How To Ruin A Foolproof Recipe

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My brother sent my sister and I an apple tarte tartin recipe the other day with the words “fail proof.”  He had made it three times, the third time being that night.  And as all the other times Mark had made it, it was a delicious success.  Indeed, reading the recipe in the link he sent me, it did say “Foolproof.”  I was encouraged by this and decided to make it for Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house.  I couldn’t wait to impress my family with a beautiful apple tarte tartin.

So my first foray into pie making got off to a rocky start.  I struggled with how to arrange the apples in the pan.  What do you mean cut a piece into a round disc?? Are the apple pieces really supposed to be this big?? I called Mark repeatedly to make sure I was doing everything right.  His response was the same every time, “Just follow the recipe!”  And yet I decided to put just half a cup of sugar even though it said to put 2/3 cup…  I was worried it was too much sugar, I didn’t want it to be too sweet.

The recipe came with a video and quite frankly, I always ignore videos.  I don’t have the patience to watch them, I prefer looking at photos and reading instructions.  So yes, I ignored the video.  After spending too much time questioning every detail and calling Mark to verify, I had less than an hour to get to dinner and the store bought puff pastry hadn’t fully thawed yet!  My brother saved the day by suggesting I take the pie to dinner and just cook it at my Aunt’s house so that it would be fresh out of the oven in time for dessert.

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I rushed over with the half made pie and my grandma helped me to roll it the pastry dough before covering the apples.  Once that was done I started the cooking process.  The recipe said to cook the pie on the stove for about 10 minutes until the liquid browned and bubbled around the sides.  I waited and waited, watched it steam and bubble, then waited and waited.  10 minutes passed but the liquid that bubbled still didn’t look brown.  15 minutes passed, 20 minutes passed.  My Aunt and Uncle kept coming by in turns, lowering the heat of the stove and then I would raise it again.

“Trust me!  It’s how it’s supposed to be!” I said repeatedly.

I knew they were skeptical but I was going to prove them wrong.  After all, my brother had assured me this was fail proof.  30 minutes had gone by and the puff pastry crust had ballooned into a gigantic puff and my Uncle and Aunt were hovering about worried they smelled something burning.

“I smell something burning!” Uncle Gary said.

He then asked everyone to come by and smell the pie to see if they could smell it too.  One by one they took a whiff and no one could smell it but him.

“What you smell is the CARMELIZATION!” I insisted.

I finally decided to transfer the pan to the oven.  30 minutes seemed like an awfully long time considering the recipe said 10 minutes.  Maybe it was because my Aunt’s stove was electric and not gas?  Everyone waited in excitement for the pie to come out of the oven.  It smelled absolutely lovely, sweet cinnamon filled the air even though funny enough I hadn’t put any. Once the timer went off after 50 minutes I pulled the pie out of the oven.  My skeptical Aunt and Uncle changed their tune when they saw the loveliness that came out.  After letting it sit for 5 minutes they watched with baited breath while I flipped it onto a plate.  There was a round of “oooooooghs” all around as they looked at the beautiful tarte tartin.  But then I saw the layer of black that covered the bottom of the pan and wondered if something had gone wrong?  Or maybe that was normal?

We all took a slice with a large heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.  And as we all dug in and put the first bite in our mouths, one by one I heard, “it’s so sour!!”  Holy, it was sour alright!  And I hate sour things!  Not only that, the apple was way too soft, just about the consistency of baby food.  Clearly I had overcooked the apples and clearly burnt the caramel which did not transfer onto the apples because it stayed stuck, black and burnt to the bottom of the pan.  Nevertheless, the cries of sourness were soon replaced with chimes of “more vanilla ice cream please!”

“It tastes so good with the ice cream!  Don’t worry!  I love sour!” said my grandma as I watched her literally eat the rest of the ice cream straight out of the tub.

You have to hand it to family, they will always be there to love and support you no matter how sour things get.  For that, I am thankful.

To summarize, this is how I failed:

1. I didn’t read the instructions properly.
2. I didn’t watch the video.
3. I decided to adjust the ingredient amounts.
4. I ignored the cooking times.
5. I ignored the burning comments.
6. I ignored the advice from my brother who successfully made this three times and ALSO OWNS HIS OWN RESTAURANT.

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The left is how mine came out, the right is how my brother’s looked when he made it.  Note to self: When baking, ALWAYS FOLLOW THE RECIPE!!

Thank you Jane for sharing the photo of Mark’s Tarte Tartin!

Hope you all had a thankful and delicious Thanksgiving!

– SS

P.S. One of these days I’m going to try this again and, yes, I will not deviate from the recipe.

Foolproof Tarte Tartin
Recipe from Julia Molskin

What you need:
6 to 8
large, firm-fleshed apples, preferably Braeburn, or use a mix of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith
6 tablespoons/80 grams salted butter, very soft
cup/135 grams granulated or light brown sugar
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, about 8 ounces (store-bought is fine)

What to do:
1. At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small sharp knife to trim the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter; don’t worry about being too neat. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. (This key step reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.)

2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 if using convection). Thickly coat the bottom of a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.

3. Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.

4. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet. Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry around the apple pieces, hugging them together firmly.

5. Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes (if the juices keep rising, spoon out as needed to remain level with pastry). Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.

6. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.

7. Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

  1. This was incredibly entertaining. It sounds like something I would do. Even though you warned me and backed it up with experience, I see myself walking away from the beaten path and doing my own thing. Who knows? Sometimes mistakes turn into something wonderful. The recipe looks amazing. Thank you for sharing your entertaining story.


    1. Thank you! It’s so great to hear back from people reading my blog, I really appreciate it. As you can see, my adventures in the kitchen are exactly that, I never know for sure what the outcome will be! But many of my disasters do turn into something wonderful and unexpected. Thank you for reading my blog! Glad to know there are many more out there just like me!

      Liked by 1 person

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