I have a weakness for desserts. That weakness is that I’m not very good at making many of them. Like a lot of men, given the choice, I would survive on lumps of protein (although in my case I’m likely to make a hollandaise to go with my grilled salmon). So because my tooth is not very sweet I don’t get a huge amount of practice making desserts unless people happen to be coming around for dinner.
There is a feeling among men that making desserts is a girly thing. I fundamentally disagree. For example, there are puddings which you need to flame, like that old 1960s favourite, Crêpe Suzette. And there are others which require physical prowess. These include my favourite pudding, Tarte Tatin which is one of about four desserts in my repertoire.
The dish is an upside down tarte, supposedly invented by the Tatin sisters — hoteliers who by accident cooked an apple pie the wrong way round, with delicious consequences. The tarte needs to be turned out onto a serving dish once cooked. This requires both skill and timing — which I have eventually acquired, although the process has been an arduous one — I have ended up with my work splattered over the kitchen floor.
However, the results can be impressive and the taste of caramelised apple combined with puff pastry is tempting enough to add several inches to the waistline — this is another reason why you should only attempt this when guests are coming around.
The first thing to do is to give yourself plenty of time — you may need to make a second one if it all goes terribly, er, apple shaped. The next is to take a medium-sized frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Melt 100g butter with 150g caster sugar and cook on a high-ish heat until the butter and sugar mixture caramelises. Then add 1 kilo of peeled, quartered and cored Braeburn apples, neatly arranged around the pan, and cook until the apples have softened.
Remove from the heat. Take enough pre-rolled, shop-bought puff pastry to cover the apples and tuck it in to the sides. Then bake for 20-30 minutes in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6/200°C.
Now for the tricky bit. After the tarte has come out of the oven and cooled down, take a plate, place it over the pan and in one deft movement flip it over. At this point you either serve the tarte with a blob of crème fraiche to “oohs” and “aahs” from your guests… or you clean up the mess and start peeling some more apples.