Tuesday, November 18, 2014




Tarte tatin was the result of an accident. Or so I've read.
There are a few versions of the story but it is commonly said that Stéphanie Tatin, one of the two sisters that ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, was overworked one day and while trying to bake her specialty "tarte aux pommes", accidentally placed the apples and sugar in the pan before placing the pie crust first. In a rush, she threw the crust on top, baked the whole pan in the oven and turned it out on a plate upside down . . . and the rest is history. An accident turned one of the most famous french desserts of all time. "An accident in the kitchen story" surely does not get better than this. But that does not mean there aren't other good stories.

The storyline is a bit different but these tartes tatin was a result of an accident too: there were some figs trying to be caramelized and they collapsed. Luckily there was an apple.


As the Tatin sisters' story tells us, the kitchen is a place to learn that not all accidents are failures — quite the contrary, some of the most beautiful and delicious things can be a result of one. How odd to welcome these "accidents" when all my life I have been more than careful to avoid (m)any, going to great lengths at times. It is like looking at the world (or the kitchen) through a different pair of glasses, and improvisation and spontaneity and a few spills and crumbles here and there . . . it is all welcome. Accidents do not end as mere accidents but become happy accidents. Which brings us back to the tartes tatin.



For weeks in September there were figs begging to be bought at the grocery store. Plump and pretty they were ripe for eating, and the fact that I had no experience using figs other than dry ones did not stop me from reaching for a carton — nor from going back for more. They were delicious and I was hooked, probably more with their rustic and photogenic form if not only with their sweetness. Recipes including these new and foreign fruit were searched for online and a recipe for toffeed fig tarts had caught my attention. I went back for another carton and left them . . . for too long. When I finally tried the recipe the figs had turned bland and somewhat watery making them no good even after caramelizing them as instructed. There is nothing quite as disappointing as spoiling fresh fruit and being left with little round pastries ready to be adorned, combined with a craving for an anticipated dessert. Action had to be taken right away — I was not settling and calling it a day — and as a result of rummaging through the refrigerator, there materialized an apple and some leftover ice cream.
Slicing the apple and dropping it into the butter and sugar, I realized I was using the exact same ingredients for a tarte tatin: an upside down apple tart. Suddenly, the ruined figs sounded like a blessing in disguise, a blessing named individual tartes tatin. With the pastries baked separately (and therefore remaining crisp and flaky) they became a fine dessert made even more delicious with a golf ball-sized scoop of ice cream. My very own happy accident.


A few days ago, a friend of mine organized an impromptu Sunday gathering at her home. We each decided to bring something to eat to make things easier for her, and well, more fun. After all, there is nothing better than cooking, eating, drinking and sharing recipes with close friends. I decided to bring the individual tartes tatin — they could be prepared ahead of time and I was curious to see if people besides my family would like my desserts. It would be my culinary debut. With butterflies in my stomach from the moment I offered to bring dessert, I prepared everything the day before with an extra pinch of "here goes nothing" attitude. It worked because everything turned out with no crises, mini or major.
In the end, everyone loved the tartes tatin. My friends were singing its praises as well as they were my skills for carrying around ice cream without having it melt (I have a little trick). The little round pastries were intact that day, but my friends would not have cared even if they had been broken, nor did they care when I dropped a scoop of ice cream on the floor — we had a good laugh. Seeing their smiles as they dug their forks into the tarte tatin made me think again how things need not be perfect in life, especially in the kitchen. Eating and drinking is a way of sharing happiness, a way of bringing people together and creating a beautiful moment. It is a gesture that indicates a good time and good minds coming together like when my friend Saya had her Japanese "takoyaki" pan ready on the table so we could all make Spanish tapas (gambas al ajillo) together.

Who would have thought?


In the kitchen and when surrounded with good food, things need not be perfect but perfectly imperfect. And should an accident happen . . . well, there is always the chance that it will be a happy one!

* { individual tartes tatin }

{ INGREDIENTS } serves 4
1 sheet (150g) good quality puff pastry
confectioner's sugar for dusting
2 apples
30g butter
2 generous tablespoons (about 35g) granulated sugar
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, to serve
roasted almonds chopped roughly, to serve

< preparations >
Preheat oven to 210℃. Prepare a second baking tray to use as a weight, or a square brownie pan filled with pie weights.

1. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 2-3mm thick. Using a 5inch round cookie cutter, cut out 4 circles and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Prick the pastry circles all over with a fork and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or until the dough is cold.
2. Lower the oven to 200℃ and bake pastries for 5 minutes or until pale and puffy. Remove from oven and place a large piece of baking paper over the pastries, making sure they are all covered. Gently place the prepared second baking tray (or pie weights) on top of the paper and return to oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and remove the baking tray and baking paper on top. The pastries should be crisp and done but may still be slightly pale. If so, return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Remove from oven and dust the pastries generously with confectioner's sugar and bake for another 3 minutes or until the sugar melts and becomes a glaze. Repeat a second time. Transfer the pastries to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
5. Slice each apple in half, and each half into 6 to create 24 slices of apples. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter starts to bubble, add the apple slices making sure that they do not overlap. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and carefully turn the apples over. Keep cooking and turning the apples over every few minutes until the apples are tender and a golden caramel color. (If your skillet is not big enough, use half the ingredients and repeat the process two times.)
6. Place a pastry circle on a plate and arrange 6 slices of apple like a fan on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of cream or golf ball-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some chopped almonds.

No comments:

Post a Comment