An apple tarte tatin is the tastiest way to see in Autumn. A dessert that is more about flavour than fuss, tarte tatin appeals to me as I’m certainly a laissez-faire cook when it comes to presentation. Fortunately the main ingredient happens to be in season – ripe juicy apples grown in the Ceres region are peeled and stewed in a sugary syrup before being topped with buttery puff pastry and baked until sticky and caramelised. Granted, a tarte tatin may not look like much when turned out, but few puddings can beat it for a mouthful of unadulterated comfort. Jammy, slightly opaque chunks of apple, flaky pastry and the richest tar-dark syrup – a tarte tatin epitomises effortless French cuisine.
A fan of apples in general, I was inspired to make this tarte tatin by a chance tasting of Wilderer‘s new Rogue “Apple Pie” moonshine. I had attended a private tour of the awarded private craft distillery and discovered that there is more to Wilderer than meets the eye. A rich elixir redolent of cinnamon, brown sugar and dessert apples, the moonshine can be served as a dessert digestif or even mixed with tonic water for a refreshing summer cocktail.
Hosted by maestro distiller Johan Monnig, I was taken through Wilderer’s range of infused gins before having the opportunity to blend my very own bottle. Choosing from the range of options is truly a sensory experience, with the botanicals used to flavour the gin stored in beautiful glass bottles around the blending station. Having previous worked in conservation, Johan is an expert on indigenous plants and their properties and introduced me to Wilderer’s varied collection of intriguingly scented ingredients – think rose pelargonium, sceletium and renosterbos to name a few.
Located in the Cape winelands near Paarl, Wilderer is a family-run distillery that bases their philosophy on tradition and it shows; a gleaming copper still produces a clear spirit that is made into their impressive range of gin, grappa, eaux de vie and my personal favourite – moonshine. Through the use of grape skins to distill their base spirit Wilderer creates a smoother sip, without the burning harshness often associated with gin. Priding themselves on an almost exclusive use of indigenous botanicals, I got to sample classic juniper berry, aromatic buchu, citrus, fynbos, fruity Christmas spice and floral with my final blend consisting of the former four infusions. Bottling your own gin is great fun but I wouldn’t recommend braving it on an empty stomach. Fortunately the distillery has it’s own on-site eatery – Pappa Grappa – and their pizza menu looked seriously tempting. I can’t wait to return on a sunny winter weekend and enjoy one.
Apple Tarte Tatin
Prep time: 30 mins /Cook time: 40 mins /Serves: 4 – 6
You will need:
- 6-8 large dessert apples (I used Royal Gala)
- 50g caster sugar
- 50 salted butter
- 50ml of Rogue “Apple Pie” Moonshine or a very good quality dark rum
- 400g readymade puff pastry, defrosted
- Plain flour, for dusting
- An egg, beaten
- Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Peel and core the apples, either slicing them into quarters or leaving them halved. In a cast iron skillet over low heat, melt the butter with the sugar to make a syrup then pour in the moonshine or rum. Once the syrup is combined, add the apple pieces, covering them in the syrup. Cook over medium heat until just soft then remove from the heat and use a spoon to arrange the apples tightly around the base of the skillet. I like to have the cut side of the apples facing up so that when the tarte tatin is turned out the curved edges peek outwards.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use a sharp knife to slice a circle to fit the top of the skillet. Using your fingers, push the edges of the pastry around the apple so that they fit snugly. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden. If the pastry browns too quickly, reduce the oven’s temperature to 180°C.
Leave the tarte tatin for 20 minutes to cool slightly before carefully turning it out on to an inverted plate. Slice it and serve topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and an extra shot of Wilderer Rogue “Apple Pie” moonshine.