Tarte Tatin with Membrillo

I have two little cast iron frying pans (approx 20cm) and they tend to be used more in the oven than as a frying pan, although both are handy for dry-frying – often called roasting – nuts and seeds and spices for grinding. I always use one when I make Tarte Tatin for four, although I have a specially designed, hard-anodized aluminium 28x5cm deep Tatin pan (one of a range from www.alansilverwood.co.uk) that feeds 10 or 12. I always get good results with Cox’s apples although other small, hard eating apples work well for tarte Tatin, the famous upside down apple tart invented in France by the Tatin sisters in the 1880’s. It’s so revered, this tart, it has its own web site (tartetatin.org) exploring every aspect, from most suitable apples to the best cooking pan. A few scraps of marzipan are a great addition to any hot apple pudding but are particularly special in Tarte Tatin. It melts clean away into the buttery, caramelized sugary juice that drenches the apples as they cook, giving the flavours a hint of almonds. My photo is of two TT’s just waiting to be turned.

Serves 4
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 25 min

100g sugar
50g butter
8-10 even-sized Cox’s apples
1 lemon
small square membrillo, optional
150g puff pastry (or half a 320g Jus-Rol puff pastry sheet)
crème fraiche to serve

Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Melt the sugar and butter together in a small ovenproof frying pan, stirring as it begins to colour, continuing until the syrup turns a deep golden colour like toffee. This may take up to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Working quickly, quarter, peel and core the apples. Carefully arrange the apples over the caramel, rounded-side down, radiating round, overlapping slightly, filling the gap in the centre too. If including membrillo, slice thin scraps all over the top. On a floured surface, roll the pastry the thickness of a 50p piece and lay over the top, pressing with a wooden spoon to cut and trim. Tuck the pastry down inside the pan so it cooks into a bowl-shape. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Now comes the tricky bit. If there seems to be a lot of juice, carefully drain most of it into a jug. Place a large plate over the top of the tart, quickly invert, watching out for remaining hot juices. I find it helps to let the tart sit for 10 minutes or so, some of the juices will get sucked up into the pastry and everything settles nicely. Serve with crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.