Friday, March 13, 2009

Tarte Tatin in a Southern Way

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Yes, yet another Tarte Tatin recipe. There are quite a few out there, I do realize this. However, this one is a touch different. Rather than butter, I use a mild and buttery olive oil -- sacrilege, I know, but, hey, it works, and the caramel is just gorgeous.

I also stress that the crust I use for this is really worth doing. It is a standard brisé crust from my pastry-maker down the street, and it, covered by that pear or apple flavored caramel as it crumbles in your mouth, well, I don't really need the fruit at all.

So, start by making the crust:

500 g flour -- I use a 65 grind flour in France, which is equivalent to an all purpose. If you use whole wheat, you may need a touch more water.
5 g salt (1/2 teaspoon) -- fleur de sel is wonderful here, as you find the little crystals again after cooking -- salted butter cookies!
30 g sugar (2 tablespoons)
300g sweet butter - 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons
1 egg
125 g (1/2 cup) water

On a hard work surface - marble, granite or formica - place your flour in a well shape with the salt and sugar. Cut the butter into tablespoon size pieces, and put with the dry ingredients. Gently, use both hands and rub and crumble the butter into the dry ingredients. You are aiming for a sandy texture with all the butter mixed into the dry ingredients, gently and surely. When the butter is well mixed in, make another well and add the egg. With one hand, gently bring the butter/flour mixture into the egg. With the other hand, pour some of the water into the middle of your well and continue bringing the ingredients together. Once all the ingredients are mixed together (you may or may not have used all the water), stop mixing. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours or over night to rest. I like to pound it into a 1-2 inch thick flat before wrapping, which renders it far easier to roll out later.

Remove from the refrigerator and roll out to the desired thickness (1 cm/1/3 inch is nice). You'll have extra -- which is superb rolled back out with fresh or dried thyme and/or rosemary and some fleur de sel. Cut out in rounds and bake -- super savory cookies!

And now for the filling. I l actually prefer pears to apples, so here is my version

5-6 pears pealed, sliced in half and cored
1/4 cup mild and buttery olive oil -- such as a pure grossane olive oil (or grossane dominant) from the Vallée des Baux in Provence
1/2 cup of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a large non-stick skillet that can go in the oven too (like the new Calphalon or Circulon, or a well-seasoned cast-iron pan), over a low flame, melt your butter and then add your sugar, spread evenly in the skillet. Take the skillet off the flame. Lay your sliced pears attractively in the skillet, in a rounded pattern with the flat side down. Put back on the flame and let simmer till the sugar begins to caramelize, do not stir. I keep a close eye on the caramel -- I want it to go quite dark, and to see the "petit fumé"/ little smoke, before I lay the crust on top and remove it from the flame. If I take the pears off the flame too soon, I find the dish is a bit bland. The caramel is really bringing all the flavor, so don't stint on it. You could always add some fresh ginger or other element to lift the flavors, but, truly, the caramel can be enough.

Lay the crust on the pan, snipping off the extra bits that hang over the edge, or even tucking them in a bit. Poke the pastry with a fork and then put it in the oven. Bake till the pastry has nicely browned -- here again, leave it till it is truly browned. This crust is delectable when fully cooked, but kind of pointless when it is a touch raw. Remove from the oven and cover with a cake plate the size or a bit larger than your skillet, carefully invert the tart onto the plate – if necessary, use a high-heat spatula to help you get all the good caramel in the skillet on your fruit. Let cool a few minutes and serve plain or with a good vanilla ice cream, crème fraîche, or whipped cream. This tart can be gently reheated in an oven just prior to serving.

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