This is a classic, a favourite, for two reasons. It’s delicious and thoroughly enjoyable, with soft, caramel-flavoured apples on light, crispy puff pastry. And secondly, it’s arguably the easiest baked dessert for a non-baker (someone who not only dislikes but is slightly fearful of baking, as defined by this non-baker), yet it strikes people (guests) as impressive. WIN/WIN, as defined by everyone.
Individual Tartes Tatin
*Start the first step of this recipe 1-3 days ahead.
4 large Granny Smith or Gala apples, about 1.5 lbs, peeled and cored
1/3 c granulated sugar
2 tbs water
1/4 c unsalted butter
400 g package puff pastry, thawed and kept refrigerated until ready to roll out
250 ml whipping cream, or use creme fraiche, to serve
Special equipment: baking tray and 8 oven-proof ramekins
Cut 2 apples into 8 pieces lengthwise, and the other 2 apples into quarters lengthwise. Cover loosely and refrigerate for one or up to three days.*
Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
Make the caramel:
Add the sugar and the water to a small saucepan, heat gently over medium heat. Do not stir. The sugar will froth, then subside slightly and start to turn a deep honey colour. When it does, remove the pan from the heat and swirl gently. Add the butter to this hot caramel and when it melts, swirl carefully to incorporate. Then place the ramekins on the baking tray and pour the caramel evenly (and carefully) into the bottom of each ramekin.
Add the apple quarters, round-side down, into the ramekins, and use the eighths to squeeze in around the quarters to cover the base of the ramekins, then layer extra pieces on top. You want to create a very snug fit—the apples will shrink and settle while cooking.
Roll out pastry to an area that will allow you to cut out 8 circles roughly the same size as the ramekins. Alternatively, you can cut diamonds or other shapes to layer in a pattern, your choice. Place circles or pieces on top of apples and press down to somewhat flatten, as this will become the base. It will still be bumpy, don’t worry too much about it. Score any coverings without gaps 2-3 times to create vents for the steam to escape from. Place the baking tray of ramekins into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whip the cream. Run a knife along the edges of the pastry. Using oven mitts, cover one ramekin with an individual serving plate, hold it down tightly, then carefully and quickly flip to invert the tarte onto the plate. Repeat with the others, then top each with a dollop of whipped cream and serve.