Lucy's Tarte Tatin
Lucy Crabb, former Executive Chef at our restaurant at Norwich City Football Club, makes the very best Tarte Tatin (Caramelised Apple Flan) I've ever tasted. She insists on French apples for this great classic from the Loire Valley, but if you want to use English apples, such as Cox's, it will still be wonderful.
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You will also need a non-stick, heavy-based frying pan that is ovenproof (including the handle), with a base diameter of 9½ inches (24 cm), 1½ inches (4 cm) deep.
This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Three.
First of all, you need to make the pastry, so it has time to rest. Begin by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl from a height, then cut the fats into the flour with a knife, before rubbing the mixture lightly with your fingertips, lifting everything up and letting it fall back into the bowl to give it a good airing. When the mixture reaches the crumb stage, sprinkle in enough cold water, 2-3 tablespoons, to bring it together to a smooth dough that leaves the sides of the bowl absolutely clean, with no crumbs left. Give it a light knead to bring it fully together, then place the pastry in a plastic food bag and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes. To make the filling, peel the apples and then cut them in half vertically and remove the core. (Lucy does this with a melon baller, which works brilliantly and keeps the centre very neat.) Next, spread the softened butter evenly over the base of the pan and sprinkle the sugar over the top.
Then, place the apples in concentric circles, cut side up. When you get to the centre, you may have to cut them into quarters to fill any gaps. Now you need to place the pan over a low heat so the butter and sugar melt very slowly together, which will take 8-10 minutes in all. When they have melted, increase the heat slightly, as you now want the sugar to caramelise. Gently shake the pan from time to time, so the apples don't stick and burn on the bottom. (Lucy insists this is not a dessert you can walk away from, as the minute you do, the sugar will burn.)
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C). It will take about 20-25 minutes for the sugar to reach a rich amber colour and, by that time, the apples should be soft but still retain their shape. When that has happened, remove the pan from the heat. Now remove the pastry from the fridge, transfer it to a flat, lightly floured surface and roll it out to an 11½ inch (29 cm) round. Fit it over the top of the pan, allowing some to tuck down at the edge, which doesn't have to be too neat. Prick the pastry base all over with a fork so the steam is released when it's cooking and the pastry doesn't go soggy.
Next, place the pan on the centre shelf of the oven and bake the tart for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Remove it from the oven using really thick oven gloves and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Now the whole thing gets interesting. Take a plate or tray larger than the pan and place it over the top. Then, using an oven glove to hold the handle, invert the pan on to the plate, giving it a little shake before you do. Serve the tart warm, with lashings of crème fraîche. I have to say, any left over is still wonderful served cold.
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