MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
It's the season for all things orange and golden and scarlet. Think pumpkins, Indian corn and squash. It's also the high season for apple. And that makes master baker Dorie Greenspan very happy.
DORIE GREENSPAN: I always peel the apples.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GREENSPAN: What I usually do is I peel them and end up eating the peel. I'm always surprised there's nothing to throw out.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "SHOO FLY PIE & APPLE PAN DOWDY")
ELLA FITZGERALD: (Singing) Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy makes your eyes light up, your tummy say howdy. Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy. I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.
NORRIS: Dorie Greenspan had me doing all kinds of stuff last week, working in my own kitchen. Peeling, coring and quartering a mess of fresh, Fuji apples. Dorie is the author of "Baking: From My Home to Yours." And for the past year, she's been helping me master ever more difficult recipes.
GREENSPAN: Let's go to the stove. Get some heat under them. And melt the butter.
NORRIS: On today's agenda, Tarte Tatin. It's sort of like an apple pan dowdy or a cobbler, except it's French and it's the terror of many a home baker.
GREENSPAN: This is really, you know, for a dessert that everyone is so afraid of, it's a really, kind of loosey-goosey operation. You do it once and you won't even need the recipe to do it again.
NORRIS: Why so worried? All we need is a stick of butter, sugar, apples and rolled up pie dough - you can also use puff pastry - plus, my heavy cast iron skillet.
(SOUNDBITE OF SKILLET HITTING)
NORRIS: We also need a great big platter that fits over the heavy cast iron skillet, thick oven mitts and, perhaps, some weedies.
GREENSPAN: Okay. So we have three quarters of a cup of sugar on top of the bubbling butter. And now we're going to turn off the heat.
NORRIS: Now, hold up, the weedies don't do in the Tarte Tatin, they go in up because we're going to need some muscle.
A Tarte Tatin is first prepared over a stove. We melted the butter, added the sugar, and now we have to arrange the first layer of apples in that skillet, like letter Cs with the curve side facing down.
GREENSPAN: Think about it as pineapple upside down cake, okay? Wedge at the bottom of the pan will eventually be the top of our dessert. You can fuss and figure out a pattern, but somehow, no matter what you do, this tarte always looks beautiful.
NORRIS: A bit of history, this is a desert that comes with a wonderful story.
GREENSPAN: What we know for sure is that there were two sisters in the Loire Valley, the Tatin sisters, and they had an inn where they cooked for their guests. One of the stories that I've heard, one of the sisters was making an apple tart, and she had put it in the oven when she realized that there was no dough under the apples.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GREENSPAN: And thinking quickly, she had people outside in the dining room and she had things to do in the kitchen, she just took the dough and put it on top of the apples and then flipped it over and served it that way. And it was evidently so delicious that they continued to make it.
And if you go to the area where the Tatin sisters lived, there are Tarte Tatin societies that get together to their official recipes, their unofficial - it's really a cult sweep.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NORRIS: Two layers of apples later, the heat's back on. We stand over the stove, watching and listening till the apples caramelize in that butter-sugar mix. After about 15 minutes, the bubbles have gotten fatter, the apple sauce in my kitchen smell divine and I am getting hungry.
GREENSPAN: Okay. So while we...
NORRIS: I really would love to take one of those out.
GREENSPAN: No, no, no, no. Too hot, too hot, too hot. Cant, can't, okay. I like the color, darker than butterscotch...
NORRIS: ...and getting darker by the minute.
GREENSPAN: And - well, there's a moment where it turns brown and then it turns really brown. And then it's time to stop.
NORRIS: So we take the skillet off the burner then covered the apples with a blanket of rolled up pie dough, carefully tucking around the inside edges of the pan before moving the entire skillet, the entire thing, in to the oven. Then we wait. And we wait some more. We wait 35 minutes. It feels like an eternity.
(SOUNDBITE OF OVEN BUZZER)
GREENSPAN: It's show time. Let's go.
NORRIS: How does it look?
GREENSPAN: Oh, it's still bubbly.
NORRIS: Dorie, it's beautiful.
GREENSPAN: Well, the top is beautiful. We don't know what's underneath.
NORRIS: But we're going to find out what's below that flaky, golden crust. Dorie rolls up her sleeves, dons the oven mitts, and then prepares to do the Tatin flip.
GREENSPAN: You know, actually, what it takes is a little bit of strength and a lot of courage. Hold there.
NORRIS: So the platter is on top of the skillet.
NORRIS: And you're trying to lift the platter and the skillet.
GREENSPAN: Over. Okay. Now, you better taste good.
NORRIS: Wait, we're not done yet. Now you can understand why some people think the Tarte Tatin is kind of a bare. Dorie grips the now upside down skillet then very carefully lift the pan up in one careful motion.
GREENSPAN: Now often some apples get stuck. Let's see.
NORRIS: There it is. The Tarte Tatin is gorgeous. Not perfect apple pie gorgeous, but French country gorgeous. Ooh-la-la. Rustic. The apples rest on top of the dough, covered with brown, caramelized sugar. Some are browned a bit more than the others. They look sweet and tender and they glisten under the kitchen lights.
GREENSPAN: We can't eat it now. It's really way too hot to eat.
NORRIS: Why can't we eat now?
I got a good look because we had to wait a few more minutes before we could finally dig in.
Oh, no. That is delicious, screaming out for fresh whipped cream.
GREENSPAN: Fresh whipped cream would be great.
GREENSPAN: Vanilla ice cream.
GREENSPAN: Cream (unintelligible) definitely.
NORRIS: Now I am thinking of the sister who pulled the side of the oven basically covered up a mistake, if we believe that story.
GREENSPAN: If we believe that story.
NORRIS: And has guests in the dining room and she's wondering they're either going to love it or...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NORRIS: ...or maybe she knew immediately when she took it out that she had come on to something wonderful.
GREENSPAN: I think she probably thought, I hope they like it.
NORRIS: I think this should be continued off the radio, so we can enjoy this fabulous dessert. It is best when eaten warm, yes?
GREENSPAN: Best when eaten warm.
NORRIS: Do you want to try this at home? Dorie's recipe with tips is at npr.org along with pictures of our Tarte Tatin. And pictures are all that's really left of it.
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