Have you ever made a Classic French Tarte Tatin? The images show how delicious they are and how easy it is to make them in a cast iron skillet or similar pan.
A Tarte Tatin resembles an upside down cake with caramel sauce, a pastry layer of fruit on top.
You can use all sorts of fresh fruit for the filling and this article includes three fabulous recipes that use pears, apples and cherries.
The pie is topped with pie dough pastry or puff pastry, and then it is baked in the pan, until it is brown on top and the filling has begun to bubble.
The result is a beautiful and delicious combination of a caramel sauce, fresh fruit and a brown pastry crust.
► The pastry on top is a secondary consideration. It is essentially decoration and all sort of pastry will do, including puff pastry, short crust pastry.
► Don't use the classic dessert apples used to make pies. You need to choose fresh fruit that does not disintegrate of break up during the cooking. The more acidic varieties are probably best but you can use the sweet ones as well (or a mixture of both). The same applies for other fruit - choose fresh fruit that will retain its shape and texture when cooked.
► Getting the amount of moisture right is the key - not too dry nor too moist. Use half or quarter size pieces of apple arranged round side down for dramatic appearance, or arrange a ring of segments lying flat in a circle.
► The best way to start is to make a caramel sauce first from sugar and water first, adding some butter. This can be made separately and added to the bottom of the baking tin, before topping with the fruit. The other way is to use a heavy cast iron pan. Make the caramel sauce in the pan add the fruit and pastry and bake the pie in the heavy pan. You can let the fruit infuse into the caramel sauce by baking for 15-20 minutes, first, before adding the pastry. This tends to allow the caramel sauce and fruit to combine better. Various options are described in the three recipes below.
► You can add cinnamon to the apples and other spices to the other fruit options. But keep the spices to a minimum as the emphasis should be on the taste of the fruit itself.
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup full fat sour cream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, about 4 ounces)
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
dash of ground nutmeg or cinnamon
2 teaspoons of chopped candied ginger
2 Tablespoons sugar plus 2/3 cup of sugar
2 lb (1 kg) firm ripe pears (about 5 pears)
Mix the pastry dough ingredients by placed the butter cut in to cubes in a bowl in a warm place. Sift in the flour, salt and sugar. Using your hands or a food processor, work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Mix in the sour cream using a fork. Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic film and set aside in the refrigerate for 60-90 minutes and then rolling out ready to be placed on top of the fruit.
Next peel the pears and halve lengthwise and remove the cores. Keep one pear half for placing into the center of the tarte. Slice the remaining halves once or twice more lengthwise. Place the cut pears into a bowl and sprinkle some lemon juice over them. This help stop them going brown. Next, sprinkle the pear pieces with 2 tablespoons sugar and toss to spread the sugar over the pears.
Next melt butter in a 9-10 inch (20 cm) cast iron pan (or equivalent) using medium heat. Lift the pan and swirl the butter all over the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle 2/3 cup of sugar evenly over the melted butter on the base of the pan. Take the pan off the heat. The, place the single half pear, cut side up, into the center of the pan. Spread the remaining pear pieces around the center in a circle, Try to minimize any gaps and spread them evenly.
Return the pan to the stove using a moderate temperature and gently cook, without disturbing the pears. Keep heating until the butter and sugar mixture goes a deep and darkish caramel color. This generally takes about 20-30 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and place onto a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sprinkle the pears with minced candied ginger and grated nutmeg. Roll out the pastry to fit within the pan, and carefully transfer the pastry dough onto the pears. Gently tuck the edges of the dough inside the edges of the pan all the way round. Transfer the pan in the oven. Use a baking sheet under the pan to catch any drips. Bake for 25-40 minutes until pastry is nicely browned. Remove from oven. Carefully place a serving plate on top and flip the pan over releasing the tarte tatin to the plate. Rearrange the pears with a fork to restore an attractive pattern. Let cool a little before serving with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Sugar for sprinkling on top
1 tablespoon general-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon almond essence (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 slices
1 1/4 lb assorted sweet cherries, pitted
Roll the pastry dough out into an 11-inch circle and set aside in the fridge. Place the cherries in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon flour and set aside
Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the base of a 10-inch (20 cm), oven-proof skillet. Dot the base with butter slices and add the cherries evenly in a single layer. Next sprinkle over 1 1/2 tablespoons of water mixed with the almond extract. Using medium heat, cook the mixture over medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until the sugar caramelizes. Stir occasionally without disturbing the cherries too much.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Remove the skillet from the stove and drape the rolled pastry on top of the cherries, tucking in the overhang on the sides of the skillet.
Bake the cherry tart for 25 to 30 minutes, until is firm and has a golden brown color. Remove the skillet from the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. Then place a serving plate on top and invert the tart onto the plate. Dusting the tart with confectioners' sugar and serve warm.
For the Dough
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup ice water (as needed)
6 tablespoons butter, diced and chilled
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (chilled)
For the Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon and the zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced in half (other other varieties of fresh apples).
Mix the dough as described for the pear recipe. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 2 - 3 hours (or until the next day). Slice each of the halved apples into 4 lengthwise segments and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar and toss to coat all the pieces.
Melt the butter in a 9-inch (20 cm) skillet over high heat. Add the rest of the sugar and cook until the syrup caramelizes, bubbles and starts to brown. Remove the pan from the stove and cover the base with a layer of well-spaced apple slices. Return the pan to the stove and cook for about 25 minutes with the pan covered. Ever 5 minutes or so, push the apples into the sauce and use a spoon to baste the slices.
Roll out the dough into a circle slight larger than the pan. Put the dough on top of the apples and fold down around the sides. Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry has browned and cooked (about 20-30 minutes)
When cooked flip the tart over onto a serving plate and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.