“Ok, let’s try this again.” Four attempts later, my inner scientist motto, and belief in the scientific method triumphed in getting my Tarte Tatin recipe just right. It was one of the first desserts I learned to make (apparently teenage me just got it…go figure?), but it can be tricky getting the caramel just right. Because, when it comes to caramel, it’s all about the science of it.
To get the caramel to that perfect soft and stick consistency rather than hard and crunchy, we need three principles (like the three laws of therodynamics, but more delicious):
First, swirling the pan instead of stirring the caramel helps to prevent agitating the caramel causing it to crystallize;
Second, adding the acidic lemon juice helps to prevent the sugar from recrystallizing when it cools (aka hardening); and,
Third, adding the apples in before it is finished browning helps to dilute the sugar mixture, again helping to make a creamy, sticky caramel instead of a hard one.
So, now that you’ve had your science lesson for the day, its time to get back to cooking and make some Tarte Tatin!
2-3 apples, sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)
2 tbs Big Rock Honey Brown Amber Lager (find it here)
3/4 cup sugar
1 sheet puff pastry
1 tbs lemon juice
1 Oven proof skillet (we recommend using a skillet that can be heated to at least 450F)
Preheat the oven to 425F.
First, roll out the sheet of puff pastry onto a flat surface (use a bit of flour if you don’t want it to stick). Use a fork to poke holes in the pastry to prevent it from sticking to the sheet when you remove it. Set aside. Pre-cut the apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. Get this done before you start the caramel.
Heat the beer in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle the sugar in an even layer across the skillet and drip the lemon juice throughout the mixture (don’t just dump it in one spot). As the sugar starts to melt and bubble, swirl the pan to promote even cooking.
DO NOT STIR! Stirring will cause the caramel to crystallize and harden. If it starts to crystallize up the edges, brush the edges of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.
When the sugar mixture is a very light caramel colour, add the apples. Mix them around for 3-4 mins to evenly coat the apples in the caramel mixture and let them release their juices. Push the apples into an even layer to look presentable (remember, this will end up being the top of your dessert). Place the puff pastry on top of the apples and put the entire pan in the oven.
Cook for 15-20 mins or until the pastry becomes a light golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5-10 mins. Run a wet spatula around the edges of the pan to help loosen the pastry and caramel from the pan. Make sure you wear a oven mitt when you hold the pan’s handle, as it will be VERY hot.
To flip the dish, place a plate on top of the pastry and the pan. Hold the pan with one hand and the plate down with the other. Using both hands to stabilize the dishes and flip them over, so the plate is on the bottom and the pan is on top. Lift the pan slightly to make sure the pastry is falling down onto the plate – this might take a moment for the caramel to detach from the pan. There will be some apples still stuck in caramel in your pan, so just use a spatula to remove them and place them back on the tarte. Rearrange any other apples that have gotten out of place.
Serve immediately with ice cream or just by itself.