French Apple Pie

>> Friday, May 7, 2010

This week has been a bit crazy for me, so sorry for the lack of blogging. In Nepal there have been some crazy political protests and the whole country has been 'closed' by a political party, so no shops open, no vehicles on the road and I've pretty much been working from home all week (with lots of tea breaks and movie breaks :P ). Anyways, so I haven't really been in the frame of mind to blog about wonderful things.

But one thing I did bookmark this week that I'm going to try to make (once all the shops open), to prepare us for our trip to Europe is a French Apple Pie. The recipe can be found at that link, but I thought it would be nice to post it up here with some pretty pictures too. If you try making it let me know how it goes!

The Filling
5-6 Medium Apples
120ml (1/2 Cup) Sugar
60ml (1/4 Cup) Honey
45ml (3 Tbsp) Butter (unsalted*)
10ml (2 Tsp) Lemon Juice
(from a lemon, for crying out loud, not a bottle!)
Lemon Zest (1/2 of a lemon peel)

2ml (1/2 Tsp) Salt

The Crust
240ml (1 Cup) Flour
(Use the best all purpose flour available.)
2ml (1/2 Tsp) Salt
10ml (2 Tsp) Sugar
100ml (7 Tbsp) butter (cold and unsalted*)

~30ml (~2 Tbsp) Ice Cold Water

The Technique

Important Notes:
This recipe requires a 25.4cm (10 inch), cast-iron skillet. No other type of skillet will do! You will love it! So no complaining.

Use oven mitts to handle your cast iron skillet.
Start with the crust because it will need to be refrigerated while you prepare the filling. Important: Chill your butter. The success of this crust depends on it!

Step 1: Prepare the Crust
Pour the flour, salt, and sugar into a medium bowl. Combine them well with a large spoon. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. With a pastry blender, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms pea-sized grains. Continue to blend and add small amounts of the cold water until the mixture begins to stick. Flour your hands and press the mixture into a ball. Wrap the dough ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while you make the filling.

Step 2: Prepare the Apples
Peel and core your apples into 6 or 8 slices each. Place them in a large bowl. Add the salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the apple slices and toss thoroughly.

Step 3: Preheat your oven to (195° C.) 380° F.

Step 4: Cook the Filling
Note: The golden color is controlled by the temperature at which you melt the butter in this step. If your skillet is too hot, the butter will become quite brown and your tarte will look muddy. We want a golden brown appearance. So start with low heat.

Preheat your cast-iron skillet under low heat and melt the butter. While you stir the butter, add the honey and sugar. Continue to stir and slowly bring the mixture up to medium heat. The mixture will have a granular quality to it at first. As it warms, the texture will become smooth and the color will become light gold. This process will take from 6 to 7 minutes from the time the butter starts to melt until the texture becomes smooth. Remove the skillet from the heat. Use an oven mitt on the handle!

You will make two layers of apples in the skillet. Place the apples into the skillet in a round pattern to form the first layer. Then add a second layer of apples. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook the apples for about 15 minutes. (Be careful! Do not let the mixture boil over.) Remove the skillet from the heat. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.

Step 5: Apply the Crust
Take the dough from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Roll out the dough on a well floured surface to make a circle of 28cm (11 inches). Transfer the dough to the skillet. Press the edges of the dough to the inside edges of the skillet. Cut a few vents into the crust. Let everything rest for 5 minutes.

Step 6: Bake the Tarte
Place the skillet into the oven and bake the tarte at 195° C. (380° F.) for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove the skillet from the oven and let it rest for about 3 minutes.

Step 7: Turn out the Tarte
Note: Be careful and remember to use your oven mitts. This is a little tricky, but you can do it!
Take a large serving or dinner plate and center it, bottom side up, over the skillet. Hold the plate firmly to the skillet. With an oven mitt, hold the skillet by the handle. Quickly and confidently turn the tarte from the skillet on to the plate.

Step 8: Enjoy!
You can serve your Tarte Tatin warm or cold. Purists say to eat it warm. I prefer to refrigerate the tarte overnight. This allows the honey and apple flavors to harmonize into that resonant chord of sweetness that we talked about.


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