We don’t really have weather in Southern California, so the best way to know what season it is is by looking at the produce. The juicy, saturated colors of summertime melons and stone fruit give way to the ruddy colors of fall. This means asian pears, pears, and of course apples.
This is the first apple season that my son James sort of gets it. He’s 15 months old, walking semi-competently, and loves grabbing things. We drove up to Yucaipa, about two hours from Los Angeles, for an afternoon of apple picking. The photos you’re looking at cover the first ten minutes, right before James tripped while carrying an apple in each of his meaty paws, and broke his fall with his face. A cuddle and some dusting off set him right, but that ended our day of apple picking.
Luckily, we picked a ton of apples, so James got to enjoy his first tarte tatin to celebrate his hard work.
Tarte tatin is by far one of my favorite winter desserts. The story behind it is a delicious mistake, not unlike how chocolate chip cookies were created. Two sisters owned an inn, about 100 miles south of Paris, and one of them intended to make an apple pie. But she was distracted, and accidentally burnt the sugar and butter. She then did what any busy home cook would do – slap a pie crust on it and hope for the best. The burnt mistake became the trademark for the little inn, and the owner of Maxim’s – one of Paris’s chicest clubs – became obsessed with the delicious recipe. He put it on his own menu, naming it after the sisters at the inn – Tarte Tatin.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir together the sugar and vanilla seeds. Pat down the butter onto the pans and sprinkle the vanilla sugar on top. Place the apple pieces vertically in the pan, snaking in a circle along the edge. Keep repeating until the whole pan is full. Over a medium flame, place the pan for 20 to 30 minutes, until the butter, sugar, and apples have created a golden brown caramel. It’s ok if it’s a little patchy. Let it cool for a few minutes and prepare the vanilla cake.
For the batter, sift the dry ingredients and set aside. Whip the eggs for one minute on high, until light and frothy. Add the sugar slowly, still beating on high until the eggs are very pale and light (4 more minutes). Add the vanilla and pear juice, beating slowly. Add the dry ingredients, also beating on low. Pour the batter evenly over apples in the pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and pulling away from the edges.
Put in the oven and bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until the apples are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Bring to room temp (if you can wait) and flip onto a serving dish. Serve with whipped cream.
Claire, The Kitchy Kitchen
Photos Courtesy of The Kitchy Kitchen