Here’s a classic French recipe I’ve never made before. I’ve seen the upside down apple tart made on cooking shows many times but never bothered to try it at home. Yesterday I was watching my very favorite television show: The Great British Baking Show and Mary Berry made her Tarte Tatin in the master class series. She made it look so easy and gave several great tips for success. I love the simplicity of the ingredients. All you need is apples, crust, and a little sugar.
I got up off the couch and went to my best reference book for French classic recipes and techniques, Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques. I used his recipe for pate brisee (pie crust) and followed his instructions for parts of the recipe and Mary Berry’s tips for other parts. Tarte Tatin has been reinterpreted so many times it’s impossible to say what the ‘real’ or ‘original’ or even ‘the best’ technique might be. Here’s what I did:
6 cups apples – sliced thin – This could be anywhere from 6-8 apples.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get out your pie dish so it’s in arms reach.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not use a non-stick pan when making caramel. Bring to a boil and keep boiling until it turns a golden caramel color. Pour the caramel into the pie dish and immediately swirl by tilting the pan to cover the entire bottom of the dish. I struggled with this step because my caramel hardened too quickly in my cold pyrex dish. Oh well, I pressed on.
Set the pie dish aside and allow the caramel to cool completely. Meanwhile, slice the apples evenly and thinly. Choose one or two good looking apples to use for the bottom of the pie. Place the first layer of apples on the cooled caramel in a nice design. Remember, this will be inverted and the bottom will become the top; you want it to look pretty. Fill the rest of the dish with the remaining apples. It’s okay if the apples come above the top of the dish a bit because they will shrink as they cook. Place the rolled out pastry or pie crust over the apples. Tuck in the edges all around the dish. Cut a small vent hole in the center of the pie. Place in the hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The crust should be golden brown. When you take the dish out of the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes. To ensure a caramel top that’s not too runny, carefully hold a dish towel over the crust while you pour the juices into your caramel saucepan from earlier. Next, invert the tarte onto a plate. Now, add 2 Tablespoons of sugar and heat to a quick boil. Pour this caramel sauce over the finished Tarte Tatin and serve just warm. The finished tart was intensely apple flavored and super delicious. The caramel is subtle and emphasizes the taste of the apples. The crust was crisp and buttery. Total success.
What a fun way to spend an afternoon! I’m so thankful to have a friend who gets as excited about the finer points of pie dough as I do. We baked three pies for a family party. Each creation had a delicious and flaky home made crust. vCheck out our two traditional fruit pies with a lattice top and one scrumptious peach and almond cream tart. I made the dough a day in advance so it was ready and waiting in the fridge. We rolled all the dough on a chilled marble slab and felt very fancy, very professional. The marble came from Grandmama Clydie and kept our dough cold in a hot kitchen.
I’ve been using a pate brisee recipe from Martha Stewart for all my pies lately. You can whiz this up in the food processor and save it in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to bake. I channel Julia Child and finish the mixing by hand on the counter for an extra flaky crust. You can click through for full instructions, or if you’re an experienced pie baker, the proportions are:
2 1/2 cups AP flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter – cubed and ice cold
about 1/4 cup ice water
For the fruit filling, we used Nathalie Dupree’s book Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. You will need about 4 cups of fruit, a little sugar and a little cornstarch. Yummo! This was the only picture I could snap of all three together. As you can see, I wasn’t fast enough!
My husband caught me watching cooking shows… again. It’s my favorite lazy Saturday afternoon activity. I have a notebook filling up with scribbled recipes and instructions television. Sometimes, no: often these recipes come in handy and turn out great! This pie is what he chose for his birthday this year and it was a delicious success.
Coconut Cream Pie
recipe from Martha Bakes
1 pate brisee (pie crust), blind baked
Here’s the recipe for two crusts:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cubed and ice cold
3-5 Tablespoons ice cold water
Pulse in food processor til it holds together when you squeeze it in your hands. Divide and shape into two discs, wrap well in plastic and chill until ready to use.
To blind bake: roll out the pie dough and fit it into the pie plate. Line the unbaked pie shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let the crust cool.
For the pie filling:
Whisk together in a saucepan:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
add the liquids (just a little at first to get the lumps out):
1 1/4 cup whole milk ( I used 2% and some coconut milk)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk (that’s one can – look for it with the Thai food in the ethnic aisle)
Heat until it’s coming to a low simmer, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick or burn. Separate 4 eggs and save the whites for another recipe. Whisk in a small bowl:
Add a little of the hot milk mixture and whisk to temper the egg yolks. Then add the yolks to the saucepan and cook until very thick. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and add:
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded (unsweet) coconut
Pour the custard into the cooled pie shell and chill until ready to serve. Top the pie with freshly whipped cream and some coconut toasted lightly in the oven. Beautiful!
This custard was easy to make – don’t be scared! This pie feels really decadent but is pretty low in sugar and downright healthy compared to anything you could buy.