Apple and blackberry tarte tatin (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 3)

Another week has passed in the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) competition, and yet again it has inspired me to have a go at baking something myself. This week was all about tarts – the contestants had to bake a tarte tatin of their choice, a treacle tart following Mary Berry’s recipe, and a decorated fruit tart worthy of display in a patisserie window. There were some amazing bakes. At the end of the program I turned to Tom and said: ‘Would you prefer it if I baked a tarte tatin or a treacle tart?’ His immediate response was ‘tarte tatin’, which I was hoping he’d say, because I’m not a massive fan of treacle tart (which incidentally has no treacle in it, but lots of sweet golden syrup and I don’t like baking with that very much).

Crunchy puffy corner

I have to say that pastry is not something I’ve had loads of experience with. On the occasions that I have made it, rather than going for the easy option of buying ready done stuff, it’s turned out well about half the time, and I’ve had problems the other half. I think the biggest problems have been getting it too warm and overworking it. And I’ve never thought about making puff pastry – all the times I’ve wanted to make it I’ve done shortcrust, either sweet or savoury. (I found out on the GBBO this week that sweet shortcrust is hard to make because the sugar does something to the dough that makes it harder to work with – maybe that could explain some of my mishaps when making sweet pies?) Puff pastry is what you need to make a traditional tarte tatin, so I decided this would be a good chance to have a go and see whether it would be added to my list of pastry success or pastry failures. I’m glad to say that it turned out to be the former 🙂

As blackberries are just in season now that we’re into September, I thought that it would be nice to try an apple and blackberry tarte tatin rather than just the traditional apple flavour. I was aware, however, that using a soft fruit like blackberries would potentially cause problems with it being too wet, just like one of the GBBO contestants who used plums and cherries found. So I used mainly apples, which I know work well for this, plus some blackberries to add to the main apple flavour. The blackberries were quite tart, so perfect to go with the sweet caramel that goes on the top (or bottom to start with before you turn it the right way up). The basic idea is that you make it the wrong way up, by putting the caramel sauce in the dish first, then the fruit, then the pastry, and when you turn it the right way up once cooked and cooled completely, the tart has a pastry base and fruity topping with caramel.

The finished apple and backberry tarte tatin. I love the colour that the blackberries have given it, so much more appealing than a light apple colour with a bit of browning from the caramel.

I’m happy with how it turned out. The pastry actually puffed up quite well and was properly crispy all over (no soggy bottom – that’s a success in itself!) I think if I did it again I’d make the pastry slightly thinner though, because although it was all cooked, the inside bit of the pastry was more like shortcrust (i.e. not so puffy) than the outside layers that puffed up well. The fruit combination worked really well and wasn’t too wet or too sweet for me. I love the way the blackberries have given it a deep red colour, which is more inviting than an insipid apple colour with some browning from the caramel. So overall a great tasting and looking tart in my opinion! My tasters, who this week featured my parents too, agreed. Here’s the recipe I came up with if you’d like to have a go yourself.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 250g butter
  • 250g strong white flour
  • 150ml water

Filling

  • 6 small apples – I used Braeburns because that’s what was cheap in the supermarket when I went!
  • blackberries (about 100g)
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml water

Method

The recipe I used for the rough puff pastry was from the BBC good food website – it’s Gordon Ramsey’s recipe. Check out that website to get the method for the pastry – make this first as it’s best done in advance and left to chill for quite a while – I left mine overnight.

This was after the first rolling out of the dough. Notice the marbled effect with streaks of butter in amongst the flour and water dough.
This shows the dough folded into thirds so there are three layers (see the above website for the exact method).
  1. Start by preheating the oven to 200ºC (fan) and lining an oven-proof dish with greaseproof paper. Traditionally it’s a circular dish that’s used, but I decided to be a bit different and use a square dish.
  2. Then prepare the fruit. Wash the blackberries and keep them whole. Wash and peel the apples, then remove the core and cut into quarters. The apples I bought were very small, perfect for cutting into quarters here, but if yours are bigger, maybe eighths or sixths would be better – they just need to be not too thick so they don’t take ages to cook as you’ve only got the length of time that it takes the pastry to cook otherwise that will be overdone.
  3. Then make the caramel. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan (a plain metal one, NOT non-stick is best) and place on a medium heat. Stir briefly until the sugar is dissolved, but once it has, don’t stir it any more otherwise the sugar will crystallise and the caramel will be no good. Let it bubble away on the heat for about 10-15 minutes until it starts to thicken. Leave to cool slightly and it will thicken some more, but don’t leave it too long otherwise it will be hard to spread across the dish.
  4. Spread the caramel over the base of the dish on top of the greaseproof paper.
  5. Position the fruit in an attractive pattern on the caramel. I went for apples around the outside and in the centre, with a line of blackberries between the two (square) rings of apple.
  6. Roll out the pastry to about 1cm thick and cut to the size of your dish.

    Pastry rolled out ready to go on top of the fruit. It was slightly too wide, so I cut the edges off one side and made some pastry twists out of them, a bit like cheese straws but I wanted to keep them plain.
  7. Place the pastry on top of the fruit and press down lightly. Pierce the pastry in a few places to let the steam that comes off the cooking fruit out from the tart and stop the pastry going soggy.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and golden.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

    Nice crispy puffy pastry just out of the oven. Waiting for it to cool down completely before turning the right way up.
  10. Turn the dish upside down onto a plate, so that the tart comes out with the pastry on the bottom and the fruit on the top. Remove the greaseproof paper and the tart is ready to devour! Enjoy 🙂
    A slice of yummy tart. You can see that the pastry isn't as puffy inside nearer the fruit, but it is cooked, it's just got the texture of shortcrust rather than puff.

    I know this is out of focus, but I was trying to capture the lovely crispy puffy bit of pastry that came out around the edges of the tart.

Spinach, Feta and Pine Nut tart

We have a great cook book called Cooking For Friends by Gordon Ramsey. It’s where I always look first when (funnily enough) we have friends round for a meal. This weekend we were supposed to have one of Andrew’s friends and her parents round, but unfortunately she was sick and they had to postpone. As I’d bought the ingredients for this tart anyway, I thought I might as well carry on and make it for the 3 of us, and freeze half for another day. It’s a vegetarian recipe which has lots of flavour and really fills you up. I adapted it slightly from the original recipe (of course!), by putting yoghurt and milk in instead of double cream, because I thought it was rich enough with the pastry, feta and parmesan, and because we always have lots of milk and yoghurt in the fridge these days. I think Andrew’s not supposed to have pine nuts just yet (choking hazard?) so I just sprinkled them onto three quarters of the tart and gave the pine-nut-less bit to him. As I thought I was running out of time before our friends came, I forgot to take pictures of every stage, though in the end I should have just looked at my phone earlier and I’d have seen a text to say they wouldn’t be able to make it. Anyway, here goes with what I did manage to capture…

Ingredients

  • 320g ready-rolled shortcrust pastry (I didn’t have time to make my own)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 400g spinach leaves, washed and drained
  • nutmeg, to grate
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml natural yoghurt
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g toasted pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Method

  1. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 23-25cm tart tin (Ramsey says to use one with a removable base, but I don’t have one of those, so I used a solid pyrex-style one). Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and leave a little excess dangling over the sides. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion with a little pepper. Stir frequently over medium heat until soft but not browned: about 6-8 minutes. Then wilt the spinach leaves in the same pan as the onion. Stir them over a medium-high-heat just until they’ve wilted, then transfer to a colander set over a large bowl. Press down on the spinach with the back of a ladle to squeeze out the excess water, then cool slightly.
  3. Put the onion and spinach in a large bowl and grate over a little nutmeg. Add the feta, eggs, yoghurt, milk and a generous grating of black pepper. Chill until ready to use.

    Spinach, onions, feta, egg, yoghurt and milk mixed together to make the filling
  4. Heat the oven to 200°c. Line the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind (i.e. without any filling) for 15-20 minutes until the sides are lightly golden. Remove the foil and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the base is golden and there are no more uncooked patches left. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°c.

    Blind baked pastry case - except I noticed when taking this photo that it still had uncooked patches on the bottom, so I put it in uncovered for a bit longer)
  5. Spread the filling over the pastry shell, then sprinkle the parmesan and pine nuts over the top.
    Grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts, ready to sprinkle on top

    Tart ready to go into the oven (pine nuts delibertely only sprinkled on 3/4 of it)
  6. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. Cool slightly before serving.
    Half eaten tart - forgot to take photo when it came out of the oven (probably because Andrew was clearly keen to eat it and was letting me know this!) I think I could have done with squeezing out more of the excess water from the spinach, but it tasted yummy anyway.

    Tart in process of being consumed - served with roasted parsnips and carrots and some couscous salad