All my research into a true tarte tatin kept coming up against the French insistence that ONLY an apple called Reine des Reinettes would do for this classic French caramelized apple upside-down tart. And all my research into apples in North America led to the conclusion that this old-fashioned apple variety simply doesn’t exist in the United States, though you might possibly find it in Canada.
Crisp and crunchy, nicely tart but with a high sugar content, firm enough to maintain its texture when cooked, this is an apple that deserves to be better known. Some claim it’s related to English pippins (e.g., Cox’s orange pippin, the most popular British apple) but others say not.
Enter Maine’s Apple Guru John Bunker of Fedco (www.fedcoseeds.com) in Waterville, Maine, a worker- and consumer-owned cooperative that supplies cold-hardy seeds, root stock, bulbs, potatoes, and. . . trees. When I was writing about tarte tatin a few years ago, I mentioned my need for a Reine des Reinettes to Bunker who is well-known for his knowledge of heritage and hard-to-find apples . “It shouldn’t be difficult,” he said, adding he thought he knew of a tree from which he could take a scion or two for grafting.
It may not have been difficult (for an explanation of cutting scion wood for grafting, see this wonderfully explanatory YouTube doc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb2Gk-EeKUs) but it did take a bit of a wait. In fact, I thought Bunker had either given up or forgotten.
But no, yesterday I had an email from John saying my wait is over–he has a very young tree for me. Oh good, said my son in Sargentville, could he get one for me too? So we have two very young Reine des Reinettes trees on their way. Next stop: tarte tatin, but I think there will be quite a bit of a wait for that. I haven’t started to preheat the oven. Not yet!
For my recipe for tarte tatin, using another kind of apple, see a post I put up on Zester Daily a couple of years ago: http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/apple-tarte-tatin/
I would love to see your recipe, however, the link does not work. I get a “404 error”message from Zester Daily. Do you have another source for the recipe?
Here’s the recipe as it appeared on ZesterDaily, Adri:
La Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin
For the pate brisee:
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Big pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, chilled
5 or 6 tablespoons ice water
Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process very briefly, then add the butter, cut into inch-long chunks and process again, briefly, just until the ingredients are combined and have the texture of coarse cornmeal. With the processor running, add a few tablespoons of water through the feed tube and continue adding ice water until the dough just holds together. Be careful not to over-process — the whole procedure should take less than a minute start to finish.
Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured pastry board and pull it quickly into a ball, then flatten it to a circle about an inch thick. Cover it with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
For the tarte:
8 tablespoons (½ cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter
? to 1 cup sugar
6 medium apples (see variety suggestions above), peeled, cored and quartered (toss the apples in a bowl of acidulated water to keep them from browning)
Pinch of ground cinnamon if desired
Small pinch of ground cloves, if desired
Take a 10-inch round pan, a tarte Tatin pan or a deep, heavy ovenproof skillet such as a black-iron skillet. Generously butter the bottom and sides, using all the butter to make a thick layer, especially on the bottom. Sprinkle the sugar all over the bottom and sides, turning the pan to coat it evenly with sugar.
Now, beginning at the edges, arrange the apple quarters, peeled side down, in concentric circles (large quarters may be cut in half), covering the entire bottom of the pan. Fit extra slices of apple in and around the slices so that the bottom is completely covered with apple slices and you can’t see through. Set the pan over low heat just until the butter melts, then turn the heat up to medium or medium-high and continue cooking until the sugar starts to brown. Do not stir the apples. This may take as much as 20 or 30 minutes. When the sugar is browned and caramelized, remove the pan from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out a disc of pastry to fit over the apples with enough of an overhang to tuck down gently around the edges. Set in the preheated oven and bake 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and let rest about 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan. Set a round serving platter over the top and carefully, using pot holders to hold the pan, turn it over. Some of the apples may stick to the bottom of the pan but just pry them up with a spatula or palette knife and add to the tart. The tart should be served warm with vanilla ice cream or vanilla-flavored whipped cream.