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I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Tarte Tatin.  But when I dined at Chez Georges, I didn’t know what I was in for.  This traditional French bistro located in the heart of Paris does it right.  While I can’t claim to have replicated their superior dish, I’ve tried my best to come up with a substitute that will tide me over until my next Parisian adventure.

Tarte Tatin

Most recipes call for a mixer to make the crust.  Instead, I use a simple crust mixed by hand.  The trick is to use the coldest ingredients possible (without being fully frozen) and to only use your fingertips when mixing.  Palms are too warm and will cause the dough to stay separated.   

I prefer the taste and consistency of Turbinado sugar and whole wheat pastry flour, but white sugar and all-purpose flour will do. 

Crust

9 tbsp unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1tsp Turbinado sugar
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp ice water (up to 2 more tbsp if needed)

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Start by cutting the butter into cubes.  Separate and place in freezer for about 20 minutes.

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Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Remove butter from the freezer and place in the bowl with the flour mixture.  Use your fingertips to pull the butter and flour together until pea-sized pieces have formed.  Add the water in small parts until the dough begins to form together.  As soon as it holds together, mold into a ball and flatten into a round disk.  Do not handle dough too much, otherwise it will begin to fall apart.  Place in the fridge until ready to use.

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Apple filling

8 apples, firmer variety such as Granny Smith
1 cup Turbinado sugar
1 stick butter
1 tbsp almond extract
1 tbsp cinnamon

Be sure to use an ovenproof skillet – either nonstick or cast iron.

Peel and core the apples.  I chose Granny Smith in this case, but when apples are in season, try any firmer variety from your local farmers market.  Cut into pieces, no smaller than 2 inches in diameter.

Melt the butter in the skillet.  Spread sugar over melted butter and stir over low heat as the butter and sugar begin to caramelize.  Allow the butter and sugar to bubble, but do not bring to a full boil.  Continue stirring until the mixture appears smooth and slightly thickened.

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Spread the apples into the skillet.  You’ll want to arrange the apples with as few gaps as possible.  Tarte Tatin is a rustic dish, so embrace the imperfections.  I found that while pressing the apples together layer by layer with a spatula worked well.

Turn the heat up to medium.  Allow the caramelized sugar and butter to boil up through the apples.  This should take 10-15 minutes.  Drizzle almond extract over the apples and sprinkle cinnamon over the apples.  Remove from heat.

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Remove the crust from the fridge and roll out to a thin disk that will fit over the skillet.

Cover the skillet with the dough.  Use a spoon or knife to tuck the edges into the skillet.  Be careful!  The pan is hot.  Poke a few holes in the surface with a fork.

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Place in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until dough is golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes.  Use a knife to free the edges from the rim of the skillet.  Place a heat-safe plate on the top of the skillet and flip the tarte onto the plate.  Serve with ice cream or Chantilly Cream. Enjoy!

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