I am a stickler for the surface area to volume ratio: the smaller the surface area of something you cook, the better the taste. A perfect example of this is the traditional tarte tatin, which is often made by cutting the apples in quarters or sixths and then making the tarte. With this approach, you may well get half-baked apples. Instead, cut the slices really thin and place them over one another. It not only makes a nice design in the pan you will use to pre-cook the apples on the stove, but you’ll turn out a perfect tarte tatin.
4 large, hard, sweet apples (Pink Lady are perfect)
4 generous tablespoons of butter
4 heaped tablespoons of sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon (you don’t taste this, it just rounds out the flavor)
1 round of butter puff pastry that fits your cooking skillet
How to make simple tarte tatin
Heat the oven to 400F/225C.
Peel and core the apples and cut into think slices.
In an oven-proof, preferably non-stick skillet, melt the butter and arrange the apple slices in concentric circles in the pan, covering the pan completely. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar, add the salt and cinnamon and cook over medium heat until you see the butter/sugar mixture turning a bit brown and beginning to caramelize. It will make a rich sauce around the apples that will caramelize more as the tarte bakes. I use a spoon or turkey baster to suck up the caramel and baste the apple slices during the cooking.
When the oven is heated, immediately place the circle of puff pastry over the apples, pressing down softy around the edges to semi-seal. Place in the middle of the oven and bake about 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown. Remove and cool.
When you wish to serve the tarte, put the skillet on your cooktop burner for about 15 seconds to loosen the baked caramel bottom of the cooled tarte.
Place a serving plate over the tarte in the skillet and invert quickly. The tarte will slip out easily because you have released the caramel on the bottom of the skillet.
Delicious with a scoop of ice cream and a glass of Calvados…
Suzanne Dunnaway is the author of No Need To Knead, Handmade ItalianBreads in 90 Minutes (Hyperion); Rome, At Home, The Spirit of la cucina romana in Your Own Kitchen (Broadway Books); No Need to Knead (Metric/American version-Grub Street Publishers, London).