Last Thursday was the first session in the next part of my Patisserie and Confectionery Course at York College. It was a change of night and we had a new tutor. For my first session I ended up arriving five minutes late as there had been a massive traffic jam driving to York. I had to drive the back way and avoid the Ring Road! Still didn’t make a difference as everyone else had the same idea as me!
We made Tarte Tatin and Creme Anglaise in our first session. I love Tarte Tatin though I’ve never made it before. It’s because I thought you needed a heavy duty frying pan which can also go in the oven. But our tutor said that you didn’t have to use a frying pan but could use an ordinary saucepan and an ovenproof pie dish.
Tarte Tatin is a popular French dessert which was accidentally created at a hotel in Loire et Cher, France back in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters called Stephanie and Caroline Tatin. The hotel was called Hotel Tatin as well. There are different stories regarding how the tarte came about. But the one that sticks in people’s minds is the one that Stephanie started to make a traditional apple pie. She left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. She smelled burning and tried to saave the dish by putting a pastry lid on top of the pan. She then baked it in the oven and turned it out upside down when it was finished. The hotel guests liked the dessert, much to her surprise. The sisters made it their signature dish after that. I have seen versions of Tarte Tatin with different fruits, such as bananas or pears but the apple is a delicious classic.
First, we set to work peeling, coring and chopping apples for our tartes. We had to cut the apples finely but not too fine that they would disintegrate. They were then put into a bowl of cold water and lemon juice so that the apple pieces didn’t turn brown.
The next step was to make the caramel for the apples. This was more fiddly than it looked and I had to throw mine out twice and start again. First we started in the ovenproof frying pans but this seemed to make everyone’s caramel grainy! Finally for the third time I used a saucepan and it worked. We learned that once the butter had melted into the sugar we were not to stir the mixture at all. We could swirl the mixture around in the pan and wait for it to change into the light brown caramel colour. As soon as it was ready, I immersed the pan in a bowl of cold water, then quickly transferred the caramel to the bottom of the ovenproof frying pan before it set! By this time I was struggling as the hotplates/ rings of the cookers in the college kitchens do give off a lot of heat and that did not do my menopausal hot flushes any good! The rest of my body was cold but my face felt like it was in a furnace!
Once the caramel was in the bottom of the pan, we had to arrange the apple pieces on top of the caramel. I chose to put mine in circles fanning round the edges and overlapping.
As we don’t have a lot of time to make puff pastry from scratch in our sessions, we used some ready made puff pastry. We cut out a circle of puff pastry no thicker than a pound coin to put on the top of our caramelised apples. The pastry had to completely cover the apples and we had to use a knife to make some slits in the pastry so that air could escape out.
After putting our tartes in the oven and setting the timers for 30 minutes, we started on our creme anglaise. I’ve never made creme anglaise before and presumed it was a French version of custard. We could flavour ours with vanilla or cinnamon which would complement the apples in the tarte tatin perfectly. I chose vanilla though.
Once again, the creme anglaise was tricky. We had to put some whole milk on to simmer in a pan while beating egg yolks and caster sugar together using a whisk. It took a while to get them pale and creamy. So that the eggs didn’t cook and scramble, we added a little milk to the mixture then put the whole mixture into the saucepan to gently heat until thickened. Unfortunately, my first attempt at the creme anglaise scrambled as some had stuck to the bottom of the pan. I had to start again from scratch. But thankfully it worked the second time around!
Meanwhile the Tarte Tatins had finished baking and were out of the oven cooling down. Then it was time to take them out of the pans. We had to use a plate to flip it upside down. I was impressed with mine because the caramel juice was oozing through and it just looked so tempting!
Once the Creme Anglaise was ready to pour, we were given a plastic tub to take it home in as well as a foil pie dish for our tartes. I was very happy with what I’d created even though I had found it awkward to make in places.
It was too late to try some that night but Mr SmartCookieSam was impressed. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and accomplishment when I get to try making things like this. I come home all happy and excited as Mr S is sat down watching TV usually at that time. I’m always telling him to come and see what I’ve made. He was saying he would eat some for breakfast!
He didn’t though and he ate a piece when he got in from work. I’m doing WeightWatchers at the moment but I wanted to have a taste. I cut myself a small slice and had a tablespoonful of creme anglaise with it. It was such a small piece, it was gone in two bites! At the time of writing there is still half of it left. More for Mr S tomorrow as our daughter is vegan so can’t eat it!
I’m excited to know what we’re baking next week at college.
Love Sam xx