Food for Thought from Suzanne Dunaway

P-O Life reader, Suzanne Dunaway, has cooked since she was 5 years old, when she made cinnamon pinwheels from her mother’s pastry dough.

She LOVES to cook. Some might say she LIVES to cook. The smells, the tastes, the textures…

She is a firm believer in simplicity and creates her recipes in the ethos of ‘anyone can cook’.

After years of experience in her own kitchen, cooking schools and private classes all over the world, in this weekly blog, Suzanne shares with us her PO-inspired creations.

With many strings to her bow, she is also an artist and columnist, with two published cookbooks.

Tarte Tatin revisited

I am such a stickler for how things are cut. The smaller the surface area of something you cook, the better the taste. Trust me. Cooking with smaller, thinner pieces of any ingredient will release more flavor than large chunks. In other words, slice it thin, chop it small.

A perfect example of this is the tarte tatin, which is traditionally made by cutting the apples in quarters or sixths. With this process you will get baked (or half-baked!) apples with some crust and probably not eat it again.

tarte tatin
The magic apple peeler/corer/slicer invented by the French, but you would not believe how many have never known of it. May also be used for rounded firm pears.

With the magic French apple corer/peeler/slicer, which I adore, you will put your tarte together easily with thin slices of apple automatically cut in circles and can choose how you wish to use them.  I place the apple slices, overlapping to make a nice design in the pan you will use to pre-cook the apples on the stove. The almost-caramelized apples are quickly ready for a crust and the oven, and the inverted pan will turn out a perfect tarte tatin.

I also use pure butter feuilleté, store-boughten, as Texans used to say, and of course the one here in France is perfect.  I will not subject you (yet) to making puff pastry at home, but it really is tasty and is not as difficult as you might think.

Take out the refrigerated puff pastry about 15 minutes before you start the apples and use its paper to transfer the circle of pastry to the caramelized apples.

The recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 large, hard, sweet apples (Pink Lady are the best although I have used Granny Smith often enough)
  • 4 generous tablespoons of butter
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 round of butter puff pastry that fits your cooking skillet

Method

Heat the oven to 225C/400F

In an oven-proof, preferably non-stick 25-30 cm skillet, melt the butter and arrange the apple slices in concentric circles in the pan, covering the pan completely.

Sprinkle the apples with the sugar, add the salt and cinnamon and cook over medium heat, covered for 10 minutes, until you see the butter/sugar mixture turning golden and beginning to caramelize.  It will make a rich thick sauce around the apples that will caramelize beautifully as the tarte bakes.

I use a spoon to baste the apple slices once during the pan cooking.

The concentric circles of apple place in an ovenproof pan or skillet that can cook on the stove and then go to the oven with the pastry on top.

When the oven is heated, immediately place the circle of puff pastry over the caramelized apples, pressing down gently around the edges to semi-seal.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake about 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Remove and cool.

tarte tatin
The finished tarte, golden and crisp.

When you wish to serve the tarte, put the skillet on your cooktop burner for about 15 seconds to loosen the baked caramel bottom of the cooled tarte. Shake the pan gently to be sure the tarte is loosened and will come out easily when you flip the pan.

Place a serving plate over the tarte in the pan or skillet and holding them clamped together with both hands, invert the tart quickly.  The tarte will slip out easily because you have released the caramel on the bottom of the skillet.

A little glass of Calvados might be nice with a slice. But I am thinking, too, that a thin slice of very good English Cheddar could knock your socks off.

cheddar

Tempted?

If you test this recipe, please share your comments and photos in the space below.

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