Honey Crisp Tarte Tatin

This autumn the honey crisp apples from Michigan have been particular delicious. With their distinctive refreshing crisp and juicy texture and the perfect balance of sweet and tart taste, they are one of our favorite treats of the season.

IMG_2357.JPGAfter enjoying biting many of them for breakfast and afternoon snack, I had to test them for a traditional French dessert: la tarte Tatin. They turned out to be a perfect match. Hoping you enjoy trying them in the recipe below.

IMG_2210.JPGIngredients:
1-1,3 Kg or 2-2.5 lbs organic honey crisp apples
100g or 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
60 g or 4 Tbsp unsalted European butter
1 sheet of Dufour puff pastry (found in the frozen section at Wholefoods)
Extra flour for dusting.

Preheat oven to 425F

IMG_2237.JPGStart by prepping the apples. Cut them in quarters, core them and peel them.

IMG_2240.JPGThen cut each quarter in half and set aside.

IMG_2212.JPGMeanwhile place the butter, cut in small pieces, in a heavy 10″ cast iron pan.

IMG_2215.JPGMelt the butter on medium heat.

IMG_2217.JPGAdd the sugar at once to the melted butter.

IMG_2219.JPGMix gently with a wooden spatula.

IMG_2235.JPGThe butter and sugar will start caramelizing. Lower the heat to medium-low.

IMG_2241.JPGContinue cooking until the caramel turns a nice hazelnut brown color.

IMG_2242.JPGCarefully place the apple slices, inner side up, on top of the caramel. Be sure to keep your fingertips well above the burning hot caramel.

IMG_2245.JPGContinue arranging the slices nicely until the bottom of the pan is completely covered.

IMG_2248.JPGThen fit the remaining slices on top, in between the bottom slices, inner side facing down.

IMG_2261.JPGKeep cooking about 20 minutes, until the apples soften gently and the caramel bubbles through the apples. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

IMG_2266.JPGRemove the frozen puff pastry from the refrigerator (I defrost it overnight in the refrigerator)

IMG_2267.JPGPlace it on a flour dusted surface.

IMG_2269.JPGUnfold gently and discard paper, while dusting with flour to prevent stickiness.

IMG_2272.JPGUsing light strokes, brush off the excess flour.

IMG_2273.JPGRoll out the dough into a larger rectangle.

IMG_2274.JPGPlace a 10″-plate in the center to use as a pattern and cut around.

IMG_2275.JPGUsing a knife, cut 1 to 2 cm around the plate.

IMG_2279.JPGRoll the dough onto the rolling pin. Use a pastry scraper if the dough sticks to the surface.

IMG_2282.JPGRoll it out over the apples onto the pan. If the pan is too hot, set it aside until it is cool enough to handle.

IMG_2284-0.JPGThe puff pastry will overhang over the sides of the pan.

IMG_2288.JPGTuck in the dough between the apples and the sides of the pan by lifting it with one hand on one side….

IMG_2290.JPG…and tucking it with the other hand.

IMG_2293.JPGContinue all the way around until the apples are completely covered. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

IMG_2303.JPGWhen the top is golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and let it cool about 10 minutes.

IMG_2311.JPGPull a serving dish slightly larger than the 10″ pan.

IMG_2314.JPGPlace the pan on top of a folded kitchen towel so that both ends of the towel overextend on either side of the pan.

IMG_2315.JPGReverse the serving dish so it fits on top of the pan.

IMG_2317.JPGHold the towel around firmly with both hands.

IMG_2319.JPGWith a firm and rapid movement, flip the pan on top and the serving dish on bottom.

IMG_2326.JPGLift the pan away from the serving dish. Some of the apple pieces will have fallen out of place.

IMG_2338.JPGJust set them back where they belong. You can enjoy with ice cream, crème fraiche or whipped cream with a extra drizzle of salted caramel sauce (posted January 11 2014).

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Strawberry Soup with Mint and Lemongrass

Spring is here… Or at least, the weather showed us a sneak preview for a couple days, enough to ignite some thoughts about seasonal fruits. Strawberries! Always a reminder of the sunshine bathed fields of strawberries of my childhood. One day they were still greenish white, the next day pink, then bright shiny red. A lovely sight was seeing our turtle pet returning from her morning walk with strawberry juice all over her face. Then we ran to the fields to verify which strawberries had her signature. It was a fun time. Each week a new type of strawberry Mara, Gariguette, Ciflorette, Charlotte or other, each with their distinctive shape and flavor. Be sure to sample them on your next visit to France in strawberry season. For now, as much as such varieties are not available here in Chicago, I like to exalt the fragrance of the strawberries by preparing them as a dessert soup with lemongrass, mint and vanilla.

20130502-094404.jpg A welcome sign of spring. Enjoy as a light dessert, or snack, or accompaniment for brunch.

20130502-094543.jpg Ingredients:
2 lb strawberries
1/2 oz fresh mint leaves
1 lemongrass stick
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 lemon
1 vanilla bean

20130502-094835.jpg Remove the mint leaves from the stems, press the lemon to extract the juice and cut the lemongrass in 2-3 inch pieces. Reserve a few mint leaves for decoration.

20130502-094954.jpg Cut the vanilla in half lengthwise and scrape the pasty seeds with a knife.

20130502-105719.jpg Prepare the syrup by placing the fresh mint leaves, cut lemongrass, honey, water, lemon, and vanilla bean and seeds into a medium saucepan.

20130503-153233.jpg Bring to a boil and simmer.

20130503-153606.jpg Meanwhile rinse the strawberries, cut the stems and leaves and place them in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve a few strawberries for decoration.

20130503-153828.jpg Process until you obtain a very smooth puree, and pour into a bowl.

20130503-153947.jpg Remove the syrup from the stove and pour it through a strainer into the pureed strawberries. Discard the cooked leaves, lemongrass and vanilla bean.

20130503-154149.jpg Mix well. At this time it can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

20130503-165358.jpg For the presentation, cut the stem and leaves off the strawberries at an angle, forming a V cut into the heart of the strawberry. Then slice them to obtain heart-shaped pieces.

20130503-165630.jpg Display the heart-shaped slices on top of the strawberry soup, along with a few mint leaves and serve at once. Enjoy!

Poached Pears with Citrus, Ginger and Cardamon

Refreshing and simple, a perfect way to end a meal on a light note, with the ginger contributing to help digestion.

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Poached pears are a classic, yet can be interpreted in so many different ways. Here the cardamon and ginger bring a refreshing twist. You might use ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick instead of the cardamon.

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Ingredients:
4 pears – either d’Anjou for softer texture or Bosc for firmer texture
1 orange
4 mandarins
1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
12 cardamon pods
2 cups water
1/2 cup agave syrup

20130224-115618.jpg
Prepping the ingredients. Wash the fruits. Cut the citrus into relatively thick slices. Peel and half the pears. Core the center to remove the hard part and seeds. Using a melon baller is a useful tool for this task. Set aside.

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Grating the ginger. I recently learned a tip for keeping fresh ginger on hand at all times in the kitchen: store it in the freezer and grate it frozen as needed.
When it comes to peeling or scraping ginger, this is a matter of personal preference. Once washed and scrubbed, you might peel it with a peeler or scrape it with a spoon in its intricate shapes. Although, I have to admit that since seeing my friends from Japan leaving the skin on the root, I have been doing the same.

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Place the water, agave syrup, cut citrus, grated ginger, cardamon in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to infuse all the flavors of the poaching liquid.

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Add the pears and return to a boil. Lower the heat again and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the pears are soft. Depending on whether the pears were hard initially, this might take a little longer. Just check with the tip of a sharp knife. You should not feel any resistance when the blade cuts through the pear.

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Once the pears are ready, turn off the heat and let cool. When the pot reaches room temperature, transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until serving time. This dish is best eaten cold.

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Serve by itself in its own juice, or accompanied by ginger cookies, ‘Pain d’Epice’, or a chocolate ganache. Enjoy!