Glowing jewels of apples and pears that have absorbed the caramel you nestled them into
is one other way to enjoy your caramel and get your apple a day. This pie can be done with any pan with a rounded edge that can also go in the oven. Ikea, for example has some rounded bottom 28 cm / 11 " pans with metal handles that I have done tarte tatin in, as well as the good old Emile Henry Flame series tatin set which comes with the plate to flip it out onto, although I have done it many times with a regular old pan and flat plate.
There isn't a whole lot of sugar in this recipe, so you want to get the sweetness from the fruit itself. Go for a sweet apple that will absorb the caramel while it cooks and still hold its shape. What we use here are Elstar, and any Reinette apple including Reine de Reinette or Canada gold.
Recipe: Plum's Favorite Tarte Tatin
8 - 10 apples, medium to large (see note above for the kinds of apples that I have found work best)
2 pears, Martin Sec or other pears that hold up to cooking
200 g granulated or one cup sugar, divided
80 g or 8 tablespoons butter, divided
A double batch of basic pâte brisée
Prepare your favorite pie crust, my favorite is a pâte brisée, which will at once absorb some liquid once the tarte is turned and also add a buttery base with a little bit of salty contrast to the sweet topping. You can start with the crust, and while it rests, do the rest of your mise en place:
In 4 small bowls, measure out into each one 170 grams sugar and 30 grams sugar, and 50 grams butter and 30 grams butter. Reserve the larger amounts (170 grams sugar and 50 grams butter) for the caramel, and have the smaller amounts (30 grams sugar and 30 grams butter) ready to use after the apples are nestled into the pan. Peel, cut all of the fruit into 4 pieces each, and core the pieces before you start this recipe. The apples should be ready to go directly into the hot caramel. Roll out the pate brisee to the size of your pan plus a couple of cms or one inch. This way, you can nestle it directly over the apples and in along the sides. Pierce the rolled out dough with a fork to create a way for steam to escape. Now you can put the tarte together.
Heat the oven to 200C or 400F.
Make the Caramel. Using the pan in which you will eventually bake the tarte, Heat the pan thoroughly, then add 170 grams sugar. Cook the sugar directly in the pan until it melts. It will begin to caramelize in places before the entire amount is melted. When this happens, using a wooden spatula or spoon, gently push some sugar that has not melted into the hot spot. There may be places that start to smoke, and when this happens, push cooler sugar into these hot spots as well. There is no need to stir the sugar more than simply nudging it about to get it to melt evenly. Once the sugar has completely melted, turn off the heat. Don't worry if there is a little smoke, that's what gives that delicious caramel flavor. Off heat, quickly add the 50 grams butter immediately, in one piece and stir it around to melt in the hot caramel (it will bubble and hiss!). The butter serves to cool down the caramel a bit and stop it from burning.
Immediately layer in the apples, 2 layers. While this mixture is still hot, carefully nudge apples and pears, core side up, around the edge of the pan, right on top of the hot caramel. They will sizzle as you add them. Fill the edges of the pan, then fill the center with apples. Don't touch the caramel. It is hot. Once the first layer is in, add a second layer of apples and pears on top, core side down. Settle them down on top to get a nice snug fit. Sprinkle the fruit with the remaining butter in little bits across the surface of the fruit, and then sprinkle that with the remaining sugar. Cover the whole thing with rolled out and pierced pate brisee, and transfer to the hot oven. One trick I have found is useful is to place a lined cookie sheet on a rack below the tarte as it bakes to catch any drips, since depending on the fruit, you may get some spillover.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is a golden brown, and the caramel is bubbling. Remove the tarte from the oven, and let sit for approximately 10 minutes to cool and absorb the liquid before flipping the tarte onto a flat plate. Allowing this tarte to cool makes cleaner slices. You can serve this with vanilla or caramel ice cream, crème chantilly, or just plain crème fraîche.