A delicious Apple Tarte Tatin, free from the frequently-seen puff pastry nonsense, lightly caramelised for stunning golden looks.
Tarte Tatin is an upside-down cake, with a topping of caramelized apples on a shortcrust base (but made upside down, crust on top). You need a fire-proof frying pan for it, one with a metal handle (or take off the plastic handle), as it needs to go into the oven.
Mix 150g white flour with 70g soft butter. Add a pinch of salt, and mix thoroughly until you have fine crumbles. You can do this in the blender or using a hand mixer and a tall bowl. Now add one whole medium-sized free range egg, and a tablespoon of cold water. Mix until it forms a homogeneous glue.
Place a layer of cling film on your worktop, big enough to cover the frying pan. If necessary, have two strips of cling film overlap. Place the dough in the middle and flatten it out by hand as much as you can, then cover with the same sized cling film arrangement.
With the dough between the cling film sheets, roll it to an even 3mm.
Put flat into the fridge to rest. I never have space in my fridge for this, so I simply put it flat down onto a cool stone or tiled floor.
Peel five firm and aromatic apples. Braeburn, Kidds Orange Red, Ped Pippin or Jazz are my favourites. Cut into quarters, remove cores. Sprinkle juice form half a lime all over, then set aside.
Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.
Preheat your frying pan on fairly high heat on your gas or electric cooker. Mix 80g white cane sugar (= 4 tablespoons) with the seeds from one vanilla pod (keep the remaining pod for later). Heat this vanilla sugar mix, just to the point where the first sugar crystals start dissolving. Add a generous knob of soft butter, then add the leftover vanilla pod, and then distribute the apples into the mix. Remember your looking at the underside, so make the apply core cut-outs face you.
Add 100ml of Armagnac, Calvados or Brandy and give it a little shake to dissolve the sugar. Take care nothing catches fire (I’m serious! There’ll be a cloud of combustible alcohol vapor, so do take care).
This should now be bubbling away merrily. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes, depending on the amount of liquid produced. You’re done when the caramel begins to get a golden colour and some of the excess liquid is evaporated, maybe after 3 minutes or so.
Remove pan from heat.
Take dough out of cling film, and cover the apples with it. Tuck it in around the edges so that it makes an upside-down cake.
Put into the oven at 190 Celsius for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately turn upside down onto a suitable cake serving plate. Don’t wait for the pan to cool – turn over immediately!
Service with or without vanilla ice cream (with optional plum and Calvados mix-ins).