This classic upside-down apple french tart, although a bit challenging to make, it is extremely rewarding and perfect dessert for the upcoming holidays. Or if you’re like me, a perfect dessert period. Hope you won’t need the usual holiday-only-too-time-comsuming-I-need-motivation excuse to make it because it is really fun. It does take time, but you can definitely do it all in less than 3 hours including the home made puff pastry. If you buy your puff pastry at the store, then, this is a 45-60 minute deal really. I enjoy making my own puff pastry, for this pie, I made pate fuiletee rapide which is a short cut technique that is less tricky and offers wonderful results. Basically a folded pate brisee. It will be extremely buttery and flaky. My house still smells like a french pastry shop.
There are tart tatin recipes as there are cookbooks and blogs out there, so I decided to make the simplest version of it I could find. But simplicity, specially in cooking is usually a wonderful way to achieve fantastic results. If you’re into baking and just started exploring the great subject of french tarts, this is a great one to learn and many useful lessons can be learned from it. Here’s what I did:
Ingredients (makes a single 9-10 inch tart tatin):
Puff Pastry :
200g AP flour
112g unsalted frozen or very cold butter (a butter stick basically)
25-50g granulated sugar
3-4 Tbsp chilled water
1 or 2 pinches of kosher salt
8 cored, peeled and quartered golden delicious apples
1 tsp cinnamon
For the puff pastry. Using a food processor (you could totally do this by hand, but this time I employed the food processor) place flour, salt and sugar in the bowl. Pulse a few times to aerate and sift. Cut the butter into small 1/4 inch cubes with a knife over a cutting board, then add the butter cubes to the food processor. Pulse until flour is coated with the fat, and the cubes have become smaller in size, the size of a pea more or less. It’s ok if there are bigger chunks. If the butter is frozen, this process will take longer so be patient. Now that the flour has the look of corn meal, add the water, one Tbsp at a time, then pulse to incorporate. You might not need all the water, so test the dough between your fingers as you go. If you press some dough between your fingers and it comes together, you have enough water, if it still crumble, then keep going. Empty the bowl of your food processor on a clean surface and shape the dough into a ball. If the dough doesn’t come together you can return it to the food processor and add more water. Once the dough is shaped into a ball. Flatten into a disk of a bout an inch in thickness. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes so the flour hydrates evenly and the little gluten that formed, relaxes as well so we can roll out the dough later.
To roll out the dough and fold it. Flour a flat working area, keep a pastry brush and more flour nearby, you’re gonna need to flour this dough through the process. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the work area. Flour your rolling pin as well. Now, roll out the dough vertically away and towards you. Shape it with your fingers as you do this. What we want is a rectangle shape as close as you can get it. Once you have a nice rectangle of about 1/4 of an inch thick, fold it as you would a letter. Now you should have a nice folded rectangle in front of you. Rotate it 90 degrees and roll it out again into a rectangle of 1/4 of an inch thick, fold as done previously. Rotate one last time 90 degrees, roll out into a rectangle of 1/4 of an inch thick and fold one last time. You’re done. You will probably need to dust the work surface and the dough as you go, but brush off any excess flour on the dough. Wrap in plastic and place back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
To make the apple filling. Add butter and sugar to a hot skillet on medium heat. Cook until butter is melted and sugar is starting to bubble. Add the apples and sprinkle the cinnamon over, and using a spatula mix them into the butter until coated. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. A light caramel will form and the apples will become soft and slightly darker. Remove from the heat and transfer to a buttered tart pan. It’s time to roll out the dough and give the apple a little time to cool off.
To roll out the final crust. Place the dough on a clean and floured surface. Using your hands, shape into a square box. Using your rolling pin, start flattening the dough, rotating 90 degrees every few passes to keep an even thickness and a more or less square shape. If the butter is too cold, this could be hard work. You can allow the dough to rest at room temperature a few minutes before you start. Roll to about a 1/8 of a inch thick. You should have a sheet of dough that’s larger than a 10 inch tart pan by 1 or 2 inches. Place dough over the pan. All you really need is about 1 inch of extra diameter so trim away the rest using scissors or a sharp knife. Tuck the edge of the dough inside the pan and over the apples. Remember, this is an upside tart, so shape the dough to form a tart shell for the apples.
To bake the pie. Before you add the tart to a preheated oven at 400F. Cut vents on the dough, a few (I made about 10-12 cuts) of about half an inch long. This will allow the water from the apples to escape. Otherwise, the crust will never cook properly. Place the pan in the oven for about 40 minutes. Checking to make sure the crust is perfectly golden. Remove from the oven. The tricky if not the trickiest step is flipping the tart upside down. You have to work while the pan is hot so the caramel doesn’t become too sticky and ruins your tart. You have to work carefully, protect your hands with dry kitchen towels or oven mittens (I prefer kitchen towels, better grip). Place a flat dish over the tart pan. Hold them together and flip them in one move. I also have a cutting board in place and slightly bang the dish once or twice against it to ensure that the tart has released, then carefully remove tart pan, and there should be a beautifully amber caramel covering the warm apples, all sitting in a flaky and buttery pie crust.
This pie takes practice to make, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first few times. I won”t tell you how many I messed this up. You’re welcome to guess.. here’s a hint… MANY. I hope you find yourself considering some tart making in the near future if you weren’t already 🙂 Until the next time. Now I go clean the kitchen.