Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tarte Tatin

Created by impoverished old maid sisters, this is one of France's beloved desserts; and it is truly easy to make. Check it out:

1 9" pie crust

3-4 large, crisp, tart(e!) apples, like Granny Smith
1/2 stick butter
@ 3/4 C sugar

Melt the butter over low heat in a 9-10" skillet with oven-proof handle. Peel and core apples and cut them into 6ths. When butter is melted, put sugar into the pan, and raise the heat to medium, shaking the pan frequently until the sugar begins to caramelize. Remove from heat, place apple slices core side up in the caramelized sugar, tucking them in neatly but tightly. Cover the pan, place the pan back on the medium burner, and cook for about 15 minutes covered. Check frequently for signs the apples are cooked through. Remove the lid, cook apples down until browned where they touch the pan bottom. I like mine quite brown. The caramel will cook down, absorbing the apple juices, to a glistening golden glaze.

Remove from heat, and cool to warm or room temperature. About 30 minutes before serving, cover apples in pan with the pie crust, tucking the crust down around the edge of the pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven until well-browned. Cool very slightly, then invert onto a rimmed (to absorb the juices) cake plate. Serve almost hot. To make it "American", top it with some cinnamon ice cream.

Why cookbooks make this sound so hard and fussy, I'll never figure out. It is easy (no, easier) than, well, pie. I keep rolled-out homemade pie crusts in the freezer in an old Rubbermade cake keeper, separated by plastic wrap, making it a snap to make this dessert on the spur of the moment. Who doesn't have apples around? My only caveat is that you really must use real butter - salted or not, your preference.

Now, legend has it that the Tatin sisters were able to keep the family home and body and soul together by baking and selling these tartes in the Fall and Winter. I just love the image of these two old maiden ladies, picking their apples, chopping the wood for their wood stove, peeling and cutting, sauteeing and tasting, gossiping and fussing, hoping to pay the bills by making these treasures.

This kind of thing still can pay the bills. A friend of mine put her daughter through Texas A&M by making and selling tamales between Hallowe'en and New Year's Day.

Maybe I'll try putting Little Harvard thru Harvard by baking and selling my pecan pies, the recipe which I will give y'all for Christmas (but early enough to make and serve on that day).

Yesterday, November 5th, was 94 degrees in Austin, Texas. It's hard to think of cooking Christmas dinner in this heat.

Godde bless.

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