Rough Puff Pastry: 15 minutes plus 1 hour chilling time (or overnight)
Tarte Tatin: about 90 minutes for prep, cooking and baking
Rough puff pastry
1 cup (250 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2/3 cup (160 ml) (5 oz) (140 gm) unsalted butter, cold
¼ tsp fine salt
¼ cup (60 ml) ice cold water
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. With a pastry blender (or two table knives) cut in the butter until the mixture in crumbly but even, with pea-sized pieces of butter. Make a well in the middle and pour in the ice cold water. Toss the flour/butter and water together with a fork until the dough starts to clump together.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface – don’t worry if there are still pockets of dry flour. Gently knead and squeeze the mixture a few times just enough to bring it together into a square (a bench scraper is helpful for this). Be careful not to overwork the dough: there should be visible bits of butter and it should still look very rough.
Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a rectangle about 25cm (10″) long. Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle, and fold the top third down, like you are folding a letter. This is one fold. Turn the dough a one quarter turn so that one of the open edges is facing you, and roll out again into a 10” (25 cm) rectangle. Fold again – this is the second fold. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times, for 5 folds total. Your dough will get smoother and neater looking with each fold.
Note: If your kitchen is very warm and the dough gets too soft/sticky to do all the folds at once, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes between folds.
After the fifth fold, use your rolling pin to tap the dough into a neat square. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for a least 1 hour, or overnight.
3-4 sweet potatoes, about 550g (about 20oz)
juice of half a lemon
85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
rough puff pastry, above
Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into 1.5 – 2cm (3/5 – 4/5″) discs, toss with lemon juice in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375˚F).
Melt the butter in a very heavy, 23 cm or 24 cm (9” or 10”) oven-proof skillet over medium heat, then sprinkle with the sugar. Stir with a whisk until the sugar melts and becomes a pale, smooth caramel. The sugar will seem dry and chunky at first, then will start to melt and smooth out. If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce.
Drain the sweet potatoes, arrange in the pan and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning them once after 10 minutes. Move the slices around the pan gently so that they all cook evenly. When they are starting to soften but still keep their shape, remove the pan from the heat. Set aside until the filling stops steaming before covering with pastry.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and trim it into a circle a little larger than your pan. Lay it over the filling, tucking in the edges between the filling and the sides of the pan, and cut a few steam vents in the pastry.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides) and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, increasing the oven temperature a little during the last 5 – 10 minutes of baking if the pastry isn’t browning properly.
Remove from the oven and let sit just until the caramel stops bubbling. Immediately place a serving platter (slightly larger in diameter than the pan) over the pastry. Wearing oven mitts, grab hold of the pan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the Tatin onto the platter. If any of the pieces stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them with a spatula. The tarte Tatin can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature. Suggested accompaniments include vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.