A Podium! Runner Up, Galvin Tarte Tatin Competition

Today is a “race report” of a different variety.  This one being a BAKING COMPETITION.  Yep.  Baking.  As in swim BAKE run.  Haha! 

Saturday was the inaugural Galvin Restaurants Tarte Tatin Competition.  The Galvin group of restaurants are some of my favourite places to eat in central London.  Pretty much every Thursday night after swimming we can be found sitting at the bar at Cafe A Vin enjoying a glass of wine and whatever Chef Jack has on special.  We love the food, love the service ethos, and love the fact that we feel completely at home.  When we found out about the Galvin Festival of Food and Drink, I knew that I would be entering the tarte tatin challenge. 

What I didn’t expect is that I would come runner up in the judging.  And I also won crowd favourite as voted for on Instagram (but mainly because my friends on Twitter and Facebook are so kind and indulged my pleas to vote for me – thanks everyone!)

I am a keen “at home” cook and my family ALWAYS requests that I make (bake) desserts when we are together.  When we go to Suffolk to go cycling, a morning out on the roads is nine times out of ten followed by an afternoon in the kitchen, creating dessert for our family suppers.  I am the pie-maker and cheese-cake baker.  I am banana bread creator and muffin mixer.  But I have never ever served my creations to anyone but friends and family.  Let alone two Michelin-starred chefs, the general manager from one of London’s top restaurants, two food critics, and a food journalist.  The pressure was enormous.

But I “put myself into the zone” and got to work after swimming on Saturday.  I knew it was going to be a tough day for my tarte.  I was facing other home cooks as well as restaurant chefs, award winning foodies, and properly trained folks.  The competition was TOUGH.  And it was going to be blind.  No one would know which entry was gluten free.  And that single gluten free entry would have to hold its own, under blind judging, against wheat pastry.

A tough ask.

I made two tartes – one with golden delicious and a bit of a broken pastry, the other with pink ladies and a better looking pastry.  I really wanted the pastry to be noticed, so I chose the pink ladies.  I’m not sure I made the right call – the golden delicious apples had a better texture in my opinion.  But the pastry DID get noticed.  For this I am so proud, and indebted to Alex and Aki at Ideas in Food for giving the world a fantastic recipe for gluten free flour that really does hold its own in a challenge versus wheat. 

Photo by Park & Cube

The method I chose was based on one from America’s Test Kitchen.  I’ve found I rarely go wrong with a Test Kitchen recipe (as they have already tested it hundreds of times before publication, making the errors for you).

According to lore (and my French colleague Michel who came with me to judging) the tarte tatin originated as an accident.  One of the Tatin sisters was baking a pie for guests at the Tatin Hotel in France, and in error left the apples cooking in the sugar / butter mixture on the stove for too long.  As the apples had already caramelised, there was no option but to cover the dish with pastry and pop it in the over, turning it over to serve.  Voila – the tarte tatin aux pommes was born!  Michel tells me that the key to a true tarte tatin is to make sure you use a pate sucree recipe (I did) as he says that puff pastry is cheating.  He also said that a true tarte tatin will be made from quartered apples, with the cook needing to peel and core them but not to slice any thinner than quarters – remember, this was a tarte with origins in a mistake!  I would add that baking a tarte tatin involves judgement – you can’t leave the apples caramelising for too long or else the caramel will start to burn and taste bitter.  You also can’t let the pastry brown too much – or again you will taste burnt sugar and flour which is just nasty.

The pursuit of excellence in any field inspires me – I loved meeting (and cooking for) Michelin-starred chefs Jeff Galvin on the left and Chris Galvin on the right

I may not have appeared the most gracious of runners-up… I certainly was not shy.  I whooped and flexed and jumped with joy.

My friend Jeremy now calls me the Spitalfields Tarte… Hm…
Oh, notice the little strips of tape transforming the “Bike” to “BAKE” on my t-shirt? Yes, I am a geek.

But in all seriousness.  I looked at this as recognition for all at home dessert bakers and lovers – and as good as a win for gluten free eaters.  It was tremendous to be able to put a gluten free pastry into a challenge and up for judging during Coeliac Awareness Week (in the UK) and Celiac Awareness Month (in the US). 

According to the judges, “It was a delicious pastry.”

On request, here is my recipe.  Feel free to shoot me any questions that you might have, and to post any photos you take on my Facebook page.  Happy baking, and happy eating!

Pate Sucree (sweet pastry) Recipe

1 and 1/3 cup flour*
*Note: you can use a cup for cup substitute with the Ideas in Food What IiF flour blend to make this gluten free, otherwise use plain flour
1/4 cup icing (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
115 grams (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) UNSALTED butter
1 large egg, beaten

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a food processor and whiz around so that it is well mixed (a few pulses).  Add cut up cold butter to the flour mixture and turn on the processor for about 30 seconds or so.  You want to create a mixture that looks like soft sand, with the flour and butter well combined.

Remove from food processor and place in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in one large beaten egg.  The mixture will come together.  If you are using gluten free flour this will feel sticky. That is an unfortunate part of gluten free baking, you lose the silky texture of working with wheat.  Do not worry.  Put the mix into a ball, and then place onto cling film. Push into a thick disc shape, covering with cling film.  Then rest this in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to make it easier to roll out.

[at this point I peeled and cored all of the apples, which took me about 30 minutes]

Remove the disc from the fridge, and flour a surface to roll out the dough.  Unwrap the dough and flour both sides.  Roll out into a disc that is at least two inches wider diameter than your tarte pan, and quite thin (although not paper thin as it will rip).  Then place the rolled dough onto greaseproof paper (wax paper) and place back into the fridge to keep it cool until you are ready to place over the tarte and bake.

Apples for Tarte Tatin

3 pounds of apples (I’ve found Golden Delicious to work better for me than Pink Ladies)
115 grams butter
3/4 cup caster sugar (finely granulated sugar) plus a little bit extra for good measure

Melt the butter in your tarte pan on the stove.  Once fully melted, remove from heat and add sugar evenly to the bottom of the pan.

Slowly assemble the apples, cutting them into quarters and then stacking the apples on edge into the fan like design above.

Put the pan back on the heat, and bubble away transforming the butter, sugar and apple into apple caramel.  You want the caramel to reach a darker amber colour, but not too dark or it will burn.  Don’t be scared by a dark tan colour, just avoid very dark brown.  This takes about 10 minutes.

Remove the apples from the heat, and using two forks slowly turn each apple over, maintaining the fan design. 

Return pan to the heat for another five minutes.  Turn off the heat and then place crust on top of the apples, folding over the edges along the side of the pan to create an inverted pie crust enveloping the apples.

Bake in a 180*C (375*F) oven for 25 minutes or until the crust is a golden even brown.  Note: I find that gluten free crust browns quicker than wheat flour, so you need to keep an eye on it if you choose to go gluten free.

This is a seriously delicious tarte.  The base is almost shortbread like in nature, the apples are sweet but not overly so as a tart apple is used.  It doesn’t keep well (no one likes a soggy tarte), so unfortunately you should bake it and serve it and finish the whole thing on the same day. Oh all right, twist my arm!  If you make it, enjoy it for the treat that it is. 

And as Julia Child would say: “Bon Appetit!”

4 responses to “A Podium! Runner Up, Galvin Tarte Tatin Competition”

  1. Congratulations! Especially impressive given that so many are biased to think that gluten free baking is terrible. Not so when you have an excellent chef behind the work.

  2. That is so freaking awesome.  Look at the smile on your face in that picture.

    So proud of you.  Way to get out of your comfort zone and prove to yourself that you CAN and WILL do it.

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