After a very inspiring run of many years, bringing so many food bloggers together, the Secret Recipe Club is sadly coming to an end.
I gate-crashed this wonderful party very late in the game (just a few months ago), but it has been an exciting part of each month: I have discovered new blogs and have cooked my way through great recipes that have now become favourites in this house. Not to mention the many bookmarked recipes that I am very happily working through.
I would like to say a huge “thank you” to Sarah for everything she has done with SRC and for the terrific hosts for their magnificent organisation of the groups. I am certainly going to miss SRC but I hope that it will live on in some form…….
This month’s assignment
This month I was given Sarah’s Oreos and cool whips blog. I love the great selection of recipes on Sarah’s blog, and I love how she likes to challenge herself with her cooking. You should also check out her “about” page for how the name of her blog came about: that certainly made me chuckle!
Once again I was spoilt for choice with recipes and have bookmarked a few to try shortly:
However, I decided to go down the comfort bake route and make the classic tarte tatin. Which is also one of the very first things I ever made as a boy! Besides, I always associate a tarte tatin with the autumn, I am still picking apples and I hadn’t made a batch of puff pastry in a few weeks. And as for the lure of sticky caramel…..well, it took barely seconds before I was sold!
I also hadn’t made a tarte tatin for years, so it was great to re-visit what I consider to be an old friend.
The simple pleasures of a tarte tatin
This classic dessert, using just a few ingredients, has firm, sharp apples, rich buttery caramel and puff pastry. The puff pastry base takes on the sticky flavours and you have that perfect combination of sweet, sharp, sticky and naughty!
The tarte tatin is excellent served either warm or chilled.
The trick is getting the caramel right at the start: you want it to go dark golden so you get the best flavour, without burning it. As the tatin bakes, the juices from the apples mingle with the caramel so that it will not have a chance to burn in the oven, but will turn even more luscious.
A cheat’s version
As well as buying the pastry, instead of making the caramel you can buy ready-made caramel which work brilliantly here. Most of the supermarkets sell their own brand, but I fully recommend the caramelised condensed milk that you can buy: a perfect stand-by ingredient.
Any tin will do!
Ideally you make a tarte tatin in a solid frying pan (not non-stick, as caramel doesn’t form easily in a non-stick pan), so it is all made in one pan: brilliant in terms of minimal washing up!
However, a shallow cake tin works wonderfully, as do small ceramic ramekins for individual tatins, as Sarah has done.
A few added extras if the mood takes you…..
You can ring the changes in many ways with the caramel, but go carefully as the apple should be the star of the show:
- add a star anise
- add chopped vanilla pods
- stirring in about 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- add about 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (I added salt this time: give such a great layer of flavour to balance the sweetness)
- mixing the lightly crushed seeds of 2 or 3 cardamom pods to the caramel (subtlety is very much the key if using cardamom!)
You can also use other fruit in place of the apples: pears or peaches are particularly wonderful.
Recipe: tarte tatin – serves 6
- juice of 1 lemon
- 6-8 medium apples, peeled, cored and halved: a firm, sharp variety is best (eg: Cox, Braeburn, Granny Smith)- mix the with lemon juice until needed
- 150g caster sugar
- 50g butter – salted is particularly good here
- about 300g puff pastry (all-butter variety if bought)
You also need one medium frying pan (not non-stick!) or shallow cake tin, about 8-9″ diameter
(1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C(fan). Roll out the pastry fairly thinly. Cut out a circle of pastry using the rim of the cake tin or frying pan. Chill the pastry until needed.
(2) Add the sugar to the frying pan or a medium saucepan (not non-stick!), and place over a low-medium heat until it melts, shaking the pan from time to time to help the sugar dissolve: don’t stir as stirring can make the sugar crystallise! Let the sugar come to a very gentle simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until it turns a deep golden-brown colour, keeping an eye on it so that it doesn’t smoke (if it does smoke too much, the caramel will taste bitter, although plunging the pan into a bowl of cold water can stop it from cooking further, thereby rescuing it…so have a bowl of cold water on stand by…..)
(3) Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Place the apple halves, cut-side upwards, onto the caramel, putting them tightly together. If there are gaps, chop a few of the apple halves and push them into the gaps.
NB: this can now be set aside until ready to bake fully.
(4) Place the puff pastry on top of the apples and tuck the edge of the pastry down.
(5) Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and you can see the caramel bubbling up round the edge. If you feel the pastry is getting too dark, place a sheet of foil on top.
(6) Remove it carefully from the oven as the caramel will be more liquid and leave for about 5 minutes to let it all settle. Place a large flat plate over the top and carefully invert. Lift off the pan. Serve with ice cream, pouring cream or crème fraîche: a little Calvados mixed into the cream is wonderful!
Click on the blue frog below to see what other treats members of SRC have made this month: