One thing I love about food and cooking is that you have to go a long way to really destroy food. There are the obvious things like burning a cake to cinders in the oven or setting fire to the sausages, but generally, cooking disasters are salvageable. (Foodies will probably disagree to strongly disagree at this point)
And here’s a great example of just that:
Sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin were cooking in their hotel one very busy day in 1898. Stéphanie was so stressed out in the kitchen that she totally screwed up the apple pie – she overcooked the apples (gasp!) as they softened in a pan, so she attempted a daring rescue by putting the pastry base on top of the apples (genius!!) and putting the whole pan in the oven. When the pastry was cooked, she simply turned the upside-down pie upside down (that’s not confusing) and voila! A classic was born. (Paraphrased by me)
Tarte Tatin is now considered a difficult to dish to make properly (err, it was a mistake and now it’s a complex dish??)… which must be why I only discovered it when I moved to Plymouth, thanks to the cooking genius of our neighbour, Mr B. [Aside: Also French food is very regionalistic – made up that word – so if the Tatin sisters weren’t living in your region you wouldn’t consider making or eating their food. Your region has enough great food to celebrate without bothering with some upside down apple pie.]
Now, the lovely tart-making sisters would turn in their graves if they saw me making my version of their precious pastry. I consider TT to be a quick and easy dessert, and the only way mine is similar to theirs is that the pastry in on top. I successfully screw up their screw-up. And mine is just as triumphant as far as I am concerned.
So, if you want to proudly produce some French cuisine that is actually supposed to look like a flop, whip up my quick and easy version of this this little tart in no time:
1. Preheat oven to about 200C/350F
2. Ingredients: Ready rolled puff pastry, 4-5 firm apples (I used 3 large braeburns + a pear just to jazz it up. Ooh look at me!),butter and sugar – around 70g of each (if you use more, you’ll have more ‘sauce’ so adjust to your own tastes. I don’t usually measure it out, just put a block of butter in pan and pour in about the same amount of sugar.)
3. Put butter and sugar in a pan and heat. If you have an ovenproof pan, your job just got easier. Just stick this in the oven with the pastry on top (see #6).
4. Peel and slice apples, then put into the pan with sugar and butter. Stir around to coat.
5. While the sugar is caramelising gorgeously all over that fresh fruit, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to make sure it’s big enough to cover your pie dish. (This pie dish will probably not be the final dish you serve the pie in.)
6. Once the sugary mixture is all bubbly and golden and the fruit has started to soften and change colour, transfer the fruit and all the sauce into a pie dish.
7. Cover the fruit with pastry, tucking the pastry down the sides of the dish to ‘seal’. Overlap the pastry by folding it – it won’t look too pretty at this point! (See photo eight)
8. Prick all over with a fork and put into the oven until golden (20-30 minutes depending on how brown you like it).
9. To serve: Either tip the whole pie upside down into another serving dish, letting the juices soak into the pastry OR just leave it the way it is with pastry on top – and spoon the sauce over the pastry when you serve it in bowls.
It’s great served with custard, ice cream or clotted cream. Enjoy!
PS. Dirty dishes count: Rolling pin, peeler, chopping board & knife, pan, wooden spoon, pie dish. How great is that?!