In season: all year but best in late autumn The ultimate french apple tart. The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century. They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph - soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath. It is unquestionably my favourite French tart! One can buy a special copper tatin especially for this tart.
1.24kg (2 3/4lb) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples
175g (6oz) puff pastry or rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry or Sour Cream Pastry
110g (4oz/1 stick) unsalted butter
210g (7 1/2oz/scant 1 cup) castor sugar *
a heavy 20.5cm (8inch) tatin mould or copper or stainless steel sautepan with low sides
Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF / Gas Mark 7 for puff pastry. For shortcrust -180ºC / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4.
First, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan. Prick it all over with a fork and chill until needed.
Peel, halve and core the apples. Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour. Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side. Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Hold your nerve otherwise it will be too pale. Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.
Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the edges. Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft-25-30 minutes approx. For puff pastry reduce the temperature to 200°C / 400°F / gas 6 after 10 minutes.
Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like. Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate. (Watch out - this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out). Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.
Pear Tarte Tatin
Substitute pears for apples in the above recipe.