Here, finally, is the other dessert I made.
But first, the why. First of all, I knew my son wouldn't like the other dessert. He'd try it, because he's a good boy and all we ask of our kids is that they try things before they say they don't like them. So he would try it, and odds were extremely good that he wouldn't like it. So I wanted something for him to enjoy. And, if he didn't like it, there was certainly the possibility that someone else wouldn't like it, either.
And I'm just all about keeping people happy and well fed.
So I figured a second tiny dessert would be nice. I wanted something to complement the first dessert, something my dad would like, something that could be made in single-serving portions, something easy, and, yes, I admit, something flashy.
Tarte Tatin fit the bill perfectly.
Tarte Tatin, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this lovely dessert, was inadvertently created by one the Tatin sisters, women who had inherited their father's inn in France, in 1898, when an apple pie was begun without the bottom crust. Rather than scrap the whole thing and start again, the sister(s) slapped a crust on top of the apples, finished the baking, and then flipped the whole thing over to serve. Tarte Tatin even has an official website – Le Site Officiel de la Tarte Tatin. Check it out.
Anyway, Tarte Tatin sounds fancy and difficult, but it's really an incredibly easy dessert to make. You should make it. Really. And you can also use other fruits, by the way.
Anyway, because I get these rigid themes in my head, I had to make a bunch of mini tartes Tatin, rather than the traditional single one.
So here's what I went with…
1 muffin tin with 12 muffin areas.
About 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry dough (I used the pre-made frozen kind you can get at the grocery store)
4 Granny Smith apples
1 stick unsalted butter
Roughly half a cup or so of brown sugar
About 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped. (I wanted some crunch)
And that's it. So simple, even a cavewoman could do it.
So here we go.
First, I rolled out the sheet of puff pastry dough and, using a fluted circle cutter, cut 12 circles large enough to cover the top of each muffin opening. You'll need to see what you have available. I covered these circles with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge until I needed them.
Next, I got my apples ready.
I peeled them, trimmed the core ends slightly, and sliced each apple into three rounds (across the core) about the same thickness. Next, with a small round cutter, I removed the core. Then, with a cutter the same diameter as the bottom of the muffin tins, I cut each apple disk into a smaller, perfectly shaped disk. In other words, there would be one thick apple disk per muffin cup area.
I put all my apple slices in a large pot of cold, acidulated water (water into which I'd squeezed the juice of a lemon) so that they wouldn't brown. White vinegar would also work, but I don't think I'd like the taste. Who knows, though, right?
Oh, and worried about apple waste? Use the trimmings to make a bit of apple sauce, or give them to your kids with some peanutbutter. Or eat them as you work. Or chop them up and toss them on a salad. I'm sure you'll think of something when it's your turn.
Okay, so I got my apples sliced and cored and ready to go.
Then I put two nonstick pans on the stove, over medium heat, divided the butter and sugar between the two, placed 6 apple rings in each pan, and finally divided the chopped walnuts between the two pans as well. I let everything cook gently for a while, careful not to let the sugar burn.
I rely on my nose for a lot of sugar things, I've realized. As sugar caramelizes, it will begin to smell bitter. If you're not careful, it can go from bitter to burnt pretty quickly, so don't wander off to fold laundry while you're caramelizing anything. That's my handy tip for the day.
Once the apples had softened and the sugar was a dark caramel color and it all smelled intensely sweet and, well, caramelized, I shut off the heat and began to fill the muffin tins.
First the apple rings…
And then? I set it aside. I did everything up to this point several hours ahead of time. I knew I wasn't going to want to mess with it later, like while everyone else was eating dinner or something, so I figured I could do this much ahead. I just left the pan on the counter (with a piece of foil over the top so people couldn't peek in) until I was ready to finish them off.
It's now evening. Dinner has been served and consumed. People have left the table, some of them, to go play darts or play Wii or basketball or whatever. I have the oven preheating to 425, and I'm nearly ready to put my muffin tin in.
Once the oven chimed that it was plenty hot enough, I took the little rounds of puff pastry dough out of the fridge and placed them on top of each apple round. They were actually a bit too wide, so I pressed them down a bit.
I don't know why. It wasn't necessary, and it caused some of the pastry rounds to stick to the sides of the tin, so I wouldn't do that again. Or at all, if you're reading this and planning to make these.
And then I put them in the oven, with the timer set for 15 minutes. I knew I wouldn't be taking them out right then, necessarily, but it was a good check point. And while they were baking, I started taking the flan out of the fridge and getting dessert plates onto the table.
And then the fun began.
First off, the fire alarm went off. Why? Because me and my lame brain just put the muffin tin directly into the oven, rather than doing something SENSIBLE like putting the muffin tin on a cookie sheet. You know, to catch the sugar that will boil up and bubble over and burn on the bottom of the oven. Yeah. Forgot to think about that. I asked my (much taller than me) nephew, Calvin, to unscrew the alarm and pull the battery out while I quickly slid a sheet pan under the muffin tin.
Mmmm, the horrible stench of burning sugar. And what would a birthday be without clouds of smoke billowing from the oven and filling the house? Pretty dull, that's all I can say.
So after that moment of crisis, the rest of the baking went fine. The puff pastry puffed nicely and turned a lovely golden-brown color.
I'd served the flan first, while the tartes Tatin were baking, and then it came time to unmold/unveil/show off my little tiny creations.
That "show off" part? Not a good idea. For some idiot reason, I had visions of me dramatically flipping over the muffin tin and whipping it away to reveal my 12 perfect little tarts.
I am just glad that some tiny bit of sense prevented me from doing that at the table, or half my family would have suffered 3rd degree burns.
Instead, I went dramatic in the privacy of my kitchen. Like so:
I had a very large cutting board that I SHOULD have inverted over the muffin tin and then I SHOULD have flipped the whole thing over and then carefully removed the pan.
Instead, in my moment of show-off culinary hubris, I held one end of the muffin tin (with a pot holder – it's very hot, remember) and, with a flourish (in my head, anyway) I flipped that tin over and slammed it down on the cutting board.
Caramelized sugar FLEW across the room, splattering all over the floor. Apple rings slid across the cutting board, and at least half of the puff pastry circles stuck to the edges of the tin.
Very flashy indeed.
The only person who saw any of that was Calvin, fortunately, and he didn't even see all of it. He just saw me flitting around trying to fix the mess.
And it was certainly fixable. Fortunately, none of the apples hit the floor. I was able to remove the puff pastry circles from the pan and then reposition apples and nuts on top of them before serving.
The thing is, I didn't take any more pictures that night. I think I was just DONE. But I couldn't very well write up a post without pictures of the final product, could I? Well, I could, but it wouldn't be as exciting, I'm sure.
So, a couple days later, I made these again, but with all that lovely hindsight I didn't have the first time around.
So let's try this again.
I cooked my apples (I made 6 instead of 12 this time around, by the way.).
I put the circles of dough on top. (By the way, these were extra circles I'd cut out when I made the original batch of tartes Tatin. They were a little dry and, as a result, the edges stuck together and they didn't have the full puff they should have. Not a big deal, but something to think about. Next time I'd trim them with a slightly smaller cutter so the edges would open during the puffing-up phase in the oven.)
Oh, and as you can see, I remembered to put the muffin tin on a sheet pan this time.
They baked for about 18 minutes, and then I took them out. And BEFORE I de-panned them, I took a paring knife and ran it around the edges of each individual section, just to make sure nothing was sticking.
Then I took a cutting board and placed it on top of the muffin tin, and I inverted the whole thing (carefully – the muffin tin is super hot still).