Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tarte Tatin

'I burnt the apples!', she exclaimed. And that is how a long story began. Because this happened more than 100 years ago. And she was one of the two sisters Tatin. Probably nobody would know her name except of the few hunters and travelers who stayed at the hotel, owned by her and her sister, about 100 km south of Paris. But there were some clients in the restaurant at the hotel who were waiting for the apple tarts they had ordered. And she, who was responsible for the kitchen things, had to do something. What exactly was her mistake - probably nobody will ever know. Was she tired, distracted by something or just absent-minded? We will never know. But she lacked of time and she had to do something with the caramelized apples she had in the pan. So she put the tart pastry onto the apples, baked the cake and turned it upside down. Little bit frustrated, little bit nervous she served the upside-down apple tart to the clients. What was their reaction? They were fascinated and wanted more. Because the caramelized apples tasted far better than the ones used in the classical apple tart. 
How did the story continue? A man from French restaurant Maxim's heard about this little treasure and wanted to know the key to it. He found a way to take the recipe and that is how Tarte Tatin, named after the above mentioned lady, became part of Maxim's menu and made its official entrance to the golden culinary pages of the world. 
That is how a mistake turned into something appreciated all over the world. I like this idea very much. Not so exaggerating like turning lemons into lemonade but I suppose, sometimes there is opportunity even in the worst situations. In fact, being involved into the situation makes you some kind of blind to all the possibilities around. But they still exist.
I rarely admit I have made a mistake. But now I 'burned my apples'. Literally and figuratively. And I have to decide what to do with the 'pastry', with the 'clients' and how the story should continue. In other words, I should decide what my future steps should be. 
The things which are obvious in the pictures are that I am a little bit angry. And anxious. And that is why I was thinking I should not publish this post. But this is my place. And the tart is still tasty. So here is the recipe, taken from a book about the French cooking.

For the tart pastry:
  • 220 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp ice-cold water
For the caramelized apples:
  • 1.5 kg apples (Golden Delicious or Granny Smith) 
  • 70 g unsalted butter
  • 170 g caster sugar
For the creme Chantilly:
  • 200 g (3/4 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Prepare the pastry. 
Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub it with your fingers to form breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and water, mix well and shape a ball. Wrap it with a plastic wrap and put into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. You can make the dough into a food processor using the pulse button.

Prepare the caramelized apples. Peel, core and cut the apples into quarters. Put butter and sugar into deep 25 cm diameter pan with ovenproof handle. Heat until butter and sugar have melted together and arrange the apples tightly in the frying pan making sure there are no gaps between them. Apples will be the top of the cake after turning, so make sure you arrange them neat. Cook over low heat for 35 minutes until apples are soft and the caramel lightly browned. Baste the apples with a spoon to caramelize their tops. 

Prepare Tart Tatin. Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a circle slightly larger than the frying pan and about 3 mm thick. Lay pastry over the apples, press down around the edge to enclose it completely. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from oven, leave to rest 5 minutes and turn it onto a plate. 

Prepare the creme chantilly. Whisk together the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract into a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Serve with the hot Tarte Tatin.

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