for a soggy, leaden crust. (2) Quartering apples works better than the halving them as done in this recipe. More surface to caramelize and a better opportunity to boil out all the juices, which you need to do to avoid a soggy crust. (3) Gala apples work great. They hold their shape so you don't wind up with applesauce. Cut the day before and sprinkle with about 1/4 c of the sugar along with some lemon juice. This will draw out some of the juices so you don't have so much. (4) As other reviewers suggest, caramelize the sugar before adding the butter. Once the butter browns, a splash of Calvados is a great addition. (5) As this recipe suggests, remove apples with a slotted spoon as they caramelize and boil or ladle off some of the juice. You don't want a lot of juice when the tarte goes into the oven or you will wind up with a soggy tarte. Make sure the apples are pretty well caramelized before baking.
(6) A tarte tatin pan -- Emile Henri makes one -- is worth the investment. (7) To avoid a lot of fussing after guests arrive, roll out your crust a day ahead and freeze. Caramelize your apples an hour or two ahead as well. Take crust out of freezer and lay on tarte about 20 minutes before you plan to bake. Crimp once it thaws.
This is a brilliant recipe! The best part is the clever use of the reserved apples to close the gaps once the main portion of apples begins shrinking. It makes the finished tarte look amazing! Suggestion: Make sure your caramel is a rich amber (adds complexity, removes excessive sweetness)! A few tweeks: don't caramelize the sugar with the butter. Instead, make the caramel with a sprinkle of water (I add vanilla seeds and pod as well), and then when it hits the right color, remove from heat, drop a few tablespoons of butter (it'll bubble up and then go smooth--swirl the pan at this point). Add a few good splashes of Calvados, then 30 secs on low heat, stirring. Remove pod, then add the apples.
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