It's a good thing I picked up a cast iron pan in time for apple season. I've been taking full advantage of both. Inspired by Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution (and how can you not be?), I decided to give Tarte Tatin a whirl. Not only that, but I made my own pie crust, after years of buying them frozen.
What took me so long?
This dessert is simple, as Waters promises, and simultaneously rustic and elegant. It celebrates wholesome, delicious ingredients without complication:
Pie Crust (Homemade or store bought)
2-3 Apples (I used local Tompkins King apples.)
Butter, 2 Tbsp.
Sugar, 6 Tbsp.
First, I prepared an entire recipe of Waters' "Tart & Pie Dough" from earlier in the book, refrigerating one half for the Tarte Tatin and freezing the other half for next time. (It ended up making the trip to Maryland in my cooler for the Tarte Tatin I made for my apple loving brother.)
Peel and core apples. Slice into thin segments (eights or sixteenths). It is important that they are as uniform as possible.
Oven preheated to 400°F. Butter and sugar combined in a 9-inch cast iron pan over medium heat. Stir until caramelized, careful not to burn! Remove the pan from heat. My caramel making skills need a lot of work, mainly because it involves paying careful attention and not getting distracted. This is a great example of how cooking can make me a better person. The promise of delicious, unburned caramel may be just the incentive I need to train myself.
Arrange apple slices perpendicular to the outside edge of the pan, pointy sides up. Make another ring inside that one. Then fill these rings in, pointy sides down this time, nestled between the first set of rings. Fill in gaps with smaller pieces. Lay pastry over the apples, tucking it between the apples and the pan.
Bake 30-40 minutes. Give the pan a gentle shake when you take it out of the oven, to loosen the apples. Put the serving plate face down over the pan and flip over. Gently lift the pan off. Serve with vanilla ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream, or just naked. Delicious warm or at room temp. Delightful with ice wine.
This is how I made my Tarte Tatin, but this narrative is no substitute for Waters' eloquent description of her method in The Art of Simple Food. I highly recommend checking the book out, particularly the practical and poetic piece on "Rolling Out Tart Dough," which was a revelation.