Apple desserts are a favourite of mine. I grew up on crumbles, I can't go past a pie, and then there's this. If you take out of the equation the intimidating French name, there is nothing complicated about this tart. It's made in the same cast-iron skillet you might take camping, or use to make bacon and eggs. Its number of ingredients is few and it's more than likely you already have them on hand. If you don't, you could probably buy them all for about $5. All that stands between you and an impossibly sophisticated French bistro classic is the misguided belief that making it is hard. I am here to tell you it is not. You should make this. Serve it warm and ideally with vanilla ice-cream.
Original recipe adapted from a very old long-ago photocopied page of Australian Gourmet Traveller
The original recipe states the best apples to use are Golden Delicious. I used Pink Lady most recently as that's what was on hand, and they worked beautifully. I've previously used Granny Smiths but have since read that they're a variety to be avoided here as they tend to disintegrate. I can't say that has happened to me but maybe if you've got a choice, go for a firm red apple. By all means make the pastry in advance (hours before, days before), just take it out of the fridge and let stand for 10 minutes or so to soften slightly before rolling out.
100g butter, chopped
7-8 apples, peeled, quartered and cored
100g chilled butter, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water (fridge cold, not tap cold)
To make pastry, combine flour, butter, salt and water in a food processor and whizz til mixture just comes together. It should happen quickly - 15 seconds or so. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Combine sugar with two tablespoons hot water in a heavy 24cm cast-iron frying pan (or a pan with an ovenproof handle) and cook over low heat, undisturbed, until sugar is dissolved or caramel is golden*. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220 deg C.
Arrange apple quarters in pan, overlapping with cut sides up. They will shrink when cooked so really pack in as many as you can. Return pan to heat on stovetop over a medium flame and cook apples til caramel is bubbling up between them - about 20 minutes. Press down gently on the tops of apples with a heat-proof kitchen tool (a spatula, a potato masher, a regular old spoon) occasionally while they're cooking.
Remove pan from heat and let stand while prepping pastry.
Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to a diameter only slightly wider than that of the pan. Lift pastry up and place over apples, ensuring all are covered, tucking excess pastry into pan around apples. Place pan in oven and bake for about 30 minutes until pastry on top is golden brown and cooked through. Let tart stand for 10 minutes to cool slightly, then carefully (don't forget the cast-iron will be HOT - use a tea towel, or two) invert onto a serving plate. If any apples stick to the pan, do not despair - just remove them as delicately as you can and replace on the top of the tart.
Serve warm in wedges with vanilla ice-cream, cream or crème fraîche.
* The caramel may turn golden only in the middle of the pan. Once butter is added, it all comes together, especially once the apples are on and it's back on the heat.