Quince Tarte Tatin
When you first see this tart, your eyes take in the soft round shape of the caramelized fruit arranged in a pretty pattern. Then you notice the flaky crust, gently hugging the fruit from underneath. And then the dollop of creamy ice-cream just starting to melt over the warm pie. And then… you taste. The sensation of cold and warm, sweet and tart, soft and crispy, hits you at once and then it all melts like sugar in your mouth. Heaven.
The first time I tried a tarte Tatin was with my local host in Tours, France, which is a town in the gorgeous Loire Valley about 2 1/2 hours drive southwest of Paris. This has always amused me since the Loire Valley is where the tarte Tatin originated, but more on that later. My host was a college professor who took it upon herself to educate the naive but completely hungry 19 year-old me in French cuisine during the month that I stayed with her. And I loved every minute of it.
Now, many years later, I make it myself! Tarte Tatin always looks very impressive, as if you spent hours in the kitchen making it, but in fact, it’s very straightforward and simple to make. There are several steps which take a little time, but nothing major. And it’s well worth the delicious dark caramel fruit tart that results.
The original tarte Tatin comes to us from the Loire Valley in the 1880’s, where two sisters, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin, owned and operated a small hotel, l’Hotel Tatin. One day, quite by accident, or so the story goes, Stephanie put her pie in the oven upside-down, and voila! the tarte Tatin was invented. It was later picked up by famous chefs in Paris and the rest is history.
It can be made with different fruits, but mostly we see it with pears or apples. In this case, I use their close relative, the sophisticated beautiful golden yellow quince. I love the subtle sugary vanilla flavor of quince and the way it changes color as it cooks, like a slowly revealed secret. The quince adds a special touch to this already wonderful dessert.
- 1 sheet (245-300g) frozen puff pastry, thawed
- plain flour, for dusting
- 4-5 large quince
- 2 lemons
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp (60g) chilled butter, diced + 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- Roll the puff pastry to a 3mm-thick round on a lightly floured surface and cut a 24cm (10 inch) circle, using a plate as a guide. Lightly wrap in cling film on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator while preparing the quince.
- In a large pot, combine 5 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 1/2 lemon, and add to the pot. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the pot.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C). In a 10-inch tarte Tatin pan or ovenproof heavy-based frying pan, cook the sugar over medium heat for 5-7 mins until it turns a dark amber caramel syrup (do not stir), then turn off the heat and stir in the diced chilled butter.
- Arrange the quince in the pan over the caramel, cut sides facing up, in a slightly overlapping circular pattern. (Remember that since the tarte Tatin is inverted after it is cooked, the fruit on the bottom will be visible when served.) Brush with the melted butter.
- Place the disc of puff pastry on top and tuck the edges down the inside of the dish. Bake for 40-45 mins until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature for 1 hour before running a knife around the edge of the dish to loosen the pastry and inverting it onto a large serving plate that is deep enough to contain the juices. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Like I said, pure heaven.
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