Tarte Tatin IV: Reproducibility

~10'' saucepan

4 Golden Delicious apples

1/2 cup honey

2/3 stick butter

1 tsp lemon juice

pastry dough enough to cover the ~10'' pan rolled

Preheat oven to 375 F.  On low heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Fill a large bowl about half way with water, and pour in lemon juice.  Peel, core, and quarter apples, placing them in lemon water.  When butter is melted, remove pan from heat and stir in honey, mixing thoroughly (a rubber spatula works to both stir and scrape honey out of a measuring cup).  Shaking off excess water, arrange apple quarters radially, exteriors up, in pan.  (Arranging the outside edge first is easier.)  Roll out pastry into a roughly round shape large enough to completely cover pan.  On high heat bring honey-butter to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes.  Flip apple quarters. Boil for another 4 minutes, stirring apple quarters around but not messing up their arrangement (pushing the outside edge to spin it and moving the pan in a horizontal, circular motion are two ways to do this).  Remove from heat.  Move the rolled out pastry dough using rolling pin, and place evenly on top of pan.  Trim excess if there is a lot of it.  Using a utensil to avoid burning hands, gently tuck the edges down between apples and the edge of the pan.  Gently press the top into a relatively even shape.  Bake for ~30 minutes at 375 F.  Cool for ten minutes.  Run a knife along the inside edge of the pan.  Using potholders, turn out onto a plate.  Cool for another twenty minutes.

(No I'm not posting another pastry dough recipe.)

27 October 2010

Tarte Tatin III: Golden, Delicious, Boring

This time I used Golden Delicious apples.

4 apples, 6 minutes caramelizing, all-purpose flour.

Having put together a satisfactory result (I've replicated the more that appear if you search for "Tarte Tatin" on Google Images), what would be the purpose of writing another recipe?  The trail-and-error experimentation I went through to arrive at this tasty yet now boring tart was not because of a dearth of good recipes, but rather because I had to get to know the recipe.  Apparently getting to know a recipe, for me, involves significant variations that are clearly not called for in the recipe: different fruit, sugar, flour, and proportions. (If stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting different result, what is doing something different and expecting the same result?)  It was through this daft variation that the necessities of the recipe revealed themselves.  Pears instead of apples and honey instead of sugar are fine.  But whole wheat pastry flour makes more finicky dough than all-purpose flour, the type of apples is dramatically important where consistency is concerned, and caramelization is a highly sensitive process that if you're niggly about burnt spots requires stirring, flipping, and paranoia about how long to leave the pan on high heat.  And so several seemingly unimportant details, glossed over by most recipes, become solidified into details that must happen.  If knowledge is as I have just described it, a collection of immobile things, perhaps this is why I am not at all motivated to write another recipe now that I think I know what I'm doing where this tart is concerned.  The previous recipe was in pursuit, and we've all heard those sayings about how it's all in the chase.  It was a recipe of what I imagined should be done, an imaginative fiction of sorts.  This recipe that I feel I should but don't want to write would be a history.  Although I would make some minor changes: I would caramelize it for just a little longer.  I would make sure there isn't a gap in the arrangement of apple slices.  I would use a little less water in the dough (the crust was a bit tough).  I suppose the point of writing the recipe down would be as an elaborate mimetic.  Months or years from now I will have forgotten about all this, and the recipe should allow me to make the same tart again, even though without the recipe I won't remember how.

Well, I still have one more round of dough in the fridge.  I'll write the recipe after I make one more tart.

24 October 2010

Look, no applesauce!

Tarte Tatin II: Applesauce

 I followed the recipe I wrote last time, but with apples instead of pears.  But they were Granny Smith apples, and so the result is very thick, sweetened, somewhat caramelized applesauce on top of pastry.  It doesn't taste bad, in fact it tastes very good, but the texture is not at all what I was hoping for.  Apparently I should be using a different kind of apple, one that doesn't disintegrate when baked.

Other problems included a hunk of pie dough very irritable from being left in the fridge for a few days.  Like a bad case of athlete's foot, it cracked over and over when rolled out, and it fell apart being gently tucked into the pan.  Its fragility was probably in part due to the whole wheat pastry flour.

Some parts of the top (the bottom) were virtually charcoal, which I remedied by just scraping them off.  But maybe I should move the apples around in the pan while they're cooking in the boiling caramel.

Finally, I think I liked the less fruit, more pastry of last time.

22 October 2010

The bits that were too burnt are on that little plate in the background.

Pear-Honey Tarte Tatin

Having just watched, I don't remember why, someone who is apparently not Jamie Oliver make Tarte Tatin, I stared at three pears waiting to rot in the fridge, and had a mad idea.  I think, in retrospect, I was more enamored with the madness than the idea itself (not that there is such a thing): make Tarte Tatin with these pears, but use honey for the caramel (there's no sugar in the house).  If this is "madness" my life must be terribly mundane.  It became apparent when I started peeling the pears that every recipe I had read used enough fruit to fill the pan completely, sometimes layering more on top.  Julia Child's pan, the extreme case, is brimming over.  So it would be a scant tart.

For a recipe I followed the "filling" part from smitten kitchen's, and (roughly) Helen Rennie's extremely explicit pastry technique.  Except I halved smitten kitchen's recipe, because I was only using half the amount of fruit, I used ~1/3 cup honey instead of 1/2 cup sugar, and for the crust whole wheat pastry flour, which is not as heavy as whole wheat flour, but does taste like something and has some texture. 

The problem, I think, with using honey is that it caramelizes more quickly than sugar.  So while smitten kitchen's recipe called for cooking the caramel with fruit for ten minutes on high heat, after five minutes I was afraid I had ruined the whole mess, and then I only cooked it for another minute or two after flipping the pear halves over.  And even then, I think it came out just a little too burnt.

But despite being maybe a little too caramelized, and not terribly pretty, it was still delicious.  I made enough dough for another, maybe next time I'll try apples--more than three, even.

What follows is the untested recipe I would follow if I were to make this again.

Pastry (for two tarts) 13.5 oz (~3 cups) whole wheat pastry flour 2 1/2 sticks butter 1 tsp salt 2 tsp sugar 1 cup ice water

With a postage scale, weigh a medium bowl, and then subtract this weight to weigh 13.5 oz flour in it.  Set this aside, and put the sugar and salt on top of it.  Cut the (cold) butter into lengthwise quarters and then many chunks (~1cm square).  Scatter these on a plate and put in the freezer for ten minutes.  Move the flour with salt and sugar to a food processor.  Put in the butter chunks.  Pulse repeatedly until the butter is cut into pea-size or smaller pieces.  While pulsing every second or two, slowly pour 1/2 cup ice-cold water.  Pick up some dough with your hand and squeeze it.  If it holds together easily, not falling apart after you stop squeezing, it's enough water.  If it falls apart, add more water in small increments until it does hold together.  Dump half of the not-yet-formed dough mixture out onto a flat, clean surface, scrape it together into one mass (despite the paranoia of heat that accompanies pastry dough, I think your hands are fine as a scraping instrument), and squeeze into a ball.  Do the same with the other half of the unformed dough mixture.  Seal with plastic (a bag, or plastic wrap) and refrigerate.

Fruit 6 pears 3/4 cup honey 1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Peel, halve, and core pears.  Splash a little lemon juice on top of them.  Melt butter on low heat in a large saucepan that can be put into the oven (no plastic parts).  Remove from heat, and stir in honey with a whisk.  Arrange pears facing down (they will be flipped).  Cut pear halves into pear quarters to fill in gaps.  While it's cooking, roll out pastry dough into something that will more than cover the top of the pan.  Cook on high heat for 3 or 4 minutes.  Flip pears.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Roll the flat dough onto a rolling pin or other cylindrical object, to make transferring it onto the pan easier.  Lay it on top of the pan.  Push the edges into the sides of the pan, where possible between the pears and the sides of the pan.  Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.  When the crust is just barely browned, take it out.  Let it cool for 30 minutes.  Unstick the edges of the crust from the sides of the pan with a knife.  Place a plate (significantly larger than the pan if possible) on top of the pan.  Using pot holders on both hands holding the pan and the plate together, quickly flip them over so that the tart falls onto the plate.

19 October 2010

Oops, I didn't cut the edges free from the pan before turning it out.