Topless Tarte Tatin

Topless Tarte TatinYou guys, I've been gone for what feels like forever! For those of you who don't know, Wally has been AWOL for almost 2 weeks now.  Sigh. We have been worried sick, and my facebook page kinda turned into a Where's Wally? page for awhile.  At this point though, we think he is safe and living the high life in a field behind the pool in the neighborhood adjacent to ours. There have been some Wally Sightings over there, so we do feel better. Eventually we will get him home, but for now he's an Emancipated Minor. And as I do much better with Being Annoyed than I do with Being Devastated, I need to get back in the saddle and Bake Something!

But, because I am me, I didn't want to strain myself in any way. One must ease One's way back into things, so I poked around to see what already lived here: NC apples from the produce box a couple of weeks ago, sugar, butter, salt, leftover ciabatta from Saturday.  The answer seemed clear: tarte tatin. First, I was going to do some sort of soak-the-bread-in-butter-roll-it-out-use-it-as-crust maneuver, but then I decided that it might be fun to garnish the apples with caramelized bread crumbs.

And this is where I must tell you that All Did Not Go As Planned.  In my kitchen, things rarely go as planned, but I can usually pull a reasonable rabbit or two out of my hat on the fly.  Observe:

The Original Plan The Rabbit
  • Whir up ciabatta and then caramelize in sugar. Didn't dry ciabatta first or make sure all my liquid was boiled away before adding the crumbs to the caramel.
  • When I realized, I just cooked it for as long as I could stand, spread it out very thin on Silpat and baked at 250 until dry. Then, I broke it up and whirred it in the Blendtec.
  • Use aforementioned caramelized crumbs as garnish, but I knew they wouldn't be the right texture.
  • Bought panko when I bought the ice cream earlier. Made a quick dry caramel, stirred in the crumbs, spread on Silpat. When starting to set up, I pulled it into pieces to make the "tuiles" more delicate.
Making the Caramel for Caramelized Apples

Once the sugar got to a medium amber, I added a few pats of butter and swirled the whole thing around. Note the white spatula, the better to tell the color of the caramel, especially since I was cooking in cast iron.

The Rabbits both worked out very well. I used the first set of crumbs as sand to anchor the apples in place on the plate and to keep the ice cream from sliding off the warm apples too quickly.  The second set of crumbs were just about perfect, although I wish I had thought to pull them when it was a bit more fluid (although even more stupidly hot) so they'd have ended up even more delicate. As it was, they are The Crunchiest Tuiles In The World. (Say that with Reverb).

Caramelizing Apples

Cooking and cooking. Can you tell that the caramel has gotten darker?

So, as to The Recipe. Yes, well. You know how I feel about recipes. Besides, I didn't measure anything--not one thing.  I will give you the procedure, though, so you can make your own Similar Dessert Item should you find this one appealing.  I'm not going to give you the ciabatta rabbit part, though.  Honestly, just grind up some ginger snaps or some vanilla wafers to use as the sand. (Or, you could stir the cookie crumbs into some straight up caramelized sugar, spread it out, let it get rock hard, break in pieces and then whir that up as sand).

Caramelizing Apples

Get the nice color on the apples by letting them sit in one place for awhile. If you keep them moving constantly, you could a)break them up and b)end up with lighter apples. Which isn't bad, but why not get as much caramelized flavor as possible?

  1. Peel the apples, cut them in half through the poles and core them.
  2. Caramelize some sugar in a heavy skillet.
  3. Add a few pieces of butter when the caramel is the color you like--it will get darker as you cook the apples, so just be aware of that.  Also toss in a very healthy pinch of salt.
  4. Crowd all the apples in the pan, turn the heat to medium-ish, and cook them, basting with the caramel and turning them frequently until almost tender all the way through. You still want just a bit of bite in the centers. Al dente apples.  As you do this, keep tasting.  As the caramel gets a bit darker, you will probably want to add some more salt to balance it.
  5. Set aside the apples and the caramel you cooked them in.
  6. Caramelize some sugar---take it to about medium amber.  Stir in enough panko bread crumbs (or use cookie crumbs) so that there's not a lot of extra runny caramel.  Pour onto Silpat and spread thin. As the "brittle" begins to set up from the edges in, start pulling pieces away. Careful. It really is Stupid Hot.  When you pull, some of the crumbs will separate out and some of the sugar will get all gossamer thin and lovely. People will think you are gifted.
  7. To serve, put some sandy stuff on your plate to hold the apples in place.  Cook down the apple-cooking caramel until it is nice and thick.
  8. In the meantime, mound up some apples on the sand on each plate, and put some more sand on top to hold the ice cream.
  9. Put a scoop or quenelle of ice cream on top of your apples. Drizzle on some of the reduced caramel apple sauce and stab a pulled tuile or three into the ice cream.
Making the Caramel for the tuiles

The Caramel for the Panko Tuiles. I took it a wee bit darker than this.

And that's it.

Caramelized Panko tuile

Monolithic Caramelized Panko Tuile. If I'd just let it cool all the way, I could've broken it into pieces. But I'm telling you: crunchiest. tuile. ever.

Caramelized Panko Tuiles, pulled

Pulled Tuiles. Can you see how some of them have sharp lines? That's because they were too cool to pull. Coulda put them in a warm oven for a bit to soften them, but I didn't. There are plenty of delicate ones. See?

The one I plated for the Pictorial Spread (hee) is now in my tummy. It has been there since about 10 seconds after I took the picture. The stuff is Very Very good.  It's kinda sweet, but it is offset by that just-off-bitter dark caramel. Because of that, it really does need the ice cream. (Although, if you're going to serve it with whipped cream, make sure it is well sweetened).

And that is that. Please think some Wally Come Home thoughts for us, and if anyone sews, please make him a wee orange jump suit to wear when he's in Kitty Jail.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.



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