The French have done many wonderful things but Tarte Tatin is way up there. This is great to do for dinner parties because you can do most of the prep the day before. And it’s bang for the buck since the ingredients are cheap and easy to get. I modified the way the pastry is assembled. I don’t put the pastry on the apples while they are caramelizing on the stove. Instead I leave them in freezer until the apples are done and ready to go in the oven. The pastry puffs up more when you put in the oven cold. I also added extra inches of pastry so you get nice crumpled up edges that are caramelized and crunchy in the end.
Tarte Tatin (adapted from New York Times)
6 to 8 large apples, you can do a sweet variety like Braeburn, or a mix of sweet and sour like Honeycrisp and Granny Smith
6 tablespoons salted butter
⅔ cup granulated or light brown sugar
1 sheet store bought all-butter puff pastry, about 8 ounces
At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small spoon to scoop out the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. This reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.
You can still do this day of if you missed the chance to do it ahead of time. Peel the apples a few hours before making the tarte and leave on the counter until ready to assemble.
On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out a 12-inch circle of pastry and return to the freezer until ready to bake.
When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan (or other pan that can go in the oven) and sprinkle the sugar on top.
Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.
Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes. If necessary, raise the heat so that the juices are at a boil. Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.
Turn off the heat. Place the puff pastry circle over the apples. Crimp and tuck the extra pastry around the apples. It will look crumpled up at the edges but that’s fine. It will give you nice crunchy edges of caramelized pastry.
Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.
Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.