My cousin Rozanne from France, a highly qualified chef, has been staying with us for the past fortnight. I’ve had a lesson in how to make puff pastry using Lurpak butter and somehow my rolling technique does not meet the master’s critical eye. We made tart tatin the other night which was utterly delicious … rich, buttery caramelised apple nestled on a thin disc of well cooked puff pastry. This is a classical French dessert.
250g unsalted butter (Lurpak is best), at room temperature
200g caster sugar
6 – 7 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples
Butter puff pastry (normally Rozanne makes her own puff pastry at which she considers she is particularly good but for normal people like us, she has conceded that we can use frozen puff pastry from the supermarket –“ it just wont be as good you know”)
Place sliced butter in a 23 – 24cm heavy frypan that can go in the oven. Turn the element to medium high and once the butter begins to melt, sprinkle over caster sugar. Meanwhile, peel apples. Cut apples in half, remove core and cut each half into 3 equal segments. Place apples cut side down in concentric circles over the melting butter. Keep the heat medium high to high and watch carefully.
The butter and the sugar will amalgamate and slowly the sugar will begin to caramelise. This is a very important step. The caramel should be a rich deep colour otherwise the tart will be too sweet.
Reduce the heat to low so the apples can cook in this butter sugar mix. Do not hesitate to move them around. The time required to cook the apples depends on whether the apples are new season, in which case they are firmer, or if they have been held in cold storage a couple of months, in which case they tend to be more floury so reduce the cooking time accordingly.
Once the apples begin to soften, place a generous round of puff pastry on the top of the apples, nestling the pastry round the edge of the pan.
Immediately place in a pre-heated oven 180°C and cook approximately 40 minutes until the pastry is completely cooked through and the apples are soft. You may need to reduce the temperature after about 20 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the tart from the oven and let rest about 15 – 30 minutes. Place a serving platter over the top of the pan and invert the tart onto the platter, making sure all the buttery caramelised juices are contained.
If necessary, rearrange the apple pieces into some sort of order but I never mind this tart looking slightly out of control.
Serve with very lightly whipped cream and/or ice-cream and don’t go near the scales for at least 7 days!