October 12, 2009
“Lunch kills half of Paris, supper the other half.” -Charles de Montesquieu
But what about dessert??
Paris is known for its atmosphere of love and romance, and also for its decadent desserts. Some of the best pastry chefs in the world are French, but even if they’re not, if they’re smart, they’ll go to France to study with the masters. Thus, it is from France that I get my latest dessert…an Apple Tart Tatin. But first, a little bit about my adventures in Paris…
Our second stop in our European travels led my aunt and I to the City of Light on a rather dim and depressing day. Unlike London, which was unnaturally hot and humid, Paris was cold and rainy. (Not exactly the atmosphere you’d expect when visiting this renowned city. But alas, Paris has turbulent weather like the rest of the world). However, after high-tailing it through the rain with luggage that I promise you got heavier by the second, we finally made it to our extremely welcoming hotel…The Hilton. All I can say is FABULOUS!! Thanks to my aunt, we were able to get our room for free. Did you get that people-we stayed at a Hilton for free! I bask in that moment because frankly, it will never happen again.
One of the “best” experiences we had at the hotel was the morning when taking in the beautiful view from our window, what better scene to greet us than the Hazmat people pulling up outside the hotel. By the time we made our way downstairs into the Lobby, a whole kabootle of them were inside going about their business in their yellow bodysuits. It was quite disturbing, but to say the least, Angel and I survived with no physical harm from speculative substances that could have been released in the building.
Outside of our Hilton adventures, we visited many wonderful sites including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, Le Opera Garnier (the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera), Notre Dame, Le Musee D’Orsay, and many wonderful little bakeries along the way. It was a wonderful experience and a place that I pray I will be able to visit again someday.
But now, to the food. The French, as I said earlier, are notorious for making fabulous pastries, and quite frankly they can be extremely complicated to make. However, the recipe I chose to represent France is relatively easy to prepare and one that is comparable in taste to an Apple Pie.
The recipe I followed came from http://www.famousfrenchdesserts.com/tarte-tatin-recipes.html, but there are tons of sites online, accessable from Google and especially FoodNetwork.com, to choose from. The recipe itself was easy to follow, but it was time consuming. The preparation of the crust and the prep of the apples are the two steps that take the longest to complete. Also, and let me warn you, this recipe requires from-scratch caramel. Now, some of you are probably wonderful at burning sugar, but I am paranoid that I am going to totally destroy my bakeware and/or waste precious ingredients, which are costing more and more by the day. Needless to say, I had to redo the caramel at least twice, and the final time I just went with what I had. But, it ended up coming out alright in the end. Most recipes suggest that you have a candy thermometer on hand to make sure the sugar is at the proper temperature, but if you’re like me, just watch until the sugar turns a pale yellow/brown and then remove it from the heat. Do not let the sugar burn (more than it needs to)! Trying to scrape that stuff out of your pots is a pain in the rear.
The crust was fairly easy to make, but it can get messy with the amount of flour that you use to ensure that the dough doesn’t stick to the board/countertop on which you’re kneading it. So, be prepared to seriously clean your kitchen after this recipe. (Or maybe I was just messy…regardless, you’ve been warned).
Disclaimer: This recipe requires the tart to be flipped once it’s cooled. If you need assistance in doing this, please call for your boyfriend/girlfriend/brave father/mama, etc. The last thing you want after baking this thing for over an hour is for your masterpiece to be thrown across your kitchen.
In the end, the Tart was a lot better than what I thought it would be. The crust was good, but I guess I rolled it too thin, and thus it turned out a little harder than it should’ve been, but it still had good flavor and added a nice texture contrast to the caramelized apples. The overall look of the Tart was beautiful. It’s a good dessert to bake to impress guests. (I actually served it to my In-Laws). It’ll earn you brownie points for making a gorgeous dessert, and the taste isn’t too shabby either.