Five-Ingredient Tarte Tatin

Just because a recipe has five ingredients doesn't mean it's easy or quick to make. This tarte takes practice and a lot of courage at the last step when you turn a hot skillet upside-down and hope the tarte ends up on a plate.

It's best to cut the apples 1 - 3 days before making the tarte to dry them out. Otherwise, you may end up with too much juice in the tarte. Put the cut apples in a lightly covered bowl in the refrigerator. If you don't have time to let the apples dry out, put a piece of foil under the skillet when it goes in the oven to catch any drips.

Ingredients
Ingredients
  • 6 - 8 large apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (A mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples works well.)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) softened unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 frozen puff pastry sheet (defrosted according to package instructions)
  • Equipment: a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet
Instructions
Prep
  1. Slice the bottom off each apple to give it a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples lengthwise and remove the cores. See the note above the ingredients about storing the apples in the refrigerator for at least one day before cooking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees when ready to cook.
  3. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of the seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet and sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom.
  4. Arrange the apples vertically in the skillet, standing them on the flat end, in concentric circles. Pack the pieces close together so they support one another. Apples that stick up higher than the pan rim will shrink down as they're cooked.
  5. Prepare the pastry while apples are cooking: roll out defrosted puff pastry on a floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick.
  6. Put a 10-inch plate upside-down on the pastry and use a sharp knife to cut out a circle the size of the skillet's top.
Cooking: There are 3 stages to making this tarte Tatin
  1. One: Cook the apples over medium high heat, 15 - 25 minutes until the juice is bubbling and a deep golden or light brown color.
  2. Two: Put the skillet in the oven and bake the apples for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (F).
  3. Three: Remove the pan from the oven, lay the pastry circle over the apples, and tuck it around the apples. Bake the tarte at 400 degrees until the pastry is browned, approximately 20 minutes. Check it after 15 minutes to make sure it doesn't get too dark. You want the crust to be a nice golden brown. If it still looks pale after 20 minutes in the oven, bake it a few more minutes.
Final Touches
  1. Move the skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  2. Put a cutting board or platter over the skillet. Use potholders to hold the skillet tightly against the board or platter.
  3. Turn the skillet upside-down. If apples stick to the skillet, add them to the top of the tarte.
  4. If the tarte stands longer than 30 minutes after being baked, heat it over low heat for 1 - 2 minutes before turning the skillet over.
  5. Cut the tarte in wedges and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or just eat it plain.
Tip
  1. If you decide to use foil beneath the skillet in the oven, DO NOT place the foil directly on the floor of the oven. Certain models can overheat and the foil can melt into the ceramic, creating a fire hazard. Instead, place the foil on the wire rack directly below the skillet. 

Serves 8
Adapted from a recipe for "Foolproof Tarte Tatin" by Julia Moskin, The New York Times, October 22, 2014.