Winter is slowly, inexorably grinding its way into Gourmandistan, and our supply of local crops is dwindling. We’ve been told there are only a couple of more weeks left for local apples. While we have them, we’re occasionally enjoying one of our favorite desserts, tarte Tatin—or, as we make it, half a tarte Tatin.
This tart takes a fairly long time to make, because the apples need to slowly caramelize over low heat before going into the oven. Steve contributes his pâte brisée for the crust, but it’s Michelle who really makes the Tatin tick, patiently basting the apples until they’re golden brown. She’s found that halving the recipe works best for several reasons. Arranging four quartered apples in a small omelet pan is simpler than cramming 16 halves in a large skillet. A smaller tart is also easier to flip onto a plate, avoiding awkward (and painful) molten sugar burns from the oven-hot Tatin. No matter how much we like it, the two of us can’t eat a whole tart before it deteriorates. Plus, using only four apples means less whining from Steve, who sees every fresh apple as a perishable treasure. (Although, this tart is so delicious, he’s willing to give up his hoard.)
(adapted from Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook)
- 2-4 apples, depending on size
- 1/3 c. sugar
- 4 TB butter, sliced
- 1/2 t. vanilla extract
- 1/2 recipe pâte brisée
Spread sugar over bottom of an 8″ omelet pan or other ovenproof frying pan. Place butter pieces on top of the sugar. Drizzle vanilla over.
Peel and core apples (a melon baller works great). Slice into quarters. Arrange the quartered apples in the pan, core sides up.
Cook the apples over low heat until the butter and sugar mixture caramelizes. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Baste the apples occasionally.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
While the apples are cooking, roll out dough on a piece of wax paper into a circle slightly larger than the pan. Return to the refrigerator.
When apples are done, place the dough on top of them, pushing the edges down into the pan along the sides.
Bake until crust is done, about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately invert the tart onto a plate.