Cookbook Author Celebrates Apple Season

Tarte Tatin i i

Tarte Tatin is a French dessert resembling apple cobbler. Coburn Dukehart, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is a French dessert resembling apple cobbler.

Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Fuji apples i i

Sweet firm apples such as Fujis work well in baking. Coburn Dukehart, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Fuji apples

Sweet firm apples such as Fujis work well in baking.

Coburn Dukehart, NPR

October is high season for apples, which makes master baker Dorie Greenspan very happy.

In celebration of the season, the author of Baking: From My Home to Yours shares a recipe for tarte Tatin with Michele Norris.

The apple dessert resembles a cobbler, except it's French — and it's the terror of many a home baker.

But never fear, Greenspan says.

"You do it once, and you won't even need a recipe to do it again," she says.

"Think about a pineapple upside-down cake: What's at the bottom of the pan will eventually be the top of our dessert," Greenspan says.

"You can fuss and figure out a pattern, but somehow, no matter what you do, this tarte always looks beautiful."

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin i i

Tarte Tatin is named after the Tatin sisters, French innkeepers who forgot to line a pan with crust before they put in the apples and started baking. Alan Richardson hide caption

itoggle caption Alan Richardson
Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is named after the Tatin sisters, French innkeepers who forgot to line a pan with crust before they put in the apples and started baking.

Alan Richardson
Apples cooking in a cast iron skillet i i

Dorie Greenspan recommends using a cast iron skillet for making tarte Tatin. Coburn Dukehart, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Apples cooking in a cast iron skillet

Dorie Greenspan recommends using a cast iron skillet for making tarte Tatin.

Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Tarte Tatin out of the oven i i

A tarte Tatin comes out of the oven golden brown after baking for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Coburn Dukehart, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Tarte Tatin out of the oven

A tarte Tatin comes out of the oven golden brown after baking for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Greenspan demonstrates how to flip a tarte tatin i i

Greenspan demonstrates how to flip a tarte Tatin. Coburn Dukehart, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart, NPR
Greenspan demonstrates how to flip a tarte tatin

Greenspan demonstrates how to flip a tarte Tatin.

Coburn Dukehart, NPR

From Dorie Greenspan's Baking.

Few desserts are more storied than the tarte Tatin, which became a universal darling after the Tatin sisters, French innkeepers, famously forgot to line a pan with crust before they put in the apples and started baking. Rather than begin again, in a flash of thrift and ingenuity, they decided to put the crust on top and serve the tart upside down. For reasons I've never understood, tarte Tatin has a reputation for being a bear to bake. Not so. It's a forgiving recipe, emerging from the oven with its prettily placed apples glazed with caramel and perched on a golden pastry ring. In fact, the tart is so loosey-goosey in its construction that I can give you only a rough guess on the number of apples you'll need. You'll figure it out as you go along, and after you've made the tart once, you probably won't even need a recipe to make it again.

Makes 6 servings

1 sheet (about 8 ounces) frozen puff pastry (preferably all-butter; see Note below ) thawed, or Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough for a single crust (recipe below), chilled, or Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), chilled

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

About 8 sweet firm apples such as Fuji, Gala or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and quartered

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Choose a 9- or 10-inch ovenproof skillet — I like cast iron — or, if you've got one, a tarte Tatin pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. You'll also need a large, rimmed serving plate for the tart.

Working on a floured surface (if you are using puff pastry) or between wax paper or plastic wrap, roll the dough out until it is about 1/8 inch thick (it can be thicker, if you'd like). Using a paring knife, cut the dough into a circle that is 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pan you're using. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork and transfer it to the baking sheet. Cover the dough and refrigerate it while you work on the apples.

Put the skillet over medium heat and add the butter. When it melts, tilt the pan so that the sides have a thin coating of melted butter (or do this with a pastry brush). Sprinkle the sugar over the butter. Remove from the heat.

Fit a layer of apples into the skillet, putting the apples into the pan rounded side down and making concentric circles. What's important here is to pack in the apples — because they will shrink as they cook, you want to make sure they are snug in the pan. When you've got a tight single layer, cut the remaining apple quarters in half and strew them over the first layer. (You might have to cut more apples to get a fairly even layer here, or you might have apple quarters left over.) Don't worry about making this layer beautiful — no one will see it, but it will give the finished tart a little height.

Put the pan over medium heat and cook — staying close by — until the sugar turns a deep caramel color. You'll see it bubbling up the sides of the pan, but if you need a clearer view, you can gently push an apple aside. To get the color you want without burning the sugar, you may have to lower the heat after a while. Count on 15 minutes, more or less, to get the color. Transfer the skillet to the baking sheet.

Take a last look at the fruit and, if you see gaps, mounds or valleys, gently nudge the fruit into place with a wooden spoon. Remove the pastry from the fridge and center it over the fruit, loosely tucking in any overhang (it's okay if you have a double layer of dough around the edges), or not — the oven's heat will shrink the pastry to size.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is baked through and, if you used puff pastry, puffed.

Now, here's the only tricky part: Cover the skillet with the large, rimmed serving plate and, acting quickly and confidently (and making sure you're wearing good oven mitts), turn the tart out onto the platter and remove the pan. If any of the apples have stuck to the pan — it happens to the best of us — gently lift them off the pan with an icing spatula and press them gently back onto the tart.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

SERVING: Much as you might like to, you cannot serve the tart straight from the oven to the adoring crowd — the caramelized sugar is dangerously hot. Let the tart sit for at least 10 minutes or longer until it is only just warm, before serving, then serve it with some unsweetened crème fraîche.

STORING: While you can get the dough ready early in the day and even caramelize the apples about one hour ahead, once this tart is made, you can do right by it only by serving it within the hour.

PLAYING AROUND: While apples are the standard, the technique of caramelizing the fruit and topping it with pastry can be used with pears, mangoes (yes, mangoes — they make a great Tatin, but make sure to choose firm fruit) or quinces. The Tatin technique is also good for soft summer fruits like apricots and (peeled) peaches, but be gentle in that case: It's best to cook the butter and sugar in the skillet without the fruit. When the caramel is the color you want, remove the pan from the heat and cool the mixture. Arrange the fruit in the pan, cover it with the pastry and bake.

Note: Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets are available in every supermarket across the country. However, I can't encourage you enough to search out an all-butter puff pastry at a local specialty store. If the store doesn't carry frozen all-butter puff pastry, perhaps it will order it for you. The pastry I buy — which is so good that I stopped making puff pastry at home — is made by Dufour Pastry.

Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough

The name says it all. You can use this flaky, flavorful easy-to-roll dough for pies, galettes, turnovers or even tarts. If — heaven forbid — you could have only one dough for crust in your repertory, this would be the one to choose.

You'll need a large-capacity food processor to make a double crust. If your machine isn't large enough, make the dough in two batches.

For a 9-inch double crust:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

1/3 cup very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces

About 1/2 cup ice water

For a 9-inch single crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

2 1/2 tablespoons very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces

About 1/4 cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don't overdo the mixing — what you're aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tablespoons of the water if making a double crust, 3 tablespoons if making a single crust — add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the work bowl and onto a work surface.

If making a double crust, divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each half in plastic. Or shape the dough for a single crust into a disk and wrap it. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling. (If your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge.)

TO ROLL OUT THE DOUGH: Have a buttered 9-inch pie plate at hand.

You can roll the dough out on a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap or in a rolling slipcover. (I usually roll this dough out on the floured counter.) If you're working on a counter, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured. If you are rolling between paper, plastic or in a slipcover, make sure to turn the dough over often and to lift the paper, plastic or cover frequently so that it doesn't roll into the dough and form creases.

If you've got time, slide the rolled-out dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes to rest and firm up.

FOR A DOUBLE-CRUSTED PIE: Fit one circle of dough into the pie plate, allowing the excess to hang over. Trim to a 1/8- to 1/4-inch overhang. Fill the pie and moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water. Center the second piece of dough over the filling and press it against the bottom crust. Using a pair of scissors, cut the top crust's overhang so that it extends about 1/4 inch over the bottom crust. Tuck the excess top crust under the bottom crust and flute or pinch the crust to make a decorative edge. Alternatively, you can seal the doubled-up crust by pressing it with the tines of a fork. Follow the pie recipe's instructions for baking.

FOR A SINGLE CRUST: Fit the dough into the pie plate and, using a pair of scissors, cut the excess dough to a 1/4- to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself, so that it hangs over the edge just a tad, and flute or pinch the crust to make a decorative edge. Alternatively, you can finish the crust by pressing it with the tines of a fork.

TO PARTIALLY OR FULLY BAKE A SINGLE CRUST: Refrigerate the crust while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil, fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or pie weights. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and, if the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, return the pie plate to the oven and bake for about 8 minutes more, or until the crust is very lightly colored. To fully bake the crust, bake until golden brown, about another 10 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

STORING: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked single crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan, and to bake it directly from the freezer — it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Sweet Tart Dough

In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that's what sablée means). It's much like shortbread, and it's ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.

The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners' sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover.

Makes enough for one 9-inch crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses — about 10 seconds each — until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change — heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

TO PRESS THE DOUGH INTO THE PAN: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy-handed — press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

TO PARTIALLY OR FULLY BAKE THE CRUST: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

TO FULLY BAKE THE CRUST: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust's progress — it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

TO PATCH A PARTIALLY OR FULLY BAKED CRUST, IF NECESSARY: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

STORING: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer — it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

PLAYING AROUND: Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts has a slightly more assertive flavor than Sweet Tart Dough, but you can use the two interchangeably. For the nut dough, reduce the amount of flour to 1¼ cups and add ¼ cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, pecans or pistachios).

Purchase Featured Book

Baking

Purchase Book

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Baking
Author
Dorie Greenspan

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.