The Real Deal
I've had Tarte Tatin on the brain lately. Many a "Tatin for Two" passed through these hands during my time in England. I had an urge to revisit this classic, but with a slightly different approach. Still apples. Still puff. Just a change in assembly. Nine out of ten recipes for tarte tatin will instruct one to tuck a round of pastry over a bed of apples resting in caramel, and bake the whole thing into one bubbly upside down pie. I love this version, because the pastry has a chance to absorb the buttery caramel, which creates a deliciously gooey chew. As a professional, this version also bothers me, because as soon as the apples turn right side up, the pastry's lifespan is invariably shortened before it dies a soggy, ugly death. Of course, there are ways to keep tragedy at bay. After baking and cooling, one can just flash the pastry topped tin in the oven and invert a la minute before getting on the plate. But what if we want to display this beauty on a bakery counter? How can a tatin linger and still have integrity?
That's where the tenth recipe comes in. Some smart guy out there thought to bake the two components separately and marry them later down the line. This one gets fuji apples basted and confited in buttery vanilla caramel, then left to chill in the fridge overnight. A disk of "ruff puff" is docked and baked to golden flakiness, then egg washed top and bottom. The egg wash will help protect the pastry from getting too soggy once the apples hit it. The cold caramel apples are arranged tightly in a pie plate and get compacted with another pie plate and a little brute strength. Flash in the oven to melt out any hardened bits of butter and drain excess juices into a pot. Invert apples onto pastry and glaze top with some neutral glaze boiled with the jus in the pot. If you are like me and bake the pastry a little too large for the round of apples, trim away the excess, contouring the knife around the fruit. And also if you're like me, you will like the way the flakiness of the pastry exposes itself upon cutting.
This method makes the perfect "counter-top tatin", sitting perfectly un-soggy for hours. I also prefer the crisper texture of the pastry against the melt in the mouth apples. Large and hectic banquets also benefit from this technique, because who wants to be dealing with flipping over 100+ hot caramel pies to order?