Apple tarte tatin with pink peppercorns
3 tbsp butter
135g caster sugar
10-12 large apples peeled, cored and quartered
¼ tsp pink peppercorns, roughly ground
500g puff pastry, rolled into a 26cm circle and chilled
For the sauce
2 tbsp water
100ml apple juice 25g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm pieces Salt and brandy or calvados, to taste (optional)
Creme fraiche, to serve
1 Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Have ready an ice-water bath large enough for a 25cm cast iron frying pan or copper tatin mould. Caramelise 2 tbsp butter and 6 tbsp of sugar over a high heat, swirling the pan now and then. Once the sugar has dissolved, use a wooden spoon or balloon whisk to bring it all together. Do not worry if it splits or crystallises, as it will dissolve again during the baking process. You want a deep, dark caramel. Remove from the heat and immediately put the pan on the ice water to stop the caramel from colouring further.
2 Arrange the apples, bearing in mind they will be upside down when done, so make them look pretty. I place the curved side down into the caramel, cored-side up. Place a second layer of apples on top, cored-side down, and press gently with your hands coaxing them to fit together like a puzzle.
3 Sprinkle the ground peppercorns over the top. Cover with the disc of rolled, chilled pastry, tucking the edges in between the apples and the pan. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter and brush the pastry with it. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp sugar, then pierce several times with a knife to allow steam to escape during baking.
4 Bake the tarte tatin for 45-55 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden, the sugar has started to caramelise on top, and the apple beneath is starting to bubble up.
5 Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the sugar and water to a heavy-based pan and cook over a medium heat until dissolved, swirling the pan gently, without stirring. Once dissolved, raise the heat to high and caramelise. Have your apple juice ready. Once the caramel is a dark amber colour, remove from the heat immediately and stop the cooking by carefully pouring in the apple juice and whisking. Drop in the butter, and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a little salt or 1 tbsp apple brandy, if you like.
6 Remove from the oven and allow the tart to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Have ready a large plate that will completely cover the top of the tarte tatin. Using extreme caution, place the plate over the pan and, using an oven glove or tea towel wrapped around the outside, quickly flip the pan over and turn the tart out on to the plate in one smooth motion, being cautious of any hot liquid or steam that might escape.
7 Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and the apple caramel sauce poured over the top.
Cook’s tip Use your thumb to make an impression in the dough after each turn. This keeps track of your turns on the dough.