IN MY last column, I mentioned that Marie Hennekinne, wife of the French ambassador to Japan in the 1990s, frequently served her guests with the classic dessert La Tarte Tatin.
Tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart in which apples are caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.
The dish has an interesting history dating back to the 1880s. Legend has it that it was created by accident at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, about 160 kilometers South of Paris.
The hotel was owned and managed by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. It seems that one day Stéphanie started to make a traditional apple pie, but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long.
Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven.
She then served it to hotel guests and was pleasantly surprised to find how much they liked it. Tarte Tatin quickly became the signature dish of the hotel and a classic was born.
Today, the hotel is still proudly serving Tarte Tatin.
The choice of apples for this dish is important. Unfortunately, the varieties offered to us in the Philippines are limited, but Granny Smith and Royal Gala are good for this dish and they are available in most supermarkets.
La Tarte Tatin
5 to 6 medium apples
200 g white sugar
50 g butter
For the short crust pastry
225 g plain flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
120 g cold butter
1 medium egg, beaten
To make the pastry
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Grate in the butter, then rub together until it is coarse crumbs.
Mix the egg with 2-teaspoon cold water and sprinkle over the mixture. Mix together into a soft but not sticky dough, adding more water (if required) very gradually. Shape into a ball, and then cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling
Peel, halve and core the apples.
Put the sugar into a 20-cm heavy-based ovenproof frying pan (i.e. with a metal handle) along with 50 mL water and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, then cook over a medium heat until golden.
Take off the heat and stir in the butter, and a pinch of salt, until well combined, then carefully arrange the apples in the pan, round-side down, bearing in mind the caramel will be very hot so don't touch it, and put back on the heat. You may need to cut some of the apples into smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.
Cook for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and allow to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the pastry to 5 millimeters thick, and cut out a circle slightly larger than the pan.
Put the pastry on top of the pan and tuck in the edges around the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden, then remove from the oven.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place a plate, slightly larger than the pan and with a lip, on top and then, very carefully, using oven gloves, quickly invert the tart on to the plate.
Best served warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.