The Loire valley is not just about fairytale châteaux, fine wine, goats' cheese and elite horsemanship, it's also about pies.
Many and various are the stories surrounding this famous dessert, including one that Maxim's of Paris sent a chef in disguise as a gardener to work in the shrubberies of the Hôtel Tatin and discover how to make the pie. He presumably succeeded in his mission because in 1925 it became a feature on their menu.
Tarte Tatin turns the wormiest windfall or the wrinkliest stored apple into a star and it's all in the simple organic ingredients and the method of cooking.
Step 1: Ingredients
- enough to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. The apples shown above, (bottom left), for example were enough for a 25cm or 10" square, pie dish with an internal depth of 25mm or 1". I also included a quince which had fallen that morning.
Apple Varieties I tend to avoid adding any that are too 'woolly', as these tend to turn to mush too quickly and the object of the pre-cooking, apart from caramelisation, is to drive enough water off the apples to make for a crisp, flavour and pastry. So, if you have the above in your windfalls then it's best to either put them aside or if you have enough, make a separate tart just from them.
100g (3½oz) of butter
100g (3½oz) of sugar (many recipes use twice this amount but I find organic sugar much sweeter, therefore I tend to use a lot less and I still get a good caramel colour to the base of the apples.)
For the Pastry
170g (6oz) of all purpose/plain flour
85g (3oz) of butter
1 dessert spoon of sugar
1 small (bantam) egg
A little water approx 1 - 1½ tablespoons
This will give you enough pastry to decorate. I like to do this and then flip individual slices of the tart once I have brought it to the table. It allows you to be artistic and is a lot safer!
Pre-heat Oven - 425ºF or 220ºC
Step 2: Method
I usually peel the windfalls and keep the skin on the picked apples. In the photos above you can see two different tarts, one (bottom left) made wholly of windfalls.
Sprinkle the sugar on the base of the frying pan and fleck with pieces of butter.
Arrange the apples on the top in a vaguely cartwheel pattern, this looks pretty and also allows for maximum fruit and a good caramelisation.
Place on a hot stove top and forget about it for approximately 15 minutes. Check for firmness of the apples by pressing lightly on the smallest pieces with the finger tip. If the piece of apple gives to the touch and the caramel is a rich golden colour, then the tart is ready for the next stage.
Slide your apples carefully into your buttered baking dish, so as to keep the caramelised side on the bottom.
You can then make the pastry, this allows time for the apples to cool slightly so as not to 'melt' the crust.
Rub the butter and flour to a breadcrumb texture, mix in the sugar and add the egg.
Knead ingredients together quickly with the hands and add as much of the water as needed to make a stiff dough. Don't overwork, this is a short pastry and will break if it has too much contact time!
Roll out swiftly with a minimum of flour on the board and pin, just enough to stop it sticking.
Short pastry requires minimum work and handling, having cold hands helps!
Place over the apples tucking the edges down into the dish. Decorate with excess pastry. Any cracks will let out the steam and large ones can be disguised with leaves!
Cook in oven until golden.
Enjoy hot or cold.
If you would like to have more details on Tarte Tatin its legends and savoury variations then visit Simply Organic Recipes, where you will find more recipes including gluten-free. Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to comment and/or ask questions either here or on the blog.
Compliments of the season!
Pavlovafowl aka Sue