This is an abridged version of a spectacular dessert served at Mediterra. Tarte Tatin, the French bistro caramelized apples cake is great in its own right, but apple chips, candied thyme and vanilla ice cream upgrade it to “spectacular.”
The thyme and apples can be made a few days in advance and kept in air-tight containers. The Tarte can be made one day in advance and kept at room temperature.
Click here for a version using local food.
1 large egg white
10 large fresh thyme sprigs
Place sugar in shallow bowl large enough to contain the thyme sprigs. In another medium bowl, whisk egg white until frothy. Dip thyme sprigs, 1 at a time, into egg white to coat, then shake off excess. Now place thyme in the sugar and turn gently to coat. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and dry in a very low oven (150 F) for at least one hour and up to 8 hours. let cool and store in an air tight container.
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
½ cup honey
2 to 3 lemons , juiced
2 small apples, preferably a crisp, flavorful variety like Royal Gala or Winesap, washed and dried.
Cinnamon to sprinkle over the apples chips.
Combine the water and sugar and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir in the honey until it dissolves in the syrup. Set aside to cool.
Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut each apple into rounds as thin as possible.
Remove any seeds and sprinkle with lemon juice. Submerge the apple slices in the syrup and allow them to “rest” for a few hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Remove apples from the syrup and lightly dry them on a paper towel or a tea towel.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place apples in a single layer on it. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
Bake in the oven until crispy, about 1 hour.
Tarte Tatin (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Caitlin, the pastry chef at Mediterra sliced the apples thin on an electrical slicer, and used individual baking cups. It is much easier to leave the apples in halves and use one large pan. Use a heavy cast iron pan that can go from the stove top to the oven. My favorite is a 10-inch, well-seasoned cast iron pan.
If you want to venture individual tarts, preheat individual ramekins while you’re making the caramel. Make the caramel a little darker without burning it.
5 to 6 pounds tart apples, such as Braeburn, Jonathan, Honeycrisp or Fuji.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
a pinch kosher salt
Store-bought high quality puff pastry, defrosted for a a couple of hours in the fridge.
Peel, halve, and core the apples.
Make the caramel: In a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet melt the butter, add the sugar and salt. Stir gently with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt around the edges.
After the sugar has melted completely, let the mixture cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches a deep mahogany-colored caramel; if using a dark pan, occasionally lift some caramel out with a spoon to check the color. As soon as the caramel is the right color, take the pan off the heat.
Arrange the apple halves in the pan in concentric circles, packing them in as tightly as possible (they’ll shrink as they cook).
Return the pan to medium heat, increasing to medium high as the apple juices begin to flow and the liquid bubbles gently. The apples should release enough liquid to prevent the caramel from burning, but if you start to smell burnt sugar, immediately turn down the heat.
At this point, there should be a lot of juice in the pan. Carefully take the pan from the heat and, holding the apples back with a spatula, pour off some of the caramel and juice into a small saucepan. You should have about an inch of liquid left in the skillet.
Return the skillet to the heat and continue cooking the apples in the skillet until they’re tender and thoroughly caramelized. Be patient, cooking time can take 20-30 minutes.
Take the skillet off the heat and let cool to room temperature. If there’s more than about 1/2 inch of liquid remaining in the pan, carefully pour off the excess into the small saucepan.
Heat the oven to 375°F. Roll the chilled puff pastry into a round about 1 inch larger than the pan; Roll the round of dough onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the skillet, gently draping the dough over the apples. Tuck and fold the edge of the dough under to make a rim. Put the skillet in the middle of the oven. Bake until the crust is a rich brown and looks crisp, about 25 minutes.
Take the tarte out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes. If more juice accumulates, carefully pour off most of it into the saucepan and then invert a large plate on top of the pan, flip the pan and plate over in one quick move, and lift off the pan.
And what about all those yummy pan juices? Simmer them until thick and syrupy and then spoon them over the finished tarte or serve alongside.
To plate: place a slice of the warm tarte tatin on individual plates, spoon a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it. Plant an apple chip between them and scatter a few thyme leaves on top. See picture.