Tarte Tatin

I could not let anything distract me.  I needed to dedicate Saturday with the challenge.  I was prepared for the time consuming (but hopefully rewarding!) task ahead.  I was about to tackle the most difficult pastry of pastry monthPâte feuilletée, or puff pastry.

The basic premise for puff pastry is folding chilled butter (“butter block”) within a base dough (“la détrempe”).  This is then folded and rolled a number of times (“turns”) to create hundreds upon hundreds of layers.  These layers provide the puff.  As the pastry cooks, the water within each layer of butter evaporates into steam.  This pushes up the layers of détrempe to create a very flaky pastry.

For my very first puff pastry effort, I reached for my Roux Brothers on Patisserie reference.  Michel and Albert Roux include a puff pastry recipe by their friend Jean Millet, the president of the Confédération de la Patisserie, Confiserie, Glacerie de France and MOF in patisserie.  I knew I would be in good hands.

When reviewing the recipe, my eye wandered to the subsequent page.  Here was the recipe for Quick Puff Pastry, Feuilletage Minute.  After a brief review of the directions, I uncovered that the quick method skipped the “butter block”, opting instead to work cubed butter into the flour at the beginning.  It also skipped a number of “turns”.

I thought about it a few times.  I really did.  I thought about it seriously.  But almost as soon as I considered the option, I dismissed it.  If I were going to attempt puff pastry, it may as well be the whole butter-blocking, full-6-turning, palm-aching-from-all-the-rolling effort kind.

From beginning to end this pastry took close to six hours.  And I will not lie, it really felt like six hours.  But the result?  Without hesitation, it was definitely worth the time.  The resulting puff pastry had all the characteristic buttery goodness you want, plus it was incredibly lip smackingly flaky!

I asked my partner what desserts he would enjoy from my puff pastry, pâte feuilletée, adventures.  First request?  Tarte Tatin.  I have made Tarte Tatin before, but never with my own homemade puff pastry.  I hoped we would be in for a treat.  We were.

Tarte Tatin (set)

{ Feuilletage Jean Millet :: Jean Millet’s Puff Pastry }

* Ingredients *
500g / 1 lb flour
200ml / 8 fl oz water
12g / 1 ¾ tsp salt
25ml / 1 fl oz white wine vinegar
50g / 2 oz butter melted
400g / 14 oz butter, well chilled

* Directions *
To form the détrempe, put all the ingredients up to the chilled butter into a stand mixer.  Mix well until completely homogenous but not too firm.  Turn the détrempe out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by hand, rounding it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To roll in the butter, first prepare the softened butter by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the softened butter into a rectangle.  It is important that the détrempe and butter be of almost equal consistency.  If necessary, allow the détrempe to sit at room temperature to soften or chill the butter briefly to harden.

On a lightly floured board, roll the détrempe into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 15 inches (30 centimetres by 37.5 centimetres).  Lift and rotate the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.  Position the butter in the centre of the rectangle and remove the remaining plastic. Fold the four edges of the détrempe over the butter enclosing it completely. Stretch the dough if necessary; it is important that none of the butter be exposed.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to an even rectangle of approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 cm by 60 cm).

Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter.  This is the first turn.  Give the rectangle a one quarter turn and again progressively roll it gently away from you to approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 cm by 60 cm).   Fold the dough into 3.  This is the second turn.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Repeat the rolling and folding technique until the dough has had a total of six turns. Do not perform more than two turns without a resting and chilling period. Cover the dough completely and chill overnight before shaping and baking.

Yield: 1.2kg or 2.5 lb

{ Tarte Tatin }

* Ingredients *
3 Apples
1 cup sugar
65g or ½ stick of butter, cut into cubes
Squeeze of lemon juice
250g puff pastry, cut into 20cm / 8 in circle, chilled

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 200C or 400F.  Butter a pie plate or cast iron skillet well.  Peel and core the apples and cut into quarters.  Place the sugar, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water into a small saucepan.  Heat gently under the sugar caramelises and is a light-golden brown.  Pour the sugar into your dish and quickly add the butter to melt.  Add the apple, cut side up.  Place over the pastry, gently pushing into the apples.  Place the plate or skillet on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden. Remove from oven and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.

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