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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: chateau coutet

Sticky business...

Some of you may already have heard. But my plan to move to the States has fallen flat.
I guess in the end the whole immigration business turned out to be too sticky for me!

So what do you do when your plans crash and burn?
You come up with a new cunning plan. (thanks Baldrick!)
For now I moved back to the Netherlands, while I am working on new ways to get back to the UK.
In the meantime I tend the garden, marvel at how strange it is to travel BACK and I bake…

I find it is a most soothing activity and it also shows gratitude to the good friends and hosts that I have been staying at.
Being stuck myself I find I have a lot in common with a Tarte Tartin.
Upside down, while knowing that the biggest trick ahead is to flick yourself around back on your feet.

Last week I was staying in Norfolk, plotting my new resurrection, when my godfather and his neighbour coaxed me into making La Tartin a la Savoie…
I had no idea what this really meant, so like I do with everything else I decided to just go with it and try my best.
The original pointers I got were vague:

Just cook the apples in the caramel for an hour and add the pastry before you put it in the oven…

What kind of recipe is that?
Has anyone ever attempted to make caramel on an AGA, let alone an electric stove? And what about quantities?

May be I didn’t see it straight away, but in hindsight this is a true recipe for adventure.
A trail by fire for any person, a true test for any chef!

So after reading through a trillion recipes I decided to just get on with it. (just ask Delia if you want the full story:
First I prepared the short pastry (no ready made seemed to be available in the village):
125 grams of cold butter, cut in small cubes
250 grams of flour (strangely enough I only had self-raising available, but it worked)
mix these two ingredients up quickly with cold hands, (easy in an old house without central heating)
add a table spoon of cold (double or single in my case) cream and
a little cold water until it comes together into a tidy ball,
Wrap neatly in cling film (I absolutely loathe cling film, aaaaargh) leave it in the fridge for a while (more like 2 hours) and in the meantime pondered how to survive the night without burning anything.

Then I took the hearts out of some Bramley apples and Norfolk Beefings/Boffins! (thanks to Drove orchards)

Norfolk Beefing apples, yum!

Just cut enough for all the quarters to line the pan.

Then I started with the caramel.
The recipe was unclear too:
Melt 200 grams of BUTTER and add an equal volume of sugar?!
So I did. Just poured in lashings of lovely raw cane sugar.
Then I watched how it all started to fizzle and bubble
Then I added the apples. rolled them around a bit.
Poor heartless apples, all hung, drawn and quartered. But leave the peel on! You will be grateful for them later!

Luckily Olivia (the neighbour) had come for moral support, and photography of the experience.
The trick about the apples is to make sure to use nice tarty ones that don’t turn to mush instantly. (and don’t bother about cinnamon or anything else)
I had turned down the heat a bit, so after about 20 minutes the caramel apple mixture slowly started to turn a darker colour. The apples had turned peel side up, looking like shiny little gold and red flashed buoys.

In the meantime we had rolled out the pastry, which with some old fashioned slapstick operation involving Olivia a large plate and many hands, ended up on top of the sizzlingly hot apple caramel.

Hop! into the AGA it went! (Oh yes always use a oven proof pan! or if you are cooking on gas use a French Caquelon! Or one of those fancy Le Creuset numbers! as long as you have a large enough plate to flip it out on…)

Burned beauty...

We left it there for 20 minutes to eat the main course.

And afterwards we took it out…

Flipped it…

and oh dear.

A thin black crust covered our work of wonder!
Burnt… left it in too late.

Olivia and I looked slightly stunned, then my godfather cheered, Perfect! Just the way it should be….

Sunshine in a glass...

And I have to hand it to him.
It is true that it worked.
The sweet of the caramel sets off brilliantly against the tartness of the apples, while the slight charred taste adds to the depth of the buttery and mushy flavour in the apple.

May be it could also have been the bottle of 1990 Chateau Coutet that raised our spirits…

Fearful chefs will always serve an undercooked tart.
But in the end I conclude that he best way out of a sticky situation is to just go and burn, full throttle!

To be continued…

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