I know there's been a lot of dessert around here lately. Really, I do. But it's that time of year, and besides, it's not like you can't eat Tarte Tatin for breakfast, too.
I know, because I've been doing it for two days now. I sneak down into the kitchen, my bare feet hugging the cold tiles, and crack open the refrigerator until the light just barely clicks on. As though by heart, I reach blindly for the plate, and pull it from the reaches of leftover salad and bluefish paté.
This happens only in secret, of course; once the dog and his companion have rushed out the door to work and the house has settled into the quiet hum of a workday morning. I can hear the dishwasher as I eat upstairs at my desk, see the sunlight as it flickers over the chilly expanse of winter greens still struggling up in the garden. It is always a dilemma when the plate grows empty, licked clean of the last pastry flakes and caramel sauce. If I bring it down to the kitchen, there's a frightfully good chance I'll pile it high with more.
And so I leave it to sit, a shiny white glare on the edge of my desk, until lunchtime rolls around. It's always okay to have seconds for lunch. Especially when it's Tarte Tatin.
(adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food)
Quarter, core, and peel 4 large apples. Set aside, and in a separate bowl, mix 2 cups flour and several pinches salt. Cut in 12 tablespoons butter with a pastry cutter or by hand until butter is in very small, pea size pieces. Some large, irregular chunks are okay. Pour in 1/2 cup ice-cold water slowly, mixing well. Knead dough until cohesive. Divide into 2 balls, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate (there will be extra dough; you can save this for another project).
Slice apples into very thin slices, and arrange on bottom of well-greased pie or frying pan in several tight, fanned circles. Be sure there are no spaces between apples as they will shrink during cooking. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Heat until boiling; as the mixture bubbles it will begin to turn brown. At this point, remove from flame and add 2 tablespoons butter. Stir until butter is combined. Pour over apples while still hot, and dot apples with 1 tablespoon butter.
Roll out one disk of pie dough very thin and cut into a 9-inch square. Place over top of apples, pinching edges into a ridge. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly. Jiggle pan to ensure apples are free from bottom, put a serving platter on top, and flip tart onto platter. Serve warm (or cold for breakfast).