Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tart Tatin Season

Apple season is here and it’s time for me to break out my tarte tatin pan and start baking this classic French dessert. A tarte tatin is an upside down apple tart, and though it is not restricted to the autumn months, apples are at their peak then so it’s the best time to make one.

While I was in Paris last spring, I stumbled across a small bistro with a sign on its door announcing Grillades au Charbon de Bois. I’m not great with French but I know the word charcoal when I see it. This charming little restaurant, “La Brocherie” in St. Germain des Pres , specializes in meats cooked over a wood fire and serves classic French deserts like crème caramel, mousse au chocolate, and of course, tarte tatin.

As I popped my head in, the chef was preparing a tarte tatin. My mouth was watering so I made a point of coming back for lunch.

On my return I ordered Entrecote Grillé served with a simple baked potato and a few vegetables and it was fabulous. For dessert my slice of tarte tatin came with a side of cream fraiche. The tarte was slightly warm and absolutely delicious. The trick of making a perfect tarte tatin is in the consistency of the apples. They should not be too soft nor too hard and the crust must not be soggy. I have been making this dessert for years and have found that cream fraiche is the perfect accompaniment because its slightly sour flavor is wonderful with the caramelized apples.

So what is the perfect recipe? Well, when I was working on my cookbook, “ I Am Almost Always Hungry”, I tested dozens of versions. I do not use a puff pastry crust, which many recipes call for because I prefer a pate brise crust. I also think using a copper tarte tatin pan makes all the difference. After my visit to La Brocherie I also learned that any deep copper skillet will work as well.

La Brocherie
3, Rue St-Benoit
75006 Paris


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