I’m in love. Again. I’m fickle.
Once, it was the macaron. Always dressed in a new colour, a new coat. Fashionable, delicate, ever-so rich.
Then, it was the rustic warmth of the pasteis de nata. A transplanted version – I can only imagine how spectacular the real deal Lisbon tart might be.
For the moment I am dithering between two men, two experts. Jacques Genin conquers my heart every time with his delicate mastery of chocolate and caramel… and yet Philippe Conticini’s sense of colour and design is so winning. And his videos. I heart the lemon meringue tart. (And the bossy little French kids! Adorable!)
Like any love affair though, there is a frustrating element of mystery. He shows most everything, except the secret trick-knack-twist that makes it perfect. I studied this tarte tatin video most carefully before attempting my own. Those thin strips of apple melding into a soft caramel jelly, on a crisp strip of puff pastry – avoiding the stodge and sogginess that traps a humdrum tarte tatin in the everyday. This one is special.
The first attempt was a watery disaster. (Of course, I do not have a specially adapted apple peeler.) The second time I made it in a loaf tin and crucially, after baking, left it in the fridge weighed down with numerous cans to absorb the sweet liquid. Then flipped it out on the a rectangle of puff pastry (baked and caramelised seperately) sprinkled it with streusel for a bit of bite, and most importantly, served it with lightly whipped vanilla cream.
It was perfection. A dream tatin. And I will be fiercely loyal to it…
…until the next obsession.
Tarte Tatin de Reves
as inspired by Philippe Conticini – makes enough for 6 elegant desserts
(note: rice flour in the streusel makes it featherlight and crisp, but substitute ground almonds if more easily available, for a nice richness and crunch)
7 golden delicious apples, preferably ripe and a bit wrinkly
for the pastry:
one packet puff pastry
a handful caster sugar
a little icing sugar for sprinkling
for the streusel:
25g caster sugar
25g rice flour (or ground almonds)
200g thick cream for whipping
20g vanilla sugar / icing sugar + half a vanilla bean
First, watch the video above!
Now heat the oven to 160C, get out a non-stick wide loaf tin.
In a small pan, put the caster sugar on a medium-high heat to caramelise. Watch it carefully as you peel the apples – do not stir , just tilt from side to side if it browns unevenly. When it is a deep dark brown, throw in the butter and stand back. Pour half into of the loaf tin and swirl to coat the bottom.
Using a wide peeler like the one in my drawing above, try to peel long thin strips of apple around its equator, as long as you can. Keep going until you get to the core. Roughly chop the cores, and boil them in a small saucepan just covered with water.
Arrange your apple strips lengthways in the loaf tin, trying to keep the height as even as possible. Tuck any scraps in as well. Add a splash of the apple-core water to the rest of the caramel and heat it gently to a juice-like consistency. Pour over the apples.
Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the apples are completely soft and a dark brown liquid is bubbling around the edges. Remove from the oven, let cool a little, then cover with clingfilm. Find something heavy to use as a weight: I found an unopened juice container to be about the right size. Refrigerate the tin with the weight on top. The juice will then be absorbed into the apples, which will be compressed into a fine jelly. Leave for a few hours or overnight.
For the pastry:
Cut a long strip of puff pastry a few centimetres longer and wider than the loaf tin. Sprinkle a handful of caster sugar on some baking paper and place the pastry on top. (This will caramelise the bottom.) Bake for 20 minutes at 180C until puffed up and light golden. Gently press it down with another sheet of baking paper, then shake a thick layer of icing sugar over it and put back in the oven at 200C for 10 minutes to go shiny and brown.
For the streusel:
Rub all the ingredients together with your fingers, squeeze together into an irregular rubble. Scatter over a baking tray and bake at 180c for 5-10 minutes, until just golden.
Remove the weights and clingfilm from the apples and flip (cross your fingers!) onto the puff pastry that is already on a serving plate. Either arrange the streusel neatly along the sides or scatter on top. Whip some cream to soft peaks and stir in vanilla sugar / sugar and scraped seeds from a vanilla bean. Slice neat widths of the tarte tatin, let your guests add cream and extra crumble.