Dear Seasonal Ones,
Two folk heroes named John have been my lodestars since I was a wee bairn- John Henry and Johnny Appleseed. The first, for the very reason that I am writing to you now: the grace and beauty of humanity must try to come out ahead of the machines that our clever monkey ingenuity have wrought; and the second, because we must also try to leave a trail of seeds we have planted.
The tree is full; it is time for an Apple Tarte Tatin. I offer first, the utterly disarming Julia Child. Nobody says it better than her, and I hope you will take the time to watch even a little of her Apple Dessert episode. If you must multi-task, you may peel apples as you watch. When you are done with her thoroughly enjoyable instructions, I will give you the hybrid recipe that I use whenever I tarte tatin apples. Oh, by the by, if you think the video is good, the dessert is at least as good- I know, you are thinking, 'sure, they rave over anything with sugar in it at the Dodo.' But, really, this isn't going to taste like anything you have had anywhere out- It will be better than the best restaurant and better than the best bakery you have ever tried.
This recipe is adapted from Donna Hay's beautiful dessert cookbook Modern Classics Book 2. I got this book from a dear friend, who told me that Australian Donna Hay is a sort of Martha Stewart of the southern hemisphere. Meet her here; you will two will get along fine!
4 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs water
3/4 cup sugar
4 or 5 apples
rough puff pastry (see recipe following)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and core the apples, cutting them into 4 quarters. Melt the butter in a skillet with sloping sides of 10 inches or so in diameter. Add the sugar and water and bring it to a boil over medium heat- once the sugar has dissolved, place the apples into the pan, core sides up. The smooth peeled sides with be the top, once you invert your tarte after cooking. Let the apples cook, without scorching, until the sugar has begun to color some- a light to medium caramel color. This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
Roll the pastry dough into a circle that will cover your apples and fit your skillet. Lay it carefully over the hot apples and sugar, and put it in the oven for 20 to 28 minutes. The pastry should be puffed up and golden brown.
Let it cool for 5 minutes or so; now, here it gets tricky: Put a plate over the top of the skillet, and then flip the whole burning hot sticky thing over, lifting the skillet slowly, so you don't fling caramel all over the kitchen.
Cut it up and eat it- it is best warm, so just finish it all, or run what's left over to the neighbors house.
Rough Puff Pastry
This recipe is adapted from Judy Rodgers' cookbook: The Zuni Café Cookbook. This book is a pleasure to read- Ms. Rodgers has a charming, gentle, guiding voice, and her recipes are terrific, too. Dine at Zuni, if you ever get the chance.
1/2 cup salted butter; cold
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
Get a 2 by 2 foot space of counter to work on. Mix the sugar into the flour well, and pile it into a mound in the center of your space. Slice the butter into 8 or 10 square slabs or pats. With your paws well into the mounded flour, pinch each slab into a much thinner square of butter- maybe 2 x 2 inches. Layer these pinched thins pieces with flour. Don't worry, they will break and crack; stack them up anyway. What have you got now? A messy mound of flour and broken butter sheets. Spread it out into a shallow circle of materials about 10 inches across. Drip the ice water onto it, and then use a bench scraper or hard edged spatula to lift and fold the outside towards the center. Fold it over itself enough to square it up into rectangle a little larger than a postcard. Wrap it up loosely in waxed paper and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
Use a little flour on your space, and roll your postcard of dough out to about 1/2 inch thick- fold it over itself in thirds. Repeat the rolling and folding, and then put it back in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.
Repeat the previous step two more times, using as little flour as possible on the counter. After the third rolling and folding, leave the pastry in the fridge for an hour before using.
Would you like to dress apple, too?
One more Appleseed for you.