So I was pondering the idea of setting up a separate blog with the same content but in another language, and logged into my blogger account for the first time in 2 years. I could not believe what I found.
Now, I knew I’d had a few failed attempts at blogging before, but 130 posts!? That is absolutely insane. What, were my fingers typing in my sleep or was I sucked into a time vortex and got transported into an alternate universe? I tried reading a few entries but as expected, it was much too cringe-worthy and whiny that I just… can’t. And to think it was only 2 1/2 years ago – thank goodness for the memory blank because I have zero plans to return to that phase of my teenage years.
I remember when blogging was so cool and popular in early highschool where people would actually bring a journal to school and write down the day’s proceedings and later transcribe it onto their Bebo or Myspace. Naturally I did the same, with no one to talk to – I was in homestay a lot of the time – I put the complainer in me on display so everyone would know how depressed I was.
In any case, I’m hesitant about the second blog thing for many reasons, the main ones being the time and effort to translate manually, and people who know me in real life happening upon it. Sounds silly, but I’m still uneasy about anyone other than strangers reading my pathetic but private and honest ramblings.
Back to the food. Not all desserts are created equal, but many of them by happy accident. In one variation of the origin story of the tarte Tatin (the one that I prefer), the cook overcooked the butter and sugar for what was meant to be a traditional apple pie. The genius she was, instead of saying ‘oh #&$*!’ and dumping the entire dish in the trash, she tried to rescue it by covering it with pastry – and a classic is born. Maybe one day I’ll set a rice pudding on fire or something and make a name for myself. You never know.
Apples. Caramel. Pastry. That’s all there is to this incredibly simple but extremely delectable dessert. I used Pink Lady which retained their shape beautifully without losing texture. There is some debate on the subject of which pastry to use: pastry god Pierre Hermé among some others top their tarts with pâte sucrée; while Raymond Blanc & co. are in the puff camp. I suppose the main reason for using shortcrust instead of puff is that it’s more resistant to being soaked by the caramel. But I’d feel sorry for myself if I didn’t use puff, and since these are individual servings, they’d be finished before the caramel had a chance to soggy up the pastry anyway.
Individual tarte tatin (makes 4, 10cm in diameter)
For the pastry:
1/4 batch of puff pastry or 1 store-bought sheet
For the caramelised apples:
2 large baking apples
squeeze of lemon juice (adjust according to tartness of apples)
1 tbsp butter
pinch of salt
optional flavourings – vanilla bean, cinnamon etc. to taste
If the pastry is frozen, take it out to thaw. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F and place a baking tray large enough to fit all 4 dishes in the middle of the oven, this helps insulate the bottom of the dishes and prevent the apples from overcooking.
Peel, core and slice the apples about 1.5cm thick. Toss in some lemon juice and set aside.
Start the caramel, for which I used the dry method. In a heavy pot/pan, sprinkle the sugar in an even layer and put it on medium heat. Leave undisturbed until the edges start to liquefy, at which point take a heat-proof spoon or spatula and move the melted sugar into the unmelted centre. Stir every once in a while until all the crystals disappear and the caramel takes on a deep amber colour. Take off the heat so it doesn’t burn, and add the butter, swirl the pan to combine. Carefully transfer the apples to the caramel and put it back on low heat. Add the flavourings now if so desired. Stir the apples to coat evenly with caramel and cook for about 5 minutes, just so they too take on the golden colour and are just a little tender.
At this point the pastry should be thawed out, so use the ramekins (or other ovenproof dishes) to cut around the bottom to produce 4 pieces slightly larger than the circumference. Generously coat the bottom and sides of the dishes with softened butter. Lay the apple slices on the bottom of the dishes evenly, attempting to fill the gaps. If there is leftover caramel, drizzle it over the apples. Take the pastry and lay it on top of the apples, tucking the excess into the dish. Prick the top a few times to make steam vents, and place the dishes on the preheated tray in the oven.
Bake for ~20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown, you may also see the caramel bubbling around the sides. Carefully remove from the oven and leave them for 5 minutes to slightly set the caramel. With a knife, run around the the inner circumference of the ramekins to release the pastry and apples. Place a plate on top of the dish, and very carefully and swiftly invert the dish. You may want to to gloves as the ramekins are likely to still be piping hot.
Serve immediately. Amazing on its own or with a dollap of crème fraîche or scoop of ice cream.