The Tatin sisters of the French Loire Valley may or may not have invented the baking of caramelized apples upside-down in pastry, but the classic Tarte Tatin is indelibly branded with their name. In her classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child calls her recipe La Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin, or the "tart of the unmarried sisters Tatin."
The convenience of frozen puff pastry makes this fall treat easy to pull together. Faith Kling, a pastry chef and chef instructor at Baltimore International College, has developed a few rules for hers.
Many recipes specify that the butter, sugar and apples cook together, but Kling prefers to let butter and sugar caramelize before adding the apples. She also uses only Golden Delicious apples. "Try it with Granny Smith, and they'll break down," Kling says.
It's also important to use a pan with a heavy bottom (or made of heavy-grade aluminum) and an ovenproof handle, Kling says.
And freshly grated cinnamon is an optional add-on - though the lovely caramelized apples have plenty of flavor on their own.
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cold, or 6 ounces pie dough
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 5 to 6), peeled, cored and halved
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh cinnamon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Roll puff pastry to 1/8 -inch thick, dusting with flour. Turn a 7- or 8-inch saute pan with an ovenproof handle upside down on the dough, and trace a circle around the pan, about an inch larger than the pan all the way around. Prick the circle of pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate while apples cook.
Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted and bubbling, sprinkle sugar over it. Work through the mixture with a spatula to keep it from sticking. When sugar has melted and mixture turns brown and syrupy, arrange apples with the rounded side out in a flower pattern in the pan, working from the outside in. Pack apples tightly. Work a spatula under the apples gently to loosen and distribute syrup. Baste apples and cook about 10 to 12 minutes, until apples are golden.
Remove pan from heat and place dough on top, tucking it in at the edges to create a seal and leaving a ridge. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drippings, and bake about 15 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden.
Let the tart cool for at least 10 minutes so liquid can be absorbed. To check, poke around the sides with a spatula to loosen the crust and shake the pan to gauge how much liquid remains. When juices are minimal, put a plate over the pastry and invert so that apples are on top. Drizzle any remaining caramel over the top; grate cinnamon over the apples, if desired.
Courtesy of Baltimore International College senior associate chef instructor Faith Kling
Per serving: 254 calories, 1 gram protein, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 44 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 34 milligrams sodium
1. Cut a circle of puff pastry about an inch larger all around than the top of the pan you'll be using. Prick the circle of pastry all over with a fork.
2. Melt the butter and add sugar. Just after sugar has melted and mixture is light-golden brown, arrange apples in a flower pattern over butter mixture; cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and seal dough around apples, tucking in at the pan's edges with your fingers. Put pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drippings and bake for about 15 minutes.
4. After crust is golden and apples are tender, remove from oven and let cool until juices are absorbed, at least 10 minutes.
5. When filling is set, carefully loosen edges with a spatula, cover pan with a plate and flip. Drizzle pan sauce over the apples.