The January 2012 edition of Bon Appetit magazine highlighted Canadian sugar shacks, along with creative Montreal chef Martin Picard and some of the recipes from his new cookbook, “Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon.” (The cookbook will be available next month through the shack’s web site. To enter for a chance to win a copy, go to bonappetit.com/go/shack.”
I was intrigued by the article. It surprised me to learn that Canada supplies 80% of the world’s supply of maple syrup, and that affordable gut-busting feasts are available at sugar shacks during the usual March 1 through April 30 season when sap runs from the trees. There is no counterpart in the states, with apologies to Vermont. Reservations must be made well in advance, because the lines are long to take part in this maple syrup celebration. You’ll not only eat, you’ll also dance. Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon takes reservations; just be sure to email well in advance: cabaneasucreaupieddecochon.com.
As one could almost anticipate, Chef Picard has his own twist on the classic French dessert, tarte Tatin (the famous tarte named for its namesake hotel owners and originators, the Tatin sisters). You guessed it: he incorporates Canada’s beloved maple syrup into the caramel. In spite of the fact that the apples are bathed in sweet syrup for the entire cooking process, sweetness levels are just about perfect for hubby and me. The apples are amazingly tender, not mushy, and infused with the decadent maple caramel flavor. Being an apple purist, I loved tasting apple and not spices and other flavorings that are normal to, and dominate, most apple desserts.
Selecting apples of uniform size will make the best presentation, though you probably will have to quarter some to fill in gaps.
|Maple Tarte Tartin |
Adapted from “Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon” and Bon Appetit
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
|Click for PRINTABLE PAGE |
1/2 of 14 oz. pkg. of puff pastry (preferably all butter, but Pepperidge Farm will work), thawed in fridge
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 large Stayman, Fuji, Pink Lady or Honeycrisp apples (about 2 lbs.), peeled, cored, halved
Maple syrup-sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or creme fraiche
Unfold thawed puff pastry on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap. Using an upside-down 8” cast-iron or heavy skillet as a guide, cut pastry into a 9” circle. Refrigerate pastry circle while making filling.
Heat oven to 425F. Combine butter, syrup and apple juice concentrate in 8” cast-iron pan or heavy skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling mixture rather than stirring, until butter melts. (To swirl, just pick up pan by handle and rotate slightly so mixture “swirls.”)
Add apples, cut-side down, cramming in as many apples as possible. Cut halves in half to fill in gaps. Notice how the apples don’t quite fit when they first go in the pan. They will shrink as they cook.
Increase heat to medium-high and cook until sugar melts, occasionally swirling apples in pan, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, continuing to swirl apples in pan, about 5 minutes longer. Flip apples to rounded side down and cook, swirling apples occasionally, until syrup is somewhat thick and light golden brown, 5-10 minutes longer.
Cover apples with chilled pastry round, tucking in edges of pastry.
Bake until pastry is light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F; bake till pastry is puffed and deep golden, about 20 minutes longer. (I had to cover my pastry loosely with foil about 10 minutes after oven heat was reduced because it was browning too quickly.)
Let tarte cool for 15 minutes. Invert a serving plate over the skillet. Using oven mitts, firmly hold plate and skillet and invert tarte onto plate. Remove skillet; rearrange apples if needed and scrape any caramel left in skillet over the tarte. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream lightly sweetened with maple syrup, as I did, or creme fraiche as the French do, or with plain vanilla ice cream. Yield: 6 – 8 servings
Kitchen Tip: If you don’t have an apple corer, all is not lost. Easily core an apple with a grapefruit spoon.
Another Kitchen Tip: Save pastry scraps to cover two ramekins filled with apples that have been cooked in the same caramel mixture. Bake these at 375F for about 20 minutes, till pastry is puffed and golden.