Serves 8 people
5 medium Crimson Crisp Apples, or another tart apple, such as Granny Smith
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (14-ounce) box frozen puff pastry; thawed but kept chilled
1 cup sour cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream
Peel and core the apples whole, then halve them crosswise to create doughnut-shaped rounds. In a bowl, toss the apple halves gently with the lemon juice and ¼ cup of the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the remaining ¾ cup sugar and swirl it in the pan until it becomes a golden brown caramel, slightly chunky with granules of unmelted sugar, then remove from the heat. Lay the apples in the skillet, arranging 6 rounds on the perimeter and one in the center. Cut the remaining 3 apple rounds into ½-inch pieces and slide them in between the halves to make it a tight configuration.
Return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat and cook the apples in the caramel for 8 to 10 minutes.
Roll out your puff pastry to a 13- to 14-inch piece and trim it to a circle. Remove the skillet from the heat and lay the pastry round over the apples. The caramel will be extremely hot, so do not touch it with bare fingers, but use a spatula to tuck the edges of the pastry around the apples toward the bottom of the pan, to create a lip on the final tart. At this point, it does not need to look perfect, and if the pastry does not fit exactly, do not fret—just make sure that you can patch together a full cover for the apples and that the pastry (pastry quilt, if you will) goes to the edges of the apples and down over that outer edge.
Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes—darker is better than lighter.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes. Place a plate at least 14 inches around over the pan, serving side toward the apples, and quickly and smoothly flip the pan and the plate upside down together to allow the tart to end up on the plate with the pan on top of it. Shake the pan gently to make sure the apples and the pastry have detached from the pan, and carefully lift the pan away. If there are rogue pieces of apple stuck to the pan, gently move them off of the pan and place them in their spot on the pastry crust.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and eat immediately.
Recipe from Mario Batali’s Cookbook, “America: Farm to Table”