WHETHER you choose to handpick your apples straight off the branch or from the grocer’s shelf, harvest time is the moment to indulge in your favorite apple recipes. For me, that’s a deep and delicious tarte tatin made with local Vaudois Gala apples.
Typically, Galas are recommended for eating not cooking because they’re ultra-sweet and juicy. But given that I enjoy the hot caramelised apple syrup as much as the fruit and because Galas hold their shape nicely when cooked, they suit me just fine.
I also use brown sugar instead of the usually recommended white (some recipes call for plain white sugar and others for caster) and I add a dash of cinnamon. While some chefs use a heavy-based, oven-proof pan both to cook their apples on the stove and then bake them in the oven (which must be very handy) I first cook the apples in a big Le Creuset enamel pot and then carefully transfer them to a tin-lined, copper tarte tatin mould (diameter 24 cm, height 5cm) that I picked up in London some years back. It’s a deep mould so I can add three layers of apples if I choose to though I usually stick to two.
As for pastry, I’ve used both puff and shortcrust, and in either case I prefer Herta pastry, which I buy in Divonne, France, as its unavailable in Switzerland. I find it more buttery than the other brands. Let’s face it, if we’re going to indulge, we might just as well indulge.
Tarte Tatin of Vaudois Gala Apples
For a tarte tatin mould of 24cm diameter, 5cm height.
12 (about 2kg/4.5lbs) Gala apples, mostly large, but some small (to fill the gaps)
120grams/4oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz brown or white sugar
1 round 280g/10oz puff (pâte feuilletée) or shortcrust (pâte brisée) pastry
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F, gas mark 6.
- Peel and core the apples; take a small slice off each end so they sit better in the pan; cut into six slices. Use the offcuts to fill in the gaps.
- Leave the apples in acidulated water (water with lemon juice) to prevent them from browning.
- Melt the butter over medium heat and then add the sugar and cook for a few minutes until well blended.
- Add the apples and cook at medium-high heat for 30 to 40 minutes until the apples are tender, but still have their shape, and the juice has thickened, stirring occasionally with a soft-tipped utensil to prevent sticking.
- Add cinnamon to taste.
- Carefully place the first layer of apples slices in the mould/baking tin; fill in the gaps with smaller slices and offcuts. This first layer will form the top of the turned-out tatin so you want an attractive pattern. Add a second layer of apples (and a third depending on your mould).
- Pour over any remaining caramelized juices.
- Fold the pastry over the apples, tucking the edges inside over the apple slices.
- Bake 20 to 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Run a knife around the edge of the mould if necessary to dislodge the pastry. Place a serving plate on top of the mould and gently invert the tart onto the plate.
- Serve the tart warm or at room temperature, optionally with ice cream or whipped cream.