#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge: Recipe 46 – Tarte Tatin
Part of the reason for setting myself this challenge of trying to cook new recipe every month was because there are a number of classic recipes which I have never attempted because I am a bit scared of them. I thought this challenge might force me to give them a go. Tarte Tatin was one such. It’s French, it sounds fancy, I have an idea you need special Tatin tin. All of which is screaming ‘difficult’ to me. However, I’ve always been a bit intrigued by a Tatin and in that vein, I even wrote it on a (very short) list of recipes I wanted to try and tackle during this challenge. And here we are, up to Recipe 46 of 48, and I still haven’t attempted a Tarte Tatin… This month it was time to try.
If I think of a Tarte Tatin, I instantly think apple, and apparently that is the classic flavour. I erroneously assumed that Tatin was in some way French for ‘apple’, but it turns out that Tatin was simply the surname of the proprietors of Hotel Tatin, which is credited with either inventing or popularising the dish (depending on whose account you believe). A quick recipe search however, reveals a number of interesting sounding variations, both sweet and savoury, on the Tarte Tatin theme; ‘Plum and Marzipan’ or ‘Red Onion’ both caught my eye. But I was running before I could walk. I needed to try a classic apple Tarte Tatin first and as luck would have it my copy of Nigel Slater’s Real Good Food had a recipe in it. And, even better, Nigel expressly told me that I didn’t need a specific Tatin tin and could use a normal cake tin or even, in extremis, a frying pan.
Making a Tarte Tatin sounded simple enough. Make the caramel with butter and sugar, add the apples, top with pastry, then bake. Pastry isn’t a problem for me and Nigel’s recipe used an enriched shortcrust (with egg yolks and sugar added) so that was easy to put together. Caramelising the butter and sugar was a bit more tricky though. I couldn’t remember whether you’re supposed to stir it or not supposed to stir it and Nigel didn’t include any instructions on this point.
I stirred it.
I suspect I shouldn’t have done.
Nigel’s recipe called for a golden caramel. By the time I’d finished wondering why mine was taking hours and turned the heat up to make it melt quicker it was decidedly brown. I was worried it would be burnt and bitter but a quick taste test once it had cooled and it didn’t seem to be, so I pressed on. (As an aside, I made the caramel in a saucepan and poured it into the cake tin as I wasn’t entirely convinced a cake tin could take the heat of the hob without warping. It didn’t seem to affect the end result.)
Arranging the apples atop the caramel was simple enough, as was rolling out a disc of pastry, draping it over the apples and tucking it in around the edges before popping the whole thing into the oven. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous turning it out but it had shrunk away from the edges of the tin and didn’t look like it would stick, so I plonked a plate over it and bravely inverted it.
E voila! Apple Tart Tatin
Served up with a little crème fraiche, it even looked reasonably respectable.
It tasted much as I expected it would. I was not delighted by the pastry, which I felt was a little heavy. In fact, there is a degree of debate about whether a Tatin should use shortcrust or puff pastry, and I think based on this particular recipe I would possibly come down on the side of puff pastry. I also think it would have been good to have slightly more oozy caramel as the tarte wasn’t as sticky as I had hoped it might be. But, I had made a Tarte Tatin and it hadn’t been anywhere near as difficult as I thought it might be. I might even be encouraged to give it another go and try some other flavours.
The recipe I used isn’t available online, but this excellent article reviews the different methods of making a Tarte Tatin and gives a great sounding recipe to try, should you wish to give it a go yourself:
My scores for the particular recipe I used (from Nigel Slater’s Real Good Food) are:
Healthiness – 2/10 (Yes, OK, it’s got fruit in it but it’s also got so much butter, sugar and pastry that I don’t even want to think about the calorie and fat count!)
Ease of Prep – 5/10 (Pretty easy to do if you’re OK with pastry, especially since it turns out you don’t actually need a special tin. Just don’t burn your caramel.)
Flavour/taste – 7/10 (It was good but not amazing. I’ve made better desserts. It did also taste great cold the following day thought.)