After all the contentious banter on this blog throughout the last few weeks, I thought, “what the heck, let’s take a suggestion from a few posters who all told me I should blog with a recipe today.” They missed them, and quite frankly, in a bald-faced attempt to lower the enmity that seems to be accruing over one man’s opinion, I agreed it might be the thing to do this week. A nice recipe would be a welcome relief to the implosion of our country’s economy, which I keep feeling in my wallet and reading about every day in the newspaper.
There’s something timeless about apples, something reassuring, and, with the vague and hazy images of soup lines dancing in my head, oddly soothing. When I took over the kitchen at Café Un Deux Trios in the summer of 1992, the restaurant had been open for a few months. I began work there as a busboy in May, just after the restaurant’s debut on the local scene. The pastry chef at the time was a young woman named Eileen Connor who made the best tarte tatin I had tasted in a long time, and she made gigantic wagon wheel-sized tarts, quite tasty. Shockingly, she used Red Delicious apples for the simple reason that they held together so well after cooking.
I adapted her recipe, adding some conventional pie spices throughout the years; began using Cortland or Haralson apples; and every time I make this tart, I think of Eileen, one of the nicest and most talented people I have ever worked with.
If you are looking for a good local orchard to check out, here is a great link. My family and I are weekend regulars at Deardorff’s in Waconia. It is a fun farm to explore with flatbed rides out to the orchards, dozens of varietals to pick, a pie house, and fresh juice being pressed in the driveway as you walk in. There is nothing else like it.
Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraiche
24 baking apples, your choice
1 t. cinnamon
2 pinches nutmeg
2 pinches allspice
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
1 stick sweet butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (2 sheets per pack)
Peel, core, and halve the apples, reserve. Place the butter and sugar into a 14” no-stick pan, and place it over medium heat. Caramelize until dark (This caramel will break!). That is OK; don’t be concerned.
Place the apples into the pan, beginning with the outer rim, standing them up on their sides with all the open sides facing in the same direction, pinwheel style. Place a second layer inside the first ring, and then fill the center space with a few halves. Place 6 or so pieces on top randomly, and cover the pan with a large steel bowl. Cook for 10 minutes, and wriggle in a few of the apples that you placed on top randomly to tighten your spirals. Cook covered for 5 more minutes, and wriggle in a few more pieces. Let liquids cook down slowly in the pan.
When liquids are syrupy and thick, remove the pan from the heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Then place the two sheets of pastry across the top of the pan, tucking the sides deep down into the tart, inside the edges of the pan. Work them down as far as you can toward the bottom. Prick the pastry with a fork in a few places.
Place the tart into a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until tart in nicely browned.
Remove pan, and let tart rest for 10 minutes. Invert onto a large circular pan. Using a rubber spatula dipped in butter, smooth the apples out across the top of the tart so that they all tilt in the same direction.
Cool and serve tart when it is just warm with sweetened crème fraiche mixed with fresh whipped cream.