Saturday, February 18, 2012

windfall tarte tatin

While some people positively swoon over apple pie, I have to say I’m not a huge fan.  Same goes for apple crumble but rhubarb crumble I like.  And this week I watched Nigella make a strawberry crumble that looked worth trying.  But apple pies, apple turnovers and apple crumble, etc., just don’t do it for me.  That’s not to say I won’t eat them, just that they would not be my first choice.

However apples plus pastry in the form of Tarte Tatin are something else.  I suppose it’s my predilection for the extra something that makes me love this tart.  The caramelized syrup elevates the apples into an altogether different experience that is way above the rest – for me, anyway.

As luck would have it, the last time I made this tart it turned out picture perfect.  But that was before blogging.  So now we have the scenario where the pastry breaks up as I wrap it like a blanket over the apples, tucking it in at the edges. Then I start to invert the cooked tart from the frying pan (and a very hot and heavy one at that) onto a plate. I’m contorted into a strange position where I can’t move anymore and am trying to gently shake out the tart and put the plate on the benchtop at the same time, as the heavy pan is getting to me.  The plate slides to the side and the tart collapses onto it with bits still sticking to the frying pan.  It ends up a bit messy with pieces of pastry and apples where they shouldn’t be. But don’t let that put you off. It’s what known as the rustic look.

This tart is so good.  Rich buttery (and don’t forget, crumbly) pastry with lovely little homegrown apples cooked in a caramel syrup.  I had two helpings.  One with cream, the next without.  It speaks volumes to say that the cream actually detracted from the lovely taste and I did without the second time.

Oh, and please don’t enquire as to how I achieved the wave effect on the base of the tart.  I have no idea.  Perhaps I tucked the apples in too much?

Windfall tarte tatin

You will need to use a frying pan that can go straight into the oven.  I used a 22.5cm Le Creuset frying pan (3cm deep) and that was perfect for the amount of pastry shown.  You can increase the quantity of pastry and filling for a bigger pan as this recipe is enough for four people, perhaps six, but let’s say three of us managed to consume it within a very short timeframe. 

The apples came from our tree in the garden.  I have no idea what kind they are except that they’re a good eating apple and a smallish size and we have a tree laden with them.

150g standard (plain) flour
100g butter, diced
25g caster sugar
2 egg yolks

40g butter
100g caster sugar
4-5 smallish eating apples, cored, peeled and quartered

For the pastry, rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar.

Add the egg yolks and using a pastry cutter or palette knife, cut in the egg yolks to the mix until the dough comes together in a ball.

Place the pastry on a lightly floured surface and knead the pastry together until smooth.  Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter and sugar until syrupy.

Heat oven to 200°C.  Arrange the apple quarters in the pan (they look good if you start in the middle and lay them in a spiral facing down).  Try not to burn yourself as you do this.  Cook for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until slightly larger than the frying pan. 

Remove the frying pan from the heat and lay the pastry over the apples, tucking it in around the edges (again, watch you don’t burn yourself).  Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 200°C, then reduce heat to 160°C and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and using a palette knife gently separate the tart from the edge.  Place a large heatproof plate upside down on top of the frying pan and quickly turn over the pan and plate and hopefully the tart will come out successfully.  Gently ease the frying pan away from the tart.

Serve with whipped cream if you must.

Monday, February 6, 2012

lemon and date loaf

Looks-wise, this loaf probably falls into the not so wildly good-looking but tastes good nevertheless end of the spectrum.  Contemplating how I would style and shoot it, I began to think about how I’d got to this stage of photographing what I eat.  Stepping back in time to childhood, can you imagine if your grandmother had spent the day baking and laid out her table with freshly-baked, good old-fashioned offerings ….then stopped you from digging in so she could take a photo?  Amusing and absurd, of course, but most of us are doing it for a reason – to present an attractive photo that makes readers want to make the recipe and continue reading your post. 

Talking of styling, I don’t have enough props.  I can see what I want to achieve in my mind’s eye but don’t have sufficient accoutrements to get me there.  I am envious of those who always have the right prop because they happened to find something in a second-hand shop or Trade Me. Not just props, but stuff in their homes too.  I just want to scream sometimes as I rarely seem to find what I want.

But back to the loaf.  It may not look terribly attractive but it’s an everyday kind of cake that has its virtues.  Firstly, it ticks the right box in that it is a cinch to make.  Secondly, you use the whole lemon (minus pips).  That always has me excited as I love lemony cakes.  While this cake was waiting to go in the oven, I was at my neighbour’s eating her lemon cake – one without lemon (she forgot) – and let me tell you that was lovely too, lemon or no lemon.  Thirdly, it is so tasty with its’ zingy lemon tang and the sweet pulpy dates.   I’ve made it twice now and it will, I’m sure, be a regular in my baking.

One of our book club members baked it as a mini-loaf (the original recipe makes it as mini-loaves) and later I discovered I had the recipe in a NZ House & Garden magazine at home. Do try it in the smaller tins if you have them.  I used a larger loaf tin but I seem to recall the texture was “cakier” in the smaller loaf (or maybe that was me getting a bit heavy handed!).

lemon and date loaf

1 lemon
1 cup dried dates
100g butter, softened
100g (1/2 cup) white sugar
70g (1/3 cup) brown sugar
2 eggs
250g (1 cup) plain or Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups standard flour
1 tsp baking powder

*I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream in the original recipe.

Preheat oven to 175°C fan bake or 200°C regular.  Grease and line a loaf tin.

Cut the lemon into quarters and remove pips.  Place in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.

Place dates in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped then mix the dates in with the lemons.

Note: Do not pulse lemon and dates together as apparently it does not work!

In a cake mixer, cream the butter and both white and brown sugars until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Stir in the yogurt.  Mix in the lemon and dates until evenly distributed.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into the mix and gently fold in.  Put the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden and springs back when lightly pressed with your fingertips.

Cool for five minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from NZ House & Garden (September 2011)