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Claire Ptak’s stun­ning tarte tatin

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Claire Ptak Claire Ptak is a pas­try chef, au­thor and food stylist and owns Vi­o­let Bak­ery in Lon­don. She is the au­thor of the Vi­o­let Bak­ery Cook­book (Square Peg); @ vi­o­let­cakeslon­don

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.

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