foolproof tarte tatin

We’ve made it all the way to the Foolproof Tarte Tatin, our 32nd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This recipe felt so far away and so daunting when we first started this project but with Loaves and Single Layer Cakes and over half of Pies and Tarts under our belts, we’re really starting to feel our confidence levels grow.

Lauren’s Take

GONE CANOEING. Check back for updates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

We made a Tarte Tatin! This was the very first Dessert Person video Claire put out when she started her YouTube series, and it looks and sounds so fancy, that I kind of can’t believe I made one. It looks and sounds really intimidating—puff pastry, dry caramel, multi-step preparation of different components, flipping delicate layers of apple and crispy pastry in a piping hot cast iron skillet—but five months in to this Dessert Person journey, I realize I’ve done most of these things already. Make rough puff from scratch: check. Make caramels: check. Create glazes: check. While this bake was definitely time-consuming, it wasn’t as scary or difficult as I thought it might be. Minus the flip. That is no joke.

Baking a Tarte Tatin feels like a master class in patience—something I am typically NOT very good at, but honing my baking skills has definitely helped. The first step is preparing the apples, and while this might seem pretty basic, even that requires that you just sort of slowww down. Trim both ends of each apple; peel the apples; cut the apples in half; core and trim the centre of each apple. This part alone took a good half hour I would say. Once you have all your apples, you place them upright in a cast iron skillet, pour brandy, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar over them with a dash of salt, and roast for an hour to an hour and a half until they’ve softened. Anyone who knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from a picky eater—I’ll try anything and typically really enjoy all types of foods—but the one thing that really grinds my gears is mushy fruit. If it’s veering on under-ripe, I’m into it. The crunchier and crispier the better. If it’s even slightlyyyy soft and edging on grainy or overly sweet, I’m not touching it. So, suffice to say, I went with roasting my apples on the lesser end of the suggested times. I was still able to poke through them, and they’d softened up nicely, but I wanted to make sure that after the second round of baking, they still had some structure to them.

After roasting the apples, they cool on a plate in the fridge while you bring the remaining juices to a solid simmer until they’ve thickened into a glaze. Once you have your glaze, it is poured into a container and set aside. Then, the skillet gets a quick rinse and you move on to making the dry caramel. See what I mean about patience?

 

While we’ve made wet caramel a few times already, this was my first stab at a dry caramel, and I thought the process was so cool! With a dry caramel, there’s no water or other liquid to help the sugar along. The sugar is sprinkled in an even layer into the hot skillet and gradually melts down into a liquid, amber-coloured form. You continue to add another layer of sugar over the melted sugar bit by bit (again… patience) until you have a fully liquefied, thick, beautiful caramel. It’s hard to imagine sugar and heat coming together in this way until you’re standing over your skillet watching it happen yourself, but man is it satisfying. At the very end, the skillet comes off the heat, and salt, vanilla, and cubes of butter are added in (again… bit by bit…) to add richness and bring the whole caramel together.

At this point, you let the caramel sit in the skillet for a little while, in an even layer, until it has hardened. Claire says you can do all of these things in stages over many days, and I can see why because there is a LOT of wait time involved in this recipe; I had a rainy day on my hands so I just went with it and made everything at once while I was chilling around the house. At this point, you take your roasted apples out of the fridge and place them on top of the cooled caramel layer rounded side down. Squeezing them in nice and tight and slightly overlapping is how you end up with that gorgeous top layer once the tart is flipped over.

Now it’s time to bring out the puff pastry. If we had to make more rough puff from scratch, I probably would have done that the day before or earlier that morning (adding on another 3+ hours to the full bake time of this tart), but luckily I still had a batch of the pastry in my freezer from when Lauren and I made the other Apple Tart a few weeks ago. All I had to do was take it out and let it defrost in my fridge that morning and it was ready to use! Massive time-saver. I rolled out my defrosted rough puff, cut it into a circle, poked the whole thing over with a fork, and then gently placed it over the apples, tucking the pastry in around the edges between the apples and the skillet.

I had a slight moment of panic as my tart was baking. By this point, a massive thunderstorm had started and the power was starting to flicker. The last thing you want when you’ve spent HOURS patiently preparing all of these little elements of this fancy tart is to have it all go down the rails at the very end. I had about 20 minutes left of baking time when I lost power and had a mini heart attack, but luckily it flipped back on after a minute or so and all was not lost.

Speaking of mini heart attacks, one of the final steps in this bake is flipping your tart over. This was STRESSFUL. There are so many juices floating around because of the apples and the caramel, and the puff pastry is so delicate, that you just never know what you’re going to end up with. The skillet is also SO heavy and so hot that you really need to work quickly. I’d watched Claire’s video earlier that day to psych myself up and followed her method of placing a wire rack over the skillet, holding the rack and skillet together at both ends with a cloth, holding the whole contraption over the sink, flipping quickly, letting the juices run out, and then placing it down on the counter and slowly removing the skillet to reveal your creation. For as stressful as this process is, wow is the thrill of that reveal ever worth it. This tart is BEAUTIFUL and looks so impressive. My thin, crispy layers of puff pastry had curled up nicely around the edges, the apples were perfectly plumped up and roasted, and the caramel coated the whole thing in this amazing colour and shine.

You’d think this would be the end but, alas, this tart requires ONE MORE STEP after the flip, and that’s bringing out the glaze you made 500 years ago and gently brushing it over the warm apples. According to Claire, the tart is best served warm and I had some friends over that night, so we were able to enjoy it together fresh from the oven!

It’s always a good feeling to be really proud of something you’ve done, and with this being such an involved recipe and one of the more technical bakes we’ve done so far—simply because of all the steps and methods required—I really felt great about the results. It’s such a wonderful combination of textures: the flaky pastry, the sweet caramel, the warm, soft apples, and the finishing touch of the glaze on top. It’s not too sweet, super comforting, and just all around delicious. I think I would choose the previous Apple Tart over this one, but would still bring a Tarte Tatin to any dinner party (assuming I have a billion hours to kill beforehand!). 4.5 stars from me!

Next week we’ll be making the Sour Cherry Pie and—SPOILER ALERT—we may or may not finally be baking together in person!! Stay tuned for a potential Sisters&Saffitz reunion!

blackberry caramel tart

It’s July and we’ve reached our 26th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. Since Concord grapes will be in season in Ontario in a couple of weeks, we decided to hold off on the crumble pie until they’re available. This latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter brought back the Sweet Tart Dough, which we used for the Salty Nut Tart a few weeks back. This served as the base for the delicious Blackberry Caramel Tart.

Lauren’s Take

Well, well, well—here we are with our 26th bake! Thank you to everyone who has been sticking with us on this tasty journey since the beginning and all the people who have joined since! I get so inspired every week seeing everyone else’s bakes and creativity and feel so much love from your comments and compliments. Now that we’re in the thick of it and about a quarter of the way through, I’m starting to notice that I’m beginning to have baking instincts and not needing to double or triple check the recipe as often (not to say that I don’t make mistakes anymore because I sure do). It’s a pretty cool feeling though and I can’t wait to see it develop more over time!

This week we made the Blackberry Caramel Tart. What was fun about this recipe was that we had made most of the components before, so it was nice to feel that level of familiarity but be able to expand and try it with different flavours. Step 1 of this recipe is making Claire’s Sweet Tart Dough which is honestly one of my favourite discoveries from this book. It is so delicious cooked and raw. You make this dough by combining toasted almond flour (I burnt mine on the first go so make sure you keep a close eye), all-purpose flour, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, water, and egg yolk together and then let it chill. The consistency of this dough is so smooth and it has such a great balance of nutty and sweet flavours. Once the dough is chilled, you press it into the tart pan using a strip technique (check out Claire’s Meyer Lemon Tart video to see what I’m doing a bad job of describing). Now, for those of you in Ontario/Canada, you know that we’ve been having some of the hottest June weather ever recorded in the last few days, so safe to say, it was tricky even with the AC on full blast to keep this dough cool. It got super soft very quick which I think contributed to some snags later on. Anyways, after letting the pressed tart shell chill again, you bake the tart first with foil on top and then uncovered for about 30-40 minutes in total. For this recipe, the tart shell had to be fully baked, so you’re aiming for a deep golden brown colour throughout. Mine needed to bake less than the suggested time.

One thing Claire suggests is saving your extra tart dough so that you can fill in cracks that occur after the tart has baked in the oven. I ended up having a bunch leftover; I think it was because the heat was causing the butter to melt again and making the dough a lot softer and more easily spreadable. Suffice to say, I was glad to have so much left because I had a full long HOLE in the middle of my tart (basically it looked like my tart had been cut in half). I patched it all up though so no harm done. If you do need to patch up your tart, you do not need to bake it again.

Once the tart was finished baking and cooling, I got onto the blackberry caramel portion of the bake. You first make the caramel which is always such a fascinating experience. For this recipe, you combine the sugar with some light corn syrup and water, letting it boil down until it is a medium amber colour. What is so cool and so stressful about caramel is it literally goes from being white with nothing happening for so long to burnt in 0.5 seconds, so you gotta watch that bad boy like a hawk. I think I might have over cooked mine by like 0.0005 seconds, but hey, I’m only human. You then add in the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and blackberries to the caramel, and place it back on the stove to cook for another 5 minutes, breaking down the blackberries as you go. This smelt and tasted amazing and the combo of the caramel and blackberries made such a rich, beautiful colour.

While the caramel is cooling, you arrange your other full blackberries onto the tart shell. Claire says to use over 2 cups of blackberries, but trust, you do not need that much for a 9-inch pie shell. I stuffed mine with blackberries and still had a decent amount leftover. Once the caramel has cooled, you strain it to remove the solids and add in liquefied gelatin powder. This mixture is then stirred over an ice bath until it reaches heavy cream consistency (how legit does that sentence sound?)

Once your caramel, blackberry, gelatin mixture has cooled and reached that thickness, you pour it into your tart shell with the blackberries, making sure to pour it evenly around the berries. Once that is done you place it into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours to let the mixture set. And voila. Honestly, not too difficult of a bake if you’ve done a lot of these components before (tart shell, caramel, gelatin).

The tart is GORGEOUS. Definitely a showstopper at any family picnic. The colour is such a beautiful deep purple and the way the blackberries sit throughout the top looks very satisfying. The tart shell is also beautiful, especially when you look at it from the side and it has that quintessential colour and pattern. In terms of taste, this tart is definitely tasty but I found it wasn’t anything too spectacular. The tart shell is a winner, no doubt, and the combo of the almond with blackberries was a good combo, but I found the caramel a bit too bitter. Now this might be because I over cooked mine a bit or because of the blackberries I used, but I found the same issue when I made the mango caramel as well. So maybe it’s me and maybe I just don’t like caramel? Who knows. But regardless, this is a fairly easy to whip up dessert that I think is perfect for a summer get-together and really highlights the blackberry. 4 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

After a week of rain, the sun finally decided to come out again this weekend, making it the perfect time to make this no-bake tart full of beautiful summer berries. I was really excited for this recipe (do I say that every week? Probably) because I loved the Sweet Tart Dough the last time we used it, and because of how unique and beautiful it looked in the book.

After a few weeks of making more intensive flaky pie doughs, bringing the tart dough together felt like a breeze. It’s still heavy on the butter—I would love to count up how many sticks of butter in total I’ve used by the time I reach the end of this chapter—but the ingredients come together really quickly in a food processor. The wait time for the dough is so much quicker too; instead of 2+ hours, plus folds, plus more waiting, the dough sets in the fridge for just half an hour. After pressing the dough into the tart pan, I baked it fully and let it cool while I moved on to the other components. If anyone remembers, the last time I made this I only had an 11” tart pan instead of a 9”—this meant my crust was so much thinner and required a second round of dough to fill in some of the cracks. The right equipment can truly be a game changer; this time I had the size recommended in the book, and getting the dough to press into the shell was a WAY quicker process than last time. Because the crust wasn’t as thin, it also baked up so much better and wasn’t as tough as the shell of the nut tart ended up being, giving me more of that buttery texture you want to get from a tart shell. Might seem like the most obvious statement in the world that better equipment = better results, but when you’ve made enough of these things, an easy and simple bake always feels like a huge win.

The rest of the tart was really simple to make. You start off making a caramel with sugar, corn syrup, and water—a slow process that can be a tad stressful but really rewarding. Once you have that signature amber colour, you stream in the heavy cream and then add salt, vanilla, and some blackberries. This was a really similar process to how we made the mango caramel for the Rice Pudding Cake; we’ve now made two versions of a fruit caramel and it’s truly life-changing. I don’t know how I made it this far without ever having a fruit caramel before, and I don’t know where/how Claire got the idea, but it is brilliant. There are a few things we’ve made so far that I might not necessarily make the effort to bake again “just because” but the fruit caramels are something I absolutely see myself making again and again, to top ice cream or as sauces for other types of dessert. Can’t recommend enough.

Once the blackberries have cooked down, the whole caramel sauce is strained to remove the seeds/remaining chunks of berry. The gelatin powder we used for the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie makes a comeback for this bake; it’s softened in a bowl of water, then warmed up until translucent in the same saucepan you use for the caramel, and then stirred in to the blackberry mixture. Since the tart is no-bake, this is what helps the filling set. By this point, the crust had cooled, and whole fresh blackberries are arranged throughout the inside of the empty shell; after the gelatin is added, the sauce is poured in around the berries. The amount is just enough to fill up the tart shell and cover the fresh berries about half way up. The colour contrast of the deep purple caramel filling and the pops of bright black berries was so pretty.

The tart chills in the fridge for at least 2 hours, allowing the caramel filling to set. The results were not only beautiful, but—shocking to no one, I’m sure—also incredibly delicious. The combination of flavours and textures, between the buttery tart shell, the smooth, sweet caramel filling, and the pops of fresh berries was so, so amazing. Every component balanced out and complimented the others perfectly. My only complaint is that I would have loved a tad more filling because this caramel was BOMB, but I also think that too much more of it would have made this dessert as a whole a touch too sweet, so ultimately Claire knew what she was doing on this one. I feel like I’ve been heavy on the 5-star ratings lately, but what can I say… we just keep winning over here. 5 stars!

We still won’t be quite ready for the Apple Concord Grape Crumble Pie next week, so check back for the Apricot and Cream Brioche Tart!

caramelized honey pumpkin pie

We are back with our 25th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person as we continue moving through the Pies and Tarts chapter. How have we already made it to recipe number 25??! Our bake this week is extremely non-seasonal, but that’s just one of the pitfalls of stubbornly deciding to bake the whole book in order. On this lovely June day, we bring you Claire’s Caramelized Honey Pumpkin Pie!

Lauren’s Take

I’ve always had mixed emotions about pumpkin pie. As a purest and lover of traditions, I want to love pumpkin pie because it’s the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. But every time it was offered to me after a delicious meal of turkey and stuffing (mad ups to my Mom for making the best stuffing ever), I would say yes and think I was excited, but then just be kind of disappointed? Once I got more into baking, I would ask my family if I could handle the Thanksgiving dessert, and would make pumpkin pie cheesecakes, pumpkin and cranberry pie…simply trying to retain the tradition but improve it. But it still felt wrong to me. I wanted to love pumpkin pie as much as I love fall and Thanksgiving stuffing (this is the most pathetic sob story and I apologize and will now move on).

All this to say, I felt a connection to Claire when in the intro to this recipe, she mentioned similar qualms with pumpkin pie and used this recipe as a chance to improve such a popular dessert. To balance out the typical sweetness of store-bought or traditional pumpkin pie recipes, Claire adds brown butter (um hello greatest thing in the world) and caramelized honey to deepen the flavours and add a nutty-ness to the pie. As soon as I read this I was on board and intrigued to see how this would change the pumpkin pie I have come to know and tolerate.

Every time we get to bake a pie and make pie dough, I feel more at ease than I usually am with these desserts. Pie is my favourite thing to bake and allows me to feel competent and not super sweaty and stressed the whole time (like I feel with every other bake we do). We got a chance to make Claire’s flaky pie dough recipe once again. I love how she combines cubes of butter with thin sheets of butter and how she encourages doing a letter fold before rolling out completely to achieve the flakiness. Genius. When I’ve made pie dough in my past, I usually refrigerate the dough in a circular mound which makes rolling it into a circle fairly simple; Claire on the other hand encourages you to refrigerate the dough in a thin square. Once I got ready to roll, I paused for a LONG time trying to figure out how to make this a circle. I called on my mathematically minded partner who yelled over some instructions that didn’t make sense so I just did my best and make a kind of circular thing? You then place your pie dough into your pie plate, press the dough firmly down to prevent shrinking and then crimp the sides. I really like Claire’s technique on how to do this (she even did a video of it on her YouTube channel). You use your thumb to create the intends which makes them larger than what I’ve typically done but I really like the shape it creates. The pie dough is covered then with aluminum foil and weighted down with pie weights. It bakes for about 25 minutes with the foil/weights on top, and then for another 20 minutes without to par-bake the crust. Claire warns for this step to lean on the side of over-baking the crust to a deeper golden brown because of the wet filling of this recipe. I found 20 minutes was perfect and I got such a beautiful golden colour and NO SHRINKAGE. I think this is my first time making pie ever where the dough did not shrink at all. Colour me impressed.

While the pie dough was cooling, I made the pumpkin pie filling. First you brown the butter and honestly nothing is more satisfying. I love watching butter brown and the smell once it’s done is so delicious. You add honey to the browned butter to stop the cooking process, mix them together, and then bring the mixture back to a boil to caramelize the honey. As it cooks, it releases such a beautiful, nutty flavour. You remove this from the stove, and slowly add in some heavy cream and set it aside. Then you make the custard base by whisking the eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree and spices. Once this is mixed, you whisk in your butter honey mixture, and voila, there’s your custard.

The mixture gets poured into the pie crust and then bakes in the oven until the sides are puffed and the centre wobbles. The time frame Claire gives is 45-60minutes, and I think I left mine in for about 65minutes or so because the centre still seemed too liquid until then. In order to prevent cracking, you left the pie fully cool in the oven before removing it. Now I made this pie right before I had to leave for a cottage weekend so I couldn’t let it FULLY cool in the oven, but even before removing it, it had already cracked. Thank goodness for whipped cream and its ability to hide mistakes.

This pie went on a journey. From the oven, my partner and I carefully placed it in our back seat and drove 2 hours with it to a cottage. Once we arrived, I softly whipped the cream and served it. First things first, this pie looks beautiful. The custard has such a deep, rich orange colour versus the artificial orange you get with some pumpkin pies, and the golden brown crust compliments it very well. Cutting the pie is also super satisfying as the knife easily goes through the custard and then faces some resistance to the flaky pie crust below. So 5 stars for aesthetics for sure. In terms of the taste, the pie crust was once again flaky, buttery and delicious.

Now for the custard…I will say, it was less sweet and less gummy then other pumpkin pies I have. The custard was super smooth and had just the right amount of sweetness. But I didn’t really feel like I got a huge sense of the brown butter and the honey, and I think that’s just because pumpkin and all the typical spices (nutmeg, ginger, cloves), are fairly overpowering flavours and kind of overtook everything else. If I made it again, I would maybe add a bit more honey, and put less of the spices in. This pie didn’t blow me away, but I will say that it was better than any other pumpkin pie that I’ve had. I’ll give it 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

Does anything scream summer more than a beautifully custardy, warm spice-filled pumpkin pie?! I am all for the argument that “pumpkin spice” flavoured things should be enjoyed all year long, but there was something about making this pie in 25-degree weather (that’s Celsius for all our confused American friends) in shorts and a t-shirt while the sun beamed in to my kitchen, looking out at my patio garden, that just felt off to me. Today also happens to be my 34th birthday (oy…) and while I do enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie with tons of whipped cream post-Turkey dinner, it is far from my favourite dessert, so wouldn’t have been my first choice of birthday week bake.

All that aside, the experience of baking this pie was pretty straightforward and a lot of fun. This recipe called once again for Claire’s Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, which I previously dubbed the all-time best pie dough recipe ever when we made it for the Plum Galette a couple of weeks ago. I stand by that statement. I also noticed this time around that, with two rounds of pie dough and a round of Rough Puff under my belt, I am getting a lot quicker and more comfortable working with buttery doughs. I found I had to check the book less, doubted myself less, and just generally worked a lot faster to bring it all together. Win!

I made the dough and parbaked my crust the night before. Claire mentions in the recipe that if you’re using the crust for a custard-filled pie (like this one), you should err on baking longer until you get a deep golden brown to avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom.” Anyone who’s a fan of the Great British Bake-Off (or the equally delightful Canadian version, previously hosted by true Canadian legend and all-around adorable human Dan Levy) knows there is absolutely nothing more shameful than a soggy bottom. So I kept that crust in the oven a good 15-20 minutes longer than it called for in the book. I may have gone a bit far, but more on that later.

The next morning, I got to work on the custard filling. This was super simple to make. Adding that special flare that every Saffitz recipe seems to have, you start off browning butter (there is nothing better than brown butter) and then adding in honey and heavy cream to create what is basically a honey caramel. It smelled AMAZING – sweet, nutty, delicious. While that mixture sits, you whip together eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, and all the warm spices (your standard blend of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and the extra little twist of all-spice). Slowly stream the honey and brown butter caramel into the pumpkin mixture, and you have your custard. It gets poured into the cooled pie crust, and the whole thing bakes for about an hour. Similar to the Goat Cheese Cake, the pie needs to fully cool in the oven with the door slightly propped open so that the filling can properly set. I topped the pie with some freshly whipped cream and grated nutmeg.

The combination of the honey and brown butter caramel and the quantities of warm spices means that you end up with a filling that is so much richer not only in flavour but in colour as well. I was so pleasantly surprised to pull the pie out of the oven to see this deeply golden, almost amber brown instead of the brighter orange colour you’re used to seeing for a pumpkin pie. There was also so much more depth of flavour—not straight up “pumpkin” or “sweet” but something that definitely still read as fall vibes while also being nuttier, slightly caramel-y, and perfectly balanced. The custard was so smooth and rich in the best way.

Back to that pie crust: I think I definitely took it a tad too far in the parbake. While I did avoid the soggy bottom (yay) I did find it a bit tough to cut through. There’s crispy, and then there’s just straight-up rock solid. I do think, though, that less time in the oven would have absolutely meant soggy pie, so I don’t know which is worse. It’s a difficult balance to achieve and I haven’t quite mastered it yet.

It’s no surprise that this is one of the best pumpkin pies I’ve had. It wouldn’t be the first thing I go to grab (especially after last week’s epic Apple Tart), but if I had to choose between this and other pumpkin pie recipes, I’d choose this one every time. After trying a slice, I put the rest in the freezer because something about passing around pieces of pumpkin pie to friends and family in June felt bizarre to me, so I’m hoping it will hold up well for Thanksgiving. Will report back. I give this bake 4 stars!

Next week, we’ll be making the Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie. See you then!