Tarte Tatin Benoit
3/4 C. granulated sugar
10 T. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices (see note)
1 t. vanilla
3 lbs. large apples, peeled, cored and halved lengthwise (about 8 apples; see note)
Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
Creme frache or whipped cream, for garnish
Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Place the butter slices evenly over the sugar. Drizzle with the vanilla.
Beginning at the outside edge of the pan, stand the apple halves on end on top of the butter: They should all face in one direction, with the rounded edge of the apple against the edge of the pan and the cut side toward the center. Pack the apples as close together as possible. Make a second circle of apple halves inside the first. Place one apple half in the center of the circle to fill any remaining space. (As they cook, the apples will shrink and give up their juices. They will also naturally fall in place as they shrink, with the rounded halves falling to the bottom. Try to remember that when you turn out the tart, you want to see the nice rounded halves of apple.)
Place the skillet over low heat and cook the apples in the butter and sugar, uncovered, until the butter/sugar mixture turns a thick, golden brown and just begins to caramelize, about 1 hour. The liquid should remain at a gentle bubble. Baste the apples from time to time to speed up the cooking and to make for evenly cooked fruit. (If the apples seem to lose their place, you can carefully nudge them back into formation.)
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the skillet on a baking sheet. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place it on top of the apples, gently pushing the edges of the pastry down around the edge of the skillet, but do not seal the edges. Bake until the pastry is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Do not be concerned if the juices bubble over — this is normal.
Remove the tart from the oven. Immediately invert a rimmed serving platter over the skillet. Quickly but carefully invert the skillet and the platter together so the pastry ends up on the platter, with the apples on top. Should any apples stick to the bottom of the pan, remove them and place them back in the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature with dollops of creme frache.
Note: Recommended varieties of apples include: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Fuji, Criterion, Winesap, Northern Spies, Jonagold and Pink Lady.
1 C. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes (8 T.; see note)
3 T. ice water
Place the flour and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add the butter and process until well-blended, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water and process just until the mixture begins to form a ball, about 10 seconds.
Transfer the dough to a clean work surface, and with a dough scraper, smear it bit by bit across the work surface until it is smooth and the flour and butter are well-blended. Form into a flattened round, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Roll the dough out to form a 10-inch round. Place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Note: Use real butter or stick margarine. Do not substitute reduced-fat spreads; their higher water content often yields less-satisfactory results.
Adapted from “The Paris Cookbook” by Patricia Wells
Makes 8 servings.