You might have noticed that I’m part of a group of food bloggers who do a monthly “This Book Makes Me Cook”. We normally publish our posts on the first Saturday of every month, but didn’t realize that would be the 1st of May this time!
So I’m a little late with this post, but better late than never.
This month’s pick to read and cook from was “Julie and Julia”, which was also released in a movie version late last year. I won’t bore you with my usual whine about how I couldn’t lay my hands on the book. I did, however, watch the movie a few months back, and am going to use that as the basis for my inspiration to cook this month.
I know Julia Child is a big name in some parts of the world, but I’d never even heard of her until a Daring Bakers challenge where we baked French bread using her recipe. Of course, my bread was a disaster and that’s no reflection on Julia Child.
The title of the book “Julie And Julia – 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen” pretty much says it all. It is the real life situation of Julie Powell who wrote a blog mostly to chronicle her cooking all the 524 recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days!
Depressed with temp jobs as a secretary, she finally secures a permanent job she dislikes and decides to bring some excitement in her life by cooking her way through her mother’s copy of Julia Child’s book in a year. She also keeps a blog diary of her disasters and triumphs in the kitchen and how the book affects her life on the whole.
The movie on the other hand, tries to marry Julie Powell’s blog posts/ story with a large part of Julia Child’s life, especially her book which she wrote to introduce and teach Americans to cook French food.
This is a personal opinion. I found the movie entertaining and could relate to a lot of Julie’s emotions as a food blogger being one myself. But she also comes across as a very stressed out and emotionally needy person for whom, the only meaningful thing in life seems to be an almost single minded desperation in cooking from Julia Child’s book. That cookbook seemed to rule Julie’s life and while I don’t hold this against her, I do find it difficult to relate to.
Of course, Julia gets into learning to cook French food and writing a book about it because she needs “something to do”!
For me, it is ultimately Meryl Streep as Julia Child who saves the movie from being mediocre. It is easy sometimes, to almost believe that it is Julia Child herself in the movie.
Given that Julie Powell chose to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, I decided to pick out one recipe from that book. One recipe I have been wanting to try is the Apple Tarte Tatin. This seemed a good opportunity to do so. You may want to see Julia making her Tarte Tatin here.
An Apple Tarte Tatin is a French upside down apple tart, where the apples are caramelized in butter and sugar and then baked.
Most of the recipes for Tarte Tatin call for a lot of butter, and Julia Child’s love for butter is legendary. I am consciously trying to cut down on the fat in my baking and so searched for a “healthier” Tarte Tatin recipe.
I eventually found one by David Lebovitz, whose fan I am. I have found his recipes very doable and he also gives “cup” measurements for ingredients which are great for my scale-free kitchen!
This open faced tart of caramelized apples on a thin sheet of flaky pastry is what David Lebovitz calls his “diet” version of the classic Tarte Tatin. I didn’t change much in this recipe, other than using salted butter and sweeter apples. I also substituted 1/4 cup of the total flour with whole wheat flour.
This recipe (and most others) calls for a cast iron skillet in which the apples are caramelized, and the tarte tatin is also baked in this. The only cast iron thing I have in my kitchen is a “tava” which is not exactly shaped to make a tart.
So I used a 9” pie-dish which meant I also used 1 apple less than in David’s recipe.
I would suggest a couple of things to keep in mind while making this Tarte Tatin. The pastry is quite thin and so tends get soggy from the apple and caramel, if kept for long. So plan to serve it soon after you've made it.
If you need to keep it for till about an hour before serving, it might be a good idea to keep the Tatin as it is (upside down in the dish) and turn it out on the plate just before serving. This way the pastry crust will still be crisp.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chilled salted butter, cut into ½”cubes
(If you’re using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp salt to the flour)
3 tbsp ice-cold water
7 firm apples (I used Royal Gala)
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor or standing mixer. Add the 2 tbsp butter and process till the butter is in pea-sized chunks. Stir in water and mix just until dough holds together. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.
(This dough can be made up to 3 days before using.)
Quarter, peel and core the apples. Add lemon juice and toss to coat the apple well. Keep aside.
Melt the 1 tbsp of butter in 10” cast-iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and take the skillet off the heat. Arrange the apple quarters in the pan rounded side down, tightly packing them in overlapping concentric circles. Cram them in as they'll cook down.
Cook this over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes. Do not move or stir apples while cooking, but gently press them down with a spatula as they soften.
While apples are cooking, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12” circle. If you live in a warm tropical climate, sometimes, rolling the dough can be difficult. The dough tends to get a little soft and sticky. Do not be tempted to add more flour as this makes the pastry tough.
Place the dough between two layers of parchment, plastic film or foil and roll it out. If the dough circle seems too soft to handle, refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour. The slowly peel of one layer of the papr/ foil and using the other layer place the dough cirsle on the apples and peel off the remaining layer of paper/ foil.
Tuck in the edges of the pastry. Bake tart on upper rack of oven, for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from oven and invert a baking sheet over tart. Carefully flip both skillet and baking sheet simultaneously. Lift off skillet, loosen any apples that may have stuck, and reunite them with the tart.
Serve warm with a scoop of ice-cream or frozen yogurt. This Tarte Tatin serves 6 to 8.
And bon appétit, as Julia Child would say!
If you like noodles (the 2 minute Maggi kind) you might like to check out these easy to make Noodles-Vegetable Cutlets of mine at The Daily Tiffin.