"I never got to meet Plantia, our house's former mistress, who lived in another era. But from having asked around and talked to villagers who remember her from when they were children, I know she was a woman with a deep love of food. Her cooking may not have been adventurous, but what she cooked was always of the highest standard using the finest produce around. Her absolute favourite dessert was a classic tarte Tatin, and she wouldn't serve it with crème fraîche for anything; it was all down to the caramelised apples. If they weren't good enough, she simply wouldn't make the tarte – maybe she'd settle for an apple compote instead. But when she approved of the apples, when she really wanted to make someone happy, she turned to her signature dessert.
It gives me goose bumps, cooking in this kitchen where I have also written this book, to think that a hundred years ago, another woman was cooking the very same thing in the very same corner, according to the same principles. Plantia, I promise I will never ever make a tarte Tatin without thinking of the lady in black." ~ Mimi Thorisson.
1 1/2 cups / 180 g plain (allpurpose) flour, sifted, plus more for rolling
1/3 cup / 65 g caster (superfine) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
7 Tbs / 100 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup / 100 g caster (superfine) sugar
1 vanilla pod (bean), split lengthways, seeds scraped and reserved
6 1/2 Tbs / 90 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 pounds / 900 g apples, peeled, cored and quartered
Crème fraîche, for serving
Sweet Tart Dough:
Make the dough. Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the sugar, salt and egg yolk and mix slowly with your hands. Add the butter and mix well until you have a smooth and homogenous dough. Form it into a ball, cover with cling film (plastic wrap), and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Butter a 9-inch / 23-cm ovenproof frying pan (skillet).
Start the apples. Mix the sugar with the vanilla seeds. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the bottom of the frying pan, scatter the butter over the sugar, and then tightly pack the apples in the pan in a circular fashion with one flat side down.
Put the pan on the stove over a medium-high heat and cook until the liquid starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook until the juices turn a golden caramel colour, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 1/8-inch / 3mm thickness. Using a sharp knife, cut a round of dough just slightly larger than the top of the frying pan. Drape the dough over the apples to cover and carefully use your fingers to tuck the dough between the pan and the apples on all sides.
Transfer to the oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes. Wearing oven mitts or using tea towels (kitchen towels), carefully (the caramel is hot) remove from the pan by placing a large serving plate on top and inverting the cake onto the plate.
Serve with crème fraîche.
Credits: This is an edited extract from French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $49.99 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: Photographer: © Oddur Thorisson 2016.