Swirled Apple Tarte Tatin is a modern take on a French classic dessert. Apples baked in buttery caramel, until the apple absorbs the caramel and turn amber. The original dessert is rustic and beautifully humble, just apples cut, placed in a pan with caramel, then baked with the curst on top and inverted. Not much to look at, but one of the most revered desserts for the rich caramelized apples and flaky pastry. On instagram I saw a version that was so elegant, but still looked equally as delicious. Perfect spirals of apples, baked in caramel and turned out onto puff pastry. HOW did they get those even continuous slices of apples. I have most pastry equipment available to home bakers, but nothing in my pantry could create this shape. A little sleuthing and I found it, my new favorite kitchen tool.
This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!
After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.
The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact.
This apple butter rose tart was inspired by Rory MacDonald’s new cookbook, bake. His book is full sweets, from flaky morning pastries to intricate plated desserts. It’s a book about a pastry chef taking you through the process of a restaurant kitchen, but he made the recipes accessible for the home cook. It is a beautiful book and his apple tart recipe intrigued me the second I turned to the page. His apple design is a super sleek spiral, where as mine went a bit more girly and romantic. I used a vegetable turner, as he suggested, to slice the apples as thin as possible and rolled them tight into rosettes. The ruffles that formed as the apples passed through the turner reminded me of fabric and I loved the effect so much that I just gathered the apple as it fell and piled it into the center of the tart. This tart has so few ingredients and yet the finished dessert is quite striking and intricate looking, perfect for a special occasion. You can watch me put together the apple butter rose tart in my instagram video and recipe is below.
The Apple Tarte Tatin is a quintessentially French dessert. There are really two styles of french pastry, the super fussy, Marie Antoinette style creations that are almost too beautiful to eat and look nearly impossible to create and then the country-side, rustic sweets that are more delicious than beautiful. I say this falls into the second category, but I think it is stunningly beautiful with it’s rich caramel apples and flaky pastry peaking out from under them. Rustic yes, but no less sophisticated than a Croquembouche or Paris-Brest, in my mind.
I was inspired to make this Apple Tarte Tatin when the latest issue of Bake From Scratch Magazine arrived and Susan Spungen‘s Tarte was on the cover. Before I even opened the magazine I was preparing it in my head. The weather here in MN is news worthy and we are expecting the temperature to fall below -60, so I have to make the Apple Tarte Tatin with the ingredients I have on hand, since I will NOT be leaving the house to shop. I don’t have puff pastry made and although Susan’s extra flaky dough is faster than the traditional dough, it still requires more time than I have today, so I got creative and made a very non-traditional baklava-like crust. I simply layered phyllo dough with honey, butter, vanilla and walnuts until I had a crust worthy of the caramelized apples. It is just as flaky and adds a bit of depth and character. Both ways are terrific and Susan’s article in the magazine is all about the classic and the reinvented (she made gorgeous pineapple and savory tomato versions as well) , so I think she’ll approve!
This Mile-High Lime Meringue Tart is the more sophisticated cousin to the Lemon Meringue Pie. It has all the tartness of lemon, but with lime, which I just find a touch more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I am in LOVE with the lemon version, but this one just sings to me. I used a lime curd as the base of my tart, then topped it with so much meringue that it touches the sky. Of course, and you all know why I love this tart so much…I get to use my blow torch to toast the top. If you don’t have a blow torch by now, I urge you to get one, but you can also use your gas broiler, although it won’t come out nearly as evenly toasted.
The tart pan I used is from Emile Henry and it is a bit different than any of the other tart pans you’ve seen me use. It is ceramic, just like their pie plates, which are my go to and this pan doesn’t have a false bottom. Typically a tart pan’s bottom lifts out, making it easier to slip the tart out of the pan and onto a serving dish. This one is so pretty, I just left the tart right in the pan and presented the whole thing at the table. The tart was much easier to remove than I had assumed, it is just like a pie plate. The other thing to know about this tart pan is that it is quite large, so I made a bigger batch of lime curd and meringue to properly fill the pan.