Brandy, cinnamon spice up an apple tart

Joseph Erdos

There are plenty of reasons to enjoy apples this season. For me, it’s because they make the best desserts. And with apples so plentiful at farmers’ markets and supermarkets this time of year, I love to make tarts. There’s just something special about an apple tart. Particularly, Apple Tarte Tatin, one of the most classic of the French tarts. It’s a dessert that can be called comforting and elegant.

Supposedly, as the story goes, the Tatin sisters invented the dessert by accident while attempting to make an apple tart to serve their hotel guests. The dish became so popular that its fame spread throughout the Sologne region. It is now known throughout the world. It seems that the best things are almost always invented accidentally.

Traditionally, Tarte Tatin starts out by melting butter in a skillet and adding sugar to make a caramel. Then apple quarters are added and cooked until tender. A round of pastry dough tops the apples, and the whole skillet is placed in the oven. In my adaptation, I use brown sugar, for its fullness of flavor, and add a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of brandy for that extra bit of goodness. Instead of cooking the apples in the caramel, which either tends to overcook them or burn the caramel, I just place the apples in the pan, cover with pastry, and bake. Serve a slice warm with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and it’s the perfect dessert after a cozy dinner or any time the craving hits.

Apple Tarte Tatin

4 large or 6 medium apples

1 lemon, juiced

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon brandy

1/2 pound store-bought puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel, core and quarter apples. Toss with lemon juice.

Melt butter in an 11- or 12-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add sugar and cinnamon, stirring until melted and bubbling. Remove from heat and add brandy. Arrange apple quarters cut side up.

On a well-floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to 1/4-inch thick. Cut a disc a bit larger than skillet. Slash a few vent holes in the dough. Place dough over apples, tucking in edges. Bake tart until apples are tender and puff pastry is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a plate.

Recipe note: Firm eating apples work better in this recipe than do cooking apples, which become mushy. Yield: 8 slices.

Per serving: 336 calories; 17 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 46 g carbohydrates; 28 g sugar; 15 mg cholesterol; 122 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 4 g fiber.