Anyone good with Tarte Tatin? I need some help.
I've got a 20-pound bag of perfect apples in my refrigerator (last day of pick-your-own apples in most PA orchards was Sunday) and so I have plans for a number of projects.
Tarte tatin is maybe my favorite apple-based dessert, so I'll definitely be making one (or four). Whenever I make it it comes out perfect but for one - sort of huge problem:
I make my tarte in a cast-iron pan in what I gather is the traditional manner (I use the recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique) - I cook the apples, butter and sugar on the stove top until they reach the golden-caramel stage, then put the crust on top, bake the tart, and then flip it.
The flip always kills me. Half the time I seem to flip too early: the pan is still hot, the caramel hasn't set, apples and caramel fly everywhere and I end up with a messy (but tasty) pile of tarte-parts. The other half the time I flip too late: the apples and caramel stick to the pan in chunks, I get a deforested crust with a few pieces of apple and I have to pry most of the tart out of the pan (so the end result is the same - a tasty, ugly pile of stuff).
I can't seem to find a happy medium - as soon as the caramel is cool enough to hold things together, it's too cool to get the tart out of the pan.
Does anyone have any advice for me? Do I need to pack my apples tighter? Am I overcooking my caramel? Is cast iron no good (do I have to shell out for a special tarte-tatin-pan, which seems absurd)?
Cast iron is good. How big/small are you cutting your apples and how are you flipping your pan over? For the apples you probably want them to be in half or in quarters, no smaller than that. Flying apples? For flipping, loosen the crust around the edges and then you should place an upside down plate on top of your cast iron and then (using pot holders) flip the entire thing over so now the pan is inverted on top of your plate. It may be kind of heavy to do that, but try your hardest, it'll keep things from flying into your sink and onto the floor... but I'm sure the dog doesn't mind. ;-)
I make this every year for Thanksgiving and will try to find old posts about my 'technique'. I do use a cast iron skillet, and I think the apples are cut into six pieces. I use JC's recipe from The Way to Cook, and I believe that she does say to check on the caramel before flipping, and, if you need to, to put the pan on the stove for a minute or two to make sure there is not too much liquid left. That said, I've never really had a problem flipping it, and usually flip it right away, putting a serving plate on top, and grasping the plate and the pan with oven mitts to flip.
What recipe are you using? I'm wondering if that might be the issue. By the way, if you make it ahead of time, as I do, after you put it on the plate, line the pan with foil, and put the tarte back in it (same method, in reverse). Then keep on the counter - this way, the pastry side is 'up' and it doesn't get soggy. When you go to serve it, reheat, and flip again, and just peel off the foil.
This is on my "to make soon" list. Doesn't Jacque Pepin (or someone else) have a no flip recipe? It goes something like: prepare crust (can be puff pastry if in a hurry), place on bakinbg pan with parchment, paper assemble apples on crust and then dust with cinnamon sugar. Dot with butter--Bake. I could have sworn I saw this on TV once...
Made a pear version this time, removed some of the excess caramel (after stovetop phase) before baking, and I flipped it just a minute or two after it came out of the oven. Looked great and tasted even better.
Thanks for the advice and input, all.