The first and only tarte tatin I've ever had was at Balthazar in New York City some 6 or so years ago. I had the same prejudice towards other apple desserts that I did with apple pie so tarte tatin had never drew me in. I'm sure it was a fine version of caramelized apples inverted over pastry and I probably really enjoyed it at the time, but it still has not become a dessert I clamor for or get tunnel-vision for on any dessert menu.
Despite my lack of fervor for this bistro favorite, I was pretty excited about Laurie's pick for the second anniversary of Tuesday's With Dorie. She is not only the author of slush, but also the founder and moderator of TWD -- a responsibility I cannot even imagine. I have a problem keeping up with even a handful of blogs on a daily basis, let alone those of hundreds of members! My enthusiasm for tarte tatin this week was due its no-fuss composition. It completely slipped my mind yesterday that Tuesday was just around the corner, and because I had fallen off in updating so much the past couple of months, I really wanted to start the month and year off right. I've always known that tarte tatin was a simple, throw-together confection (especially if you use store-bought puff pastry), so considering I had so little time today, Laurie's choice was perfect.
I woke up at 6:40 this morning and quickly decided that a trip to the gym and a tarte tatin would be made before I left for work. I realized I didn't have any puff pastry left either (I actually prefer pie crust and this one, especially), so I threw together the Good-For-Almost-Everything pie dough (sadly, with room temperature shortening and merely cold water, but I don't think too big a difference was felt), and off to the gym I went.
As soon as I returned, it was a furious peeling, coring, and quarter of the apples and then an impatient, foot-tapping wait while the apples caramelized. I was really worried about the sugar burning so I kept the heat a little lower, but probably slowed down the whole darkening process of the caramel. Finally, it was somewhat in the ballpark of amber and off into the oven it went with its pastry lid.
I waited as long as I possibly good for the crust to cook thorough and achieve a little browning, but I may have pulled it out too early. The tarte was inverted and a nice caramelization was revealed, though it could have been darker, and I immediately swept it off to work with me.
During the resting period, the apples softened the pastry slightly more than I would have preferred while the edges of the crust kept their structure. I was pleased with the first bite, though it would have benefited from greater textural contrast with a crispier crust, but everyone still loved the end result. You can't really deny apples slowly caramelized in butter and sugar on a bed of buttery pastry even if it is as little soft.
My photos seem to have gone missing from my hard drive, but it was a not bad looking specimen. Should they turn up, I'll post them at once, but until then, I've learned my lesson -- work can wait, get that crust browned!
(And they've been found!)