There are certain flavours or dishes that really represent the fashions and tastes of an era… although it sounds a little pompous, such dishes symbolise the culinary zeitgeist. For me the one flavour that has really done this over the past couple of years is salted caramel. It is not hard to understand why it is so popular. Caramel, by its very nature and because of the fact that it is mainly comprised of sugar, is incredibly sweet. It can also possess a slightly bitter note depending on how dark the caramel is. Salt tempers this sweetness but at the same time accentuates the underlying buttery flavour of the caramel. The salt also manages to highlight the taste of the apples used in this particular dish and everything works harmoniously together.
Of all the foods and recipes that I cook, this is the one, more than any other, which elicits the most appreciation. This never fails to amaze me, because it is really so simple to make and includes very few ingredients… yet it is the one that people seem to love the most. I suppose that if you think about it, it’s not really surprising… what is there not to love about the marriage of hot, soft apples covered in a seductively sweet caramel and crispy, buttery pastry.
Ingredients:6-7 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and halved
150g caster sugar
85g unsalted butter
½ tsp flaky sea salt
350g puff pastry (homemade or made with all-butter)
Method:1. Place the sugar in an oven proof frying pan, with 2 tablespoons of water and heat gently over a moderate heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn up the heat until the sugar mixture is bubbling and allow it to bubble for almost five minutes –watch it like a hawk and remove immediately from the heat if it is getting too dark. What you are trying to achieve is a rich golden colour.
2. Once your caramel is a rich golden colour, remove from the heat and stir in the butter but be careful as the mixture may foam up quite angrily. Add the salt and mix through.
3. Place the apples cut side uppermost in the caramel, fitting them as snugly as you can. Return to the heat and allow to bubble gentle for about five minutes. Remove from the heat and let the apples cool completely.
4. Heat the oven to 220C/Fan Oven 200C/Gas Mark 7. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approximately 3mm and into a circle large enough to cover the apples in the frying pan. Lay the pastry over the cooled apples and tuck in any excess around the edges. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for approximately half an hour until the pastry is a golden and well-risen.
5. Remove from the oven and allow stand for about five minutes before carefully inverting onto a serving plate.
6. Serve immediately with crème fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.