Face my fears: tarte tatin redemption

Fucking tarte tatin. Let me tell you now, this was the LAST dessert I expected to ever have PTSD from during my reality cooking competition journey. I love apples, I love caramel, and I love flaky pastry. And I’ve made this before(as the judges let everyone know to the point where they made it seem like I was born and raised in France with fond childhood memories of making this with my grandmother). And I was the only contestant in the ENTIRE kitchen, safe or cooking, who knew was it was too. Did I ever think for even a second that I would be in hot water on national TV about it? Especially given my extensive pastry background AND knowledge? Hell no. To say it destroyed my confidence as a cook and as a baker at that point was an understatement. But I am here now to redeem it, because I know for a fact had I not rolled out my pastry as thick as I did, it would have been a knockout. I would have literally finished with 17 minutes to spare on that challenge. But alas, that was what happened and I cannot take that performance back. I can only just redeem it here and now. Which I am going to do with this here recipe. I am dubbing this tarte tatin “Face my fears”, because I am confronting my biggest fear, which is failing in dessert, something that I love very much.

For the tarte tatin, I am sticking with the classic apple, using ginger again to flavor it. I am also doing a brown butter-muscovado sugar crème anglaise. The pastry is still the same short crust pastry that we had to use, because that was literally the only thing that screwed me over. I still think about how if I had just asked if my pastry was thick enough before I baked it, that would have literally changed the results of my cook 100%. My apples would not have had to been overcooked, my pastry would have browned properly, and my caramel sauce would be existent. The lesson here is that thin pastry is always key. When you think it’s thin enough, it does not hurt to roll it thinner, because it will cook faster, and on top of that, if it does overbake slightly, the caramel sauce will still soak into it, and the moisture of the fruit on top, once flipped, will also soften the pastry anyways.

For the pastry:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + more
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup cold water

Gently mix together ingredients until they form a dough. Chill down for at least 15 minutes before rolling out to about 3/4 a centimeter thickness (just stack like 4 of your thinnest dinner plates together, and it should be at most, as thick as that). Measure out your cast iron, or whatever pan you are going to cook your apples in, and make sure that the dough is going to be about 1 inch in diameter larger than the pan. Refrigerate the dough round again at that point, as cold dough is easier to work with.

Roll out your spare dough and cut into little cookies. Bake those at 375 degrees F for 16 minutes. For mine, I went ahead and did stars, since I needed to make a wish.

For the apples:
8-10 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and halved
1/4 cup muscovado sugar
a pinch of salt
juice from 1 lemon

Toss apples in ingredients and allow to sit while you prepare your caramel.

For the caramel:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
8 slices of peeled ginger
2 pieces of star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
a pinch of salt

Spread softened butter to the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron pan, making sure it covers it entirely. Evenly spread the sugar, then sprinkle on salt. Press in your aromatics. Cook down your caramel on heat for 6 minutes. Layer in your apples around the pan, cored side facing up, and cook in the pan for about another 7-10 minutes. Take off heat and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes, just to cool down. Place, then tuck, your pastry on top and around the apples, then score your dough. Bake the entire dessert for about 20-22 minutes, but no longer, at 375 degrees F. Allow the pan to cool down for at least 1-2 minutes before flipping onto a plate to serve. Reserve the pan you cooked the tart in so that you can use it to flambe.

For the crème anglaise:
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup muscovado sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons brown butter
1 teaspoon cornstarch
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk eggs, cornstarch, butter, sugar, and salt together. Bring up cream and milk on a pan. Temper together and stir on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. At that point, take it on and off the heat in 20-30 second intervals, until it thickens into a luscious cream and pass through a strainer. Season with vanilla.

To finish:
Powdered sugar*

Deglaze the tarte tatin pan with calvados and bring to a simmer. Flambe and then pour onto the tarte tatin to finish. Dust off with powdered sugar(if you like that, but for me, too much diabetes), then serve with the crème anglaise, while preferably warm.

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