Legend has it that many years ago, the Tatin sisters, who ran a café in Paris experienced a little misadventure with an apple pie. As one of them took it from the oven, she tripped and it fell face down on the floor of the restaurant. Unwilling to waste her work and her ingredients, she slipped it back on to the plate and served it upside down. Everybody loved it and tarte tatin was born. It is in fact no more or less than a simple upside down apple tart.
If you are cooking the tarte in one go, preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.
Peel, core and quarter the apples. In a cast-iron frying pan or any heavy-based pan, heat the 100g of sugar with 2 tablespoons water. When a syrup has formed, let it bubble gently until it begins to caramelise. Swirl the pan about to help spread the caramelisation throughout the syrup (do not stir with a spoon or it will crystallise). When it has reached a golden brown colour (1-2 minutes), take the pan off the heat and add the butter. The caramel will splutter and spit. Stir it very gently with a wooden spoon until it becomes smooth.
Add the quartered apples and cook them gently for 3-4 minutes in the hot caramel. Pop the pan back on a low heat if the caramel has solidified. Taking care not to burn your fingers, arrange the apple quarters in a spiral or concentric circles. If you will be cooking the tarte in a cake tine, arrange the apples in it and pour the caramel from the pan over them.
If you are preparing the tarte for cooking later, let the apples cool down before putting the pastry on top. Leave the tarte in a cool place (the fridge is too cold) until you are ready to cook it. If cooking the tarte in one go, place the puff pastry on the apples and tuck it around them like a blanket on a bed. Put the pan or tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Take the tarte out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before turning it out onto a deep plate to catch all the caramel and cooking juices.
Mix the 2-3 tablespoons sugar with the Calvados or Pommeau, stir in the cream and serve with the hot tarte. It will also be delicious with plain crème fraiche, double or clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.
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