Here is a dessert to chase away the winter blahs - tart tatin.
The choice of apples is crucial, I've been using Ida Reds, which have great flavour and hold their shape. Eschew the common Granny Smith, MacIntosh and Red Delicious and if you can't find Idas, try Northern Spy, or ask your supplier to recommend an apple with good flavour that won't turn to mush when cooked for a long time.
The first step is to make the pastry. Use a food processor - pulse 125 g (4 1/2 oz) of flour with a pinch of salt, then add 75 g (2 1/2 oz) of fat, half butter and half lard if you have it. My lard supplies are low so I've been using all butter. Dice the cold fat, add it to the flour and pulse until granular, then tip everything into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix with a fork. Squeeze some of the mixture, if it holds together its fine, if not add a little more cold water. My flour is very dry so I've been adding an extra teaspoon. Don't add too much water (your pastry will shrink), then mix with your hand until the dough until it comes together, this takes a minute or two. Form it into disk and refrigerate.
Now for the apples, you'll need about 6 medium or 8 small apples. Peel, halve them and remove the core with a melon baller and then trim out the rest of the core with a knife. You must pack them in the pan as they will shrink as they cook. I don't have a tatin dish, so I use my cast iron frying pan, 23 cm (9 in) diameter. Melt 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of butter in the pan, sprinkle over 250 g (8 3/4 oz) of sugar and then add the apples. Place them cut side up and overlapping as in the photo. The heat should be about medium so the sugar and butter bubble up around the apples. They are going to take 30 to 45 minutes to cook so roll the pastry into a circle a smidge bigger than the the frying pan, and refrigerate it.
Now you must be patient. You can just let the apples cook and sink into their caramel, butter bath, shaking the pan from time to time to detach the apples from the bottom of the pan and ensure the caramel cooks evenly. However, as I am type-A and like to fiddle, I carefully reverse the apples in the caramel so the half that has been sitting out of the pan is submerged. Cook until the caramel is well coloured, check the caramel by dipping in a small spoon, and the apples are soft. Crank the oven to 220C (425F).
Remove the pan from the heat and put it on a baking sheet, it will be easier to manoeuvre in and out of the oven. Wait until the caramel stops bubbling, then place the pastry circle on top, pushing down on the edges so it covers the apples like this.
Now bake it for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned. Remove it from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to detach the pastry and the apples from the sides and wait 10 minutes. To pass the time, line a flat pan with parchment paper.
Now don't think too much about the next step - just do it. Place the pan with parchment paper, paper side down on top of the frying pan. Flip the frying pan over onto the pan and then use the pan to centre the tart on the paper. Slowly lift the frying pan off the tart.
Usually all the apples drop onto the tart, if not, you can place them on the tart, and scrape any remaining caramel from the pan onto the tart too. I also like to scoop up the extra caramel from the parchment paper back onto the tart. And that's it. The apples and the caramel infuse each other with their flavour, and the colour, well it's fabulous.