Caramel in moderation works wonders for some savoury dishes, this being one of them. Serve wedges of this rich tarte tatin with dressed salad leaves and a dollop of crème fraîche for a deliciously simple starter or light meal.
- 60 g butter, cubed
- 55 g (¼ cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
- 1 kg French shallots, peeled and ends trimmed
- 2½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 12 thyme sprigs, plus extra to serve
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- crème fraîche or sour cream, to serve
- dressed salad leaves, to serve
Simple flaky pastry
- 185 g (1¼ cups) plain flour
- large pinch of salt
- 125 g butter, frozen
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) chilled water, approximately
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 1 hour 25 minutes
Chilling time 20 minutes
To make the flaky pastry, put the flour and salt into a medium mixing bowl. Hold the frozen butter with a piece of foil or baking paper to prevent it from melting and coarsely grate it onto a chilled plate. Add to the flour and use a round-ended knife or palette knife and cut through the flour and butter to mix until evenly combined.
Sprinkle the chilled water over the flour and butter mixture. Use the knife, again in a cutting motion, to mix until evenly combined and the mixture starts holding together. Press a little of the mixture between your fingers: if it holds together easily, there is no need to add more water. If it doesn’t add an extra teaspoon of chilled water at a time and mix and test again until it is ready.
Bring the pastry together with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured, cool benchtop. Lightly knead the pastry with your fingertips for about 30 seconds or until smooth and soft (the butter pieces will be visible in the pastry). Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap well in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in an ovenproof 20–22 cm (base measurement) heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Arrange the shallots, root-side down and packed tightly, in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Turn the shallots over and cook for a further 20 minutes or until they are very tender when pierced with a skewer and caramelised. Sprinkle over the balsamic vinegar, season well with salt and pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 1 hour 15 minutes or until cooled completely. Sprinkle with the thyme sprigs.
Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced).
Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the pastry out on a lightly floured benchtop to about 5 mm thick and then cut into a circle about 26 cm in diameter. Place the pastry over the cooled shallots in the pan and carefully tuck the pastry edge around the shallot and down the side of the pan. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden and cooked through and the shallot juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Place a serving plate with a lip over the top of the tart and invert. Sprinkle with extra fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately, cut into wedges and serve with crème fraîche or sour cream, and dressed salad leaves.
• This tarte tatin is best served the day it is made.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Anneka Manning. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
This recipe is part of our Bakeproof: Caramel.