Lately, the mornings here have been graced with a light dusting of frost on the ground. I brace myself for that first breath of the crisp air that has a smell of something between dried leaves and moss. This is the time where cozy socks are the norm and soft blankets can be found in various seating areas around my house to encourage snuggling with a good book, my sweetheart or even a nap. The shorter days and cooler nights have had their effect on local produce as well and although not as abundant as in the summer months, our little farm stand has its own charm during the winter season. This is the time for various types of squashes, root vegetables, hearty winter greens and of course apples, especially the apples. The apples at the farm stand are from local organic farms and lack the perfectly shaped, shiney and spotless qualities of those found at the regular markets. You might have to remind yourself of the old adage "you can't judge a book by its cover", but I guarantee you the flavor will win you over in the end. I enjoy rummaging through wooden crates for my Granny Smith's, Gala or Red Delicious and I'm happy to go home with a bag of misshapen fruit in all sizes, for either eating out of hand or for baking.
For this Apple Tarte Tatin a classic French dessert, I prefer using the Granny Smith variety. They hold up quite nicely to bubbling away in the sticky rich caramel until they are dark and almost burnt and then a finish off in the oven. Cooking the apples in the amber colored caramel turns them into a rich almost candy-like consistency, with a flavor that reminds me of butterscotch and vanilla. These sweet and tart apples paired with this buttery crust are the perfect vehicle for a dollop of mascarpone or vanilla ice cream. If the crust seems daunting, use a rolled sheet of thawed puff pastry instead. Either way, this is one dish you'll want to serve at your next dinner party.-s
Apple Tarte Tatin
For the crust:
1 stick butter, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lemon, zested
1 egg yolk
2 to 3 Tbsp. ice water
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup apple cider
½ lemon, juiced
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 stick butter, cut into 6 pats
4-5 apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered.
Mascarpone cheese mixed with 2 Tbsp. of sugar
To make the crust: in a food processor combine the butter, flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse until , it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Pulse several times until the mixture comes together. If it seems a bit dry add a little more water and pulse again briefly. The mixture should come together in a ball. Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured board and knead 1 to 2 times only to make it a smooth ball. Using a rolling pin or your fingers roll or press the dough out to an even circle about 11 to 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a cookie sheet line with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or preferable overnight, covered with plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
To make the filling: While the dough is chilling, place the sugar, apple cider, lemon juice, and vanilla bean seeds in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof pan. Stir to combine. Over high heat bring the mixture to a boil brushing down the sides of the pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in water, if necessary. After 6 to 7 minutes the mixture will eventually begin to turn light brown. Swish the pan around gently to promote even cooking. Cook the mixture for another minute or so until the mixture becomes a much deeper amber color. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, 2 pats at a time. The mixture will bubble up, so be careful not to get any of this on you. When all the butter is incorporated, begin to arrange the apples rounded side down in circles. Try to do this neatly and in a pretty way, remember the bottom is the top.
Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Retrieve the chilled pastry form the refrigerator and place it on top of the apples. Tuck the pastry in around the edges of the pan. Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and crispy. Let the tart cool for about 15 minutes. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pastry and carefully flip the platter and the pan over. Let the tart fall gently out of the pan.
Slice tart into individual pieces and garish with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone.
Serves 8 to 10