archives : tarte tatin jan '09

One of winter’s greatest gustatory pleasures is the dizzying array of apples that fill the marketplaces in Paris. Surely the applepar excellence – in my estimation – is the Reinette Clochard, an ancient variety that grows in the west of France. It is harvested in October and available from November to March, but becoming more and more difficult to find. Alas, the Golden Delicious has pushed it to the side… To bite into one is to fill your mouth with a burst of earthy spiciness and a lingering taste of honey. It is not an apple that would catch your eye, on the order of the Pink Lady® (this apple has the distinction of being trademarked – difficult to understand how an apple can be patented and defined as intellectual property) with its pink-blush dress and crisp crunch.

The Reinette Clochard (clochard translates as bum or tramp in English) looks as if wind, rain, and sundry forces of nature had battered it. But when I bite into one, I am instantly transported to the rolling countryside back when family farms blotted the horizon. Maybe they will yet again… Anyway, enough about the Clochard - it’s going to start blushing. I thought I’d give my variation on the famous Tarte Tatin. Get yourself into the kitchen on inauguration day and cook yourself up one. Be sure to have a bit of good crème fraîche on hand; add a generous dollop to each slice, and dig in while watching the inauguration festivities. Maybe cork a nice chilled Vouvray. Quite festive for a more than festive day!

TARTE TATIN - serves 6 - 8

200 gr | 7 oz unbleached white flour
100 gr | 3.5 oz chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Generous pinch unrefined sea salt
45 - 65 ml water

850 gr | 30 oz  firm apples (Reinette Clochard - if you can find it, or Reine de Reinette. If not Golden Delicious or Gala will do just fine…)
125 gr | 4.4 oz blond cane sugar
5 large FRESH bay leaves
80 gr | 2.8 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

||| Sift flour with salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the butter cut into small pieces. With your hands rub the flour and butter together until the mixture turns crumbly. Add the water and stir gently with a fork to mix, until beginning to come together (add more water if needed). Gather up into a ball, wrap in waxed paper or in a glass container and set in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove at least ten minutes before rolling out.
||| While the dough is resting, pour the sugar into the bottom of a 26-cm | 10-inch cast-iron skillet or ceramic pie dish with high edges and spread evenly. Place in the oven—preheated to 200 ˚C | 400 ˚F—and cook until the sugar is melted and golden i color, approx. 15 - 20 minutes. Keep your eyes on it, as it can easily burn. Remove from the oven, place the fresh bay leaves, shiny side down, on top of the hot, melted sugar, and set aside to cool.
||| Wash, peel, core, and quarter the apples (or cut into eighths if the apples are quite large). Place them in concentric circles on the bottom of the pie dish, fitting them as tight as possible. Dot with the 80 gr of butter.
||| Preheat the oven to 220 ˚C | 425 ˚F. On a lightly floured surface, slightly knead the dough with the heel of your hand. Shape it again into a ball, flatten and roll out into a circle a good 1 inch wider than your pie dish. Carefully place the dough over the top of the apples and tuck the edges down between the apples and the side of the pie dish so as to contain the fruit inside. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The sugar should be vigorously bubbling, the pie dough nice and golden. Remove from the oven and immediately place a large flat serving dish on top of the pie dish (it should well overlap the dish) and carefully but rapidly turn the skillet upside down. Arrange the bay leaves on top of the tart. Let cool for 15 minutes or so, then serve... with crème fraîche. Bon appetit!

the apple : CLOCHARD

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