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Rick Stein’s Tarte Tatin
At the French villa, we were holidaying at, there was an excellent cookbook – “French Odessey” by Rick Stein. I have high regard for his recipes, and there several that I wanted to try out pronto.
Wanting to cook a local dessert, which didn’t require lots of ingredients, I came across the Tarte Tatin recipe in Stein’s boo. It had a simple ingredient list, so et Voila! I have made Tarte Tatin a few times before. At home, I even have a special Le Creuset Tarte Tatin dish, but I have had mixed success. Raymond Blanc’s recipe, from memory, turned out a bit mushy (the apples overcooked before they caramelised) and Delia Smith’s from her “How to cook” series, was far too sweet for me.
Hoping that my friends would be forgiving if the Tart didn’t quite work, I gave Stein’s recipe a shot. I eyeballed the sugar (1 cup is about 200g) and the butter is easy to measure out if you follow the wrapper markings. Using ready puff pastry makes the recipe much easier and as long as one caramelises and cooks the apples properly one’s guaranteed a good result. The most time-consuming part is peeling and coring the apples.
With little by way of equipment (I used a regular Tefal frying pan to make the dish and luckily it had a detachable handle), the recipe turned out well. Essentially, you need a 20cm round heavy dish which can be heated on the hob and is suitable for the oven as well.
One word of advice – Turn the finished tart over in one clean flip!
Rick Stein’s Tarte Tatin
This delicious tart needs very few ingredients, and although it sounds very tricky it’s not that difficult, as long as you have the right cooking dish and use correct apples which hold their shape after cooking. Although its often served with vanilla ice cream, I prefer the simplicity of crème fraiche, as it cuts through the sweetness of the caramel.
If you buy a block of pastry, roll it out on a piece of baking parchment or cling wrap, lightly floured. Aim for a 25-26cm circle, slightly larger than the top of a 20-cm dish you are using. Refrigerate for at least 20 mins while you prepare the apples.
Spread the butter over the base of the tarte Tatin dish and sprinkle over the sugar in a thick even layer.
Peel, core and halve the apples, and tightly pack them, rounded-side down on top of the sugar. Packing them tightly is important as they shrink during cooking. If necessary quarter a few apples to fill any small gaps.
Place the pan on medium heat, gently shaking the dish now and then, until the apples start giving out juice which starts incorporating with the sugar and butter.
At first, the caramel will be pale and liquid but as you keep on cooking the juices will evaporate and the caramel will become darker and thicker. The aim is to get a good caramel, and letting the apples become tender and just cooked. Adjust the heat down if the sugar is caramelizing but the apples aren’t cooked and vice versa. Take care not to burn the caramel.
Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan). Working quickly, lift the pastry on top pf the apples and tuck the edges down inside the dish. The pastry will start softening quickly, so speed is of the essence here.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and deep golden. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 mins. It’s important to keep this time, any less and the caramel will run out and anymore, and it will start cooling and sticking in the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the tart and place the serving plate on top. Invert it in one quick flick. If any of the apples remain stuck in the pan, just pick up with a spatula and place on the tart. Serve with Crème Fraiche.