Sunday, January 6, 2008

January 6: 30-Minute Tarte Tatin

I am embarassed to admit that I don't bake much. Here's the thing: I am a Type I, or insulin-dependant diabetic. I manage it with a combination of diet, half-hearted exercise, and medication. Yes, I take shots, and yes, it annoys me when people around me freak out about me giving myself a shot. Nobody is threatening you with a hypodermic needle, so stop squawking like a hen. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. Not that you asked.

If I worked out as hard as I could, I could really pretty much eat what I wanted. Insulin is good stuff now and technology allows me to manage my blood sugars pretty closely. Also, I developed this disease at 25. Unless I live to be 130, I'm not so likely to develop some of the problems that diabetics who were diagnosed at age 3 or 4 will have, like kidney disease or heart disease or blindness.

But I am basically lazy and so I curtail what I eat. I rarely ever have dessert in a restaurant, maybe twice a year, and I never have it at home. A special occasion here or there, a birthday, or a quarter-cup of one of my guilty pleasures--ice cream--round out the dozen or so desserts I have in a year. I prefer to save my calories for things like a bowl of spaghetti carbonara or a piece of really good, crunchy, well-seasoned fried chicken. The sweet stuff just doesn't do it for me.

Irregardless of that, I understand the appeal of a dessert, and lots of people like to bake. This tarte tatin from Cook's Illustrated is quick enough to make for weeknight company, and with the whipped cream topping it's luxurious enough for a special occasion for someone who's not interested in baking, like me.

Serves 6-8

30-Minute Tarte Tatin


Puff Pastry
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (9 by 9 1/2 inches), thawed on the counter for 10 minutes

Caramelized Apples
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, (6 medium or 4 large), peeled, quartered, and cored

Whipped Sour Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons liqueur, flavored (spiced rum, Calvados, apple liqueur, or Grand Marnier orange liqueur)

1. For the pastry: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the puff pastry on the parchment, prick all over with a fork, and bake until golden brown and puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the baked pastry shell to a cutting board or to a flat serving platter.
2. For the apples: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Place the apples in the skillet so they are all resting flat side down. Return the skillet to high heat and cook until the juices in the pan turn a rich amber color, 10 to 12 minutes. Using tongs, turn the apples over to the other flat side. Continue to caramelize the apples for an additional 5 minutes.

3. For the topping: Whip the sour cream and heavy cream to soft peaks in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the liqueur (if desired) and continue to whip to medium-stiff peaks.

4. To assemble: Using tongs, remove the apple slices from the pan one at a time and place in 3 overlapping horizontal rows on the baked pastry square. Spoon about three-quarters of the pan juices over the top of the apples (you can use a pastry brush to dab some of the liquid onto the edges of the pastry). To the leftover liquid in the pan whisk in 2 tablespoons whipped sour cream topping.

5. To serve: Cut the tart in half vertically down the center, and then horizontally into 3 or 4 rows (to serve 6 or 8, respectively). Transfer portions to individual plates and top each with a dollop of whipped sour cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce from pan. Serve immediately.

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