You turn me
Claire Ptak’s stunning tarte tatin
Now that the end of August approaches, we come to the turn of another season. The light becomes warmer and the air becomes cooler. Days shorten and the leaves begin to shrivel on the trees before their inevitable fall over the next few months. Summer draws to an end and autumn begins – the season that bears my favourite fruits. From apples to muscat and fragolina grapes, and of course figs along with their leaves, the flavours at this time of year are simultaneously common and complex.
Let’s begin with the apple. We all know apples well, or we think we do. Their ability to store well and grow easily in this climate have made them a fruit bowl fixture. I challenge you to walk past the sadly bagged-up apples at the supermarket and seek out some of the truly interesting varieties that can be found at farmer’s markets and smaller shops. I tried one last year called a Chegworth Beauty, and I always love the Discovery apple – one of the first of the season to appear.
For a tarte tatin, which falls somewhere between a pie and a tart, you are looking for a decent-sized apple with a firm texture and plenty of acidity. The large pieces of apple in this tart should keep their natural shape once baked for almost an hour, but still be soft and tender so that a spoon can easily pass through them. A good cook should never be afraid to slightly burn the caramel either. A dark caramel adds welcome bitterness to your baking.
If you savour another challenge, make your own puff pastry. Here I have one for my rough puff, which is relatively quick to make. I have to admit, I usually have a block of readymade in my freezer, but the real thing tastes so much better.