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While in Rennes, France, I took part in one of our students’ cooking class with Madame Palicot. I was so excited to be there it was hard to restrain myself from becoming a student. I needed to remind myself that it was a class for them, not for me. I wanted to pick up a knife and peel crisp apples. I wanted to grab a cast iron skillet and melt butter and sugar to caramelize the apples. I wanted the class to be in English so I could fully understand the process. Thankfully I could follow the actions and had enough comprehension of French to jot some mental notes.

I was also able to understand the story behind the original creation. Two sisters ran a hotel in southern France. Supposedly they had over-caramelized apples in a cast iron pan, created a crust, baked the dessert some and inverted on a plate for serving. Voila.

When I walked back to my hotel from school, I purposefully chose the route that would bring me to a kitchen store I’d been dying to browse. A kid in a candy store I purchased authentic French mini-tart pans (and a few other items I couldn’t live without.) Of course, I’m certain that I could have bought those same pans back home, but that wasn’t the point. I’ll always remember Madame Palicot and the students I observed that day.

As soon as I got back home I made my version of Madame Palicot’s tarte tatin. I brought it to work the next morning to rave reviews. I was SO proud of my creation that I sent a photo to her. Madame was proud aussi.tarte tatin aux pommesTartes Tatin aux Pommes

What you need:

Pastry crust:

  • 2 1/2 c and 1 1/2 tbs pastry flour
  • 1 tsp fleur de sel (French sea salt)
  • 2 stks (16 tbs unsalted butter), cold and cut into cubes
  • 3 to 4 tbs ice water

Filling:

  • 1 stick (8 tbs) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 4 apples peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (French sea salt)

What you do:

  • Place flour and salt in food processor and process until mixed.
  • Add 6 tbs butter cubes to the flour and process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Add remaining butter and pulse until mixture resembles the size of peas.
  • Add a sm amt of ice water and pulse; continue until mixture holds together, adding sm amts of water as needed.
  • Form into two balls.
  • Place each in plastic wrap and knead until mixture holds together.
  • Wrap and flatten into disc.
  • Refrigerate at least 30 min.
  • Melt butter in cast iron skillet.
  • Sprinkle sugar evenly over butter.
  • Arrange as many apples that will fit in single layer in skillet.
  • Sprinkle with fleur de sel.
  • Cook over med-high heat until liquid turns deep golden and it bubbles, 20-25 min.
  • Heat oven to 425.
  • Remove pastry from refrigerator and roll to ¼” thick.
  • Place mini-tart pans upside down onto pastry.
  • Using a sharp knife cut a circle slightly larger than the pan.
  • Arrange apples in mini-tart pans.
  • Cover with pastry.
  • Place baking sheet, or aluminum foil, on lowest oven rack to catch drippings.
  • Place tart pans in oven and bake, 15-20 min, or until crust is browned.
  • Remove from oven and let cool 3-5 min.
  • Run a knife around the edge of the crust to loosen.
  • Invert small plate on tart pan and flip to remove tart from pan. (Use oven mitts – the pans are hot!)
  • Serve immediately.
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