Calvados Tarte Tatin
From Geoff Last, Bin 905 Distinctive Wines and Spirits: Tarte tatin was created at the Hotel Tatin in 1860 by the owner’s daughter, Stéphanie Tatin, when she accidently turned an apple tart upside-down onto a baking sheet and decided to bake it anyway. The results were so good that it became a staple of the hotel. I use a tatin pan, but a cast-iron frying pan works almost as well. This recipe calls for a traditional pie crust, but you can also use puff pastry. The only tricky part – other than inverting the tart when it’s done – is in the caramelizing of the apples. You want them just on the edge of burning (a few blackened spots is ideal). I can usually smell them when they just start to burn but it’s a good idea to take a peek under the apples with a wooden spatula close to the end. The butter and sugar should be dark and sticky and the apples should also be very dark, almost to the point of becoming burnt.
1 stick (1/4 lb.) butter, cut into
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
9 apples – tart, crisp varieties work best – cored, peeled and quartered
1/4 c. calvados (French apple brandy)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the butter pieces evenly in a 9- to 10-inch tatin or cast-iron pan and sprinkle the sugar evenly over top of the butter. Place the apple pieces on their sides on top of the butter and sugar, in a tight ring around the outside rim of the pan. Pack them as tightly as possible since they will shrink considerably during cooking. Form a second ring inside the first ring. You should have about a 4-inch circle remaining in the middle; pack this area with the remaining pieces of apple and fill any large gaps with any remaining wedges. Dust the apples with the cinnamon. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle the calvados evenly over the apples (be very careful – the hot pan could ignite the calvados. I wear an oven mitt when I do this) and continue to cook the apples on the stove over medium-high heat for about another 20 minutes, until the butter/sugar caramelizes and the apples are dark brown underneath, lifting one or two of them gently from time to time to check. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you make the pastry.
1 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar
5 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 T. shortening
4 T. ice water
Preheat the oven to 375°F. about a half hour before completing the tart. Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a chilled mixing bowl or food processor bowl. Add the butter and shortening and work them into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. A pastry blender (or food processor) works best. As with any pie crust, work quickly, keeping the ingredients as cool as possible and not overworking the dough. This is the key to keeping a pie crust light and flaky (I like to use a food processor and I put the bowl and blade in the freezer for 10 minutes before using). Add the ice water and work the dough with a wooden spoon just until it comes together.
Form the dough into a hockey puck-shaped disc and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. Roll it out into a 12” circle on a floured board and drape it over the apples, tucking the excess dough between the outer layer of the apples and the pan. Bake in the middle of the oven until the crust becomes lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Cover the tart with a serving platter that is slightly larger than your baking dish. In one quick movement, invert the tatin onto the serving platter. Lift the pan immediately; the apples should come away cleanly from the pan but a few may stick. Just peel them off the pan and put them back into place. The tart should be served warm with a dollop of whipped cream or high quality vanilla ice cream.